It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World


3h 12m 1963
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Brief Synopsis

A group of greedy clowns tears up the countryside in search of buried treasure.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 7 Nov 1963
Production Company
Casey Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Location
Santa Rosita Beach State Park, California, USA; Colorado, USA; San Diego, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
3h 12m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35mm prints), 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.75 : 1

Synopsis

Passengers from four vehicles rush to the scene of an accident after a fast-moving car sails off the edge of a mountain road and tumbles down a steep embankment. They include J. Russell Finch, president of the Pacific Edible Seaweed Company, who is traveling with his wife, Emmeline, and his shrewish mother-in-law, Mrs. Marcus; dentist Melville Crump and his wife, Monica; gag-writers Benjy Benjamin and Ding Bell; and furniture mover Lennie Pike. The victim, Smiler Grogan, reveals with his dying breath that he has buried $350,000 in stolen money under the "Big W" at Santa Rosita Beach State Park. Unable to determine the identity of the "Big W" or even to decide on a way to divide the cash, the greedy witnesses disperse and head for the park. Along the way, the Finch party takes on Englishman J. Algernon Hawthorne and Mrs. Marcus' beatnik son, Sylvester, and is forced to tell them of the money. The Crumps charter a dilapidated plane to give themselves a time advantage but are later delayed when they are accidentally locked in a department store basement and forced to set off an explosion to free themselves. Benjy and Ding ask drunken millionaire Tyler Fitzgerald to fly them to the site in his private plane, but he accidentally knocks himself unconscious in the cabin, and the two writers are forced to crash-land in an airport restaurant. Lennie, who has demolished a service station in his zeal to reach the park, is forced to take traveling salesman Otto Meyer into his confidence and later swears revenge when Meyer leaves him stranded on the road. Meanwhile, state police captain C. G. Culpeper, who has pursued Grogan for years, is having everyone carefully watched, patiently waiting for them to lead him to the hiding place; the captain, plagued by an unhappy family life and an inadequate pension plan, has decided to steal the money himself. The group, since joined by two taxi drivers, eventually discover four palm trees growing in the shape of a "W," and they uncover the money. Culpeper moves in to arrest the group and then tries to escape with the suitcase full of money. The men in the group pursue him in the two taxis and end up on the top of a fire escape of a condemned building where, in the confusion, the suitcase opens and scatters money to the crowd of spectators below. The fire escape comes unhinged and the fire department tries to rescue the men with a ladder truck, but the ladder topples when everyone climbs on simultaneously. The men are thrown to the ground, and all end up in the hospital--badly injured and under custody, with bankruptcy and prison sentences awaiting them. Culpeper is wondering if he will ever be able to laugh again when the despised Mrs. Marcus enters the corridor and slips on a banana peel. The downtrodden men burst into uncontrollable laughter.

Cast

Spencer Tracy

Capt. C. G. Culpeper

Milton Berle

J. Russell Finch

Sid Caesar

Melville Crump

Buddy Hackett

Benjy Benjamin

Ethel Merman

Mrs. Marcus

Mickey Rooney

Ding Bell

Dick Shawn

Sylvester Marcus

Phil Silvers

Otto Meyer

Terry-thomas

J. Algernon Hawthorne

Jonathan Winters

Lennie Pike

Edie Adams

Monica Crump

Dorothy Provine

Emmeline Finch

Eddie "rochester" Anderson

1st cab driver

Jim Backus

Tyler Fitzgerald

Ben Blue

Airplane pilot

Alan Carney

Police sergeant

Barrie Chase

Mrs. Haliburton

William Demarest

Chief of police

Peter Falk

2d cab driver

Paul Ford

Colonel Wilberforce

Leo Gorcey

3d cab driver

Edward Everett Horton

Dinckler

Buster Keaton

Jimmy the Crook

Don Knotts

Nervous man

Carl Reiner

Tower control

Joe E. Brown

Union official

Andy Devine

Sheriff Mason

Sterling Holloway

Fire chief

Marvin Kaplan

Irwin, gas station attendant

Arnold Stang

Ray, gas station attendant

Charles Lane

Airport manager

Howard Da Silva

Airport officer

Charles Mcgraw

Lieutenant

Zasu Pitts

Switchboard operator

Madlyn Rhue

Police secretary

Jesse White

Radio tower operator

Lloyd Corrigan

Mayor

Selma Diamond

Voice of Culpeper's wife

Stan Freberg

Deputy sheriff

Louise Glenn

Voice of Billie Sue

Ben Lessy

George, the steward

Bobo Lewis

Pilot's wife

Mike Mazurki

Miner

Nick Stuart

Truck driver

Sammee Tong

Chinese laundryman

Stanley Clements

Norman Fell

Nicholas Georgiade

Detectives

Jimmy Durante

Smiler Grogan

Allen Jenkins

Police officer

Harry Lauter

Radio operator

Doodles Weaver

Salesman

Tom Kennedy

Traffic cop

Eddie Ryder

Tower radioman

Don Harvey

Helicopter observer

Roy Engel

Paul Birch

Patrolmen

Don Van Sickel

Stuntman

Jack Benny

Man on road

Jerry Lewis

Mad driver

Chick Chandler

Barbara Pepper

Cliff Norton

Roy Roberts

The Shirelles

Singers in dance sequence

The Four Mads

Players in dance sequence

Crew

Saul Bass

Main titles

George Batcheller

Assistant Director

Clem Beauchamp

Production Manager

Bert Chervin

Assistant Director

Art Cole

Props master

Mack David

Composer

Art Dunham

Music Editor

Linwood Dunn

Photography Effects

Joe Edesa

Ch gaffer

Farciot Edouart

Process Photography

Walter Elliott

Sound Editing

Film Effects Of Hollywood

Photography Effects

Gene Fowler Jr.

Film Editor

Ernest Gold

Composer

Ernest Gold

Music

James Gordon

Photography Effects

Roy Granville

Re-Recording

Gordon Gurnee

Art Director

Richard Johnson

Assistant Camera

Robert C. Jones

Film Editor

John Kean

Sound Engineer

Joe King

Costume Supervisor

Joseph Kish

Set Decoration

Frederic Knudtson

Film Editor

Anne Kramer

Assistant to prod

Stanley Kramer

Company

Stanley Kramer

Presented By

Stanley Kramer

Producer

George Lane

Makeup

Ernest Laszlo

Director of Photography

Danny Lee

Special Effects

Carey Loftin

Stunt Supervisor

Paul Mantz

Aerial Supervisor

Hal Mcalpin

Addl Photographer

Connie Nichols

Hairstyles

Bud Pine

Prod coordinator

Clem Portman

Re-Recording

Lynn Reynolds

Makeup

Irmin Roberts

Addl Photographer

Tania Rose

Story & Screenplay

William Rose

Screenwriter

Morris Rosen

Company grip

Gordon Sawyer

Sound Director

Marshall Schlom

Script Supervisor

Charles Scott Jr.

Assistant Director

Stalmaster-lister Co.

Casting

Rudolph Sternad

Production Design

Frank Tallman

Aerial Supervisor

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

Music performed by

Bill Thomas

Costume Design

Vinton Vernon

Re-Recording

Ivan Volkman

Assistant to the Director

Charles Wheeler

Camera Operator

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Promo

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 7 Nov 1963
Production Company
Casey Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Location
Santa Rosita Beach State Park, California, USA; Colorado, USA; San Diego, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
3h 12m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35mm prints), 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.75 : 1

Award Wins

Best Sound Effects Sound Editing

1963

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1963

Best Editing

1963
Robert C. Jones

Best Editing

1963
Frederic Knudtson

Best Score

1963

Best Song

1963

Best Sound

1963

Articles

It's a Mad Mad, Mad, Mad World: The Essentials


SYNOPSIS

When an elderly thief dies following a car accident, the other motorists involved hear his dying words about burying the money from his last heist under "a big W" in a Los Angeles location and take off on a madcap chase to beat each other to the loot. Hot on their tail is C.G. Culpepper, a police captain who wants to crack the case before he retires. Greed and desperation throw the group into a series of misadventures that culminate in a disastrous free-for-all with police, firemen and rescue squads standing by.

Producer-Director: Stanley Kramer
Screenplay: William Rose, Tania Rose
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Editing: Frederic Knudtson, Robert C. Jones, Gene Fowler, Jr.
Art Direction: Rudolph Sternad
Music: Ernest Gold
Cast: Spencer Tracy (Capt. C.G. Culpepper), Milton Berle (J. Russell Finch), Sid Caesar (Melville Crump), Buddy Hackett (Benjy Benjamin), Ethel Merman (Mrs. Marcus), Mickey Rooney (Ding Bell), Dick Shawn (Sylvester Marcus), Phil Silvers (Otto Meyer), Terry-Thomas (J. Algernon Hawthorne), Jonathan Winters (Lennie Pike), Edie Adams (Monica Crump), Dorothy Provine (Emmeline Finch), Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Peter Falk, Leo Gorcey (Cab Drivers), Jim Backus (Tyler Fitzgerald), Ben Blue (Airplane Pilot), Barrie Chase (Mrs. Halliburton), William Demarest (Chief of Police), Paul Ford (Col. Wilberforce), Edward Everett Horton (Dinckler), Buster Keaton (Jimmy the Crook), Don Knotts (Nervous Man), Carl Reiner (Tower Control), The Three Stooges (Firemen), Joe E. Brown (Union Official), Andy Devine (Sheriff Mason), Sterling Holloway (Fire Chief), Marvin Kaplan, Arnold Stang (Gas Station Attendants), Charles Lane (Airport Manager), Howard da Silva (Airport Officer), Charles McGraw (Lieutenant), ZaSu Pitts (Switchboard Operator), Madlyn Rhue (Police Secretary), Jesse White (Radio Tower Operator), Lloyd Corrigan (Mayor), Stan Freberg (Deputy Sheriff), Mike Mazurki (Miner), Norman Fell (Detective), Jimmy Durante (Smiler Grogan), Allen Jenkins (Police Officer), Doodles Weaver (Salesman), Jack Benny (Man on Road), Jerry Lewis (Mad Driver), Selma Diamond (Voice of Culpepper's Wife), Chick Chandler, Barbara Pepper, Cliff Norton, Roy Roberts (Bits)
C-186 m.

Why IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD is Essential

With its star-studded cast of past and current comedy greats, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is a three hour homage to American comedy, featuring some of the most time-honored gags in the comic tradition, from the slapstick chase and car crash that opens the film to the banana-peel pratfall at the end.

The film was one of the first fiction films made in Cinerama and the only comedy ever to use that wide-screen technique. It was also the first Cinerama film to be shot with only one camera. All earlier such films had been shot with three cameras simultaneously.

The cast of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World featured one of the most impressive arrays of comic talents in lead and cameo roles ever assembled for one film. They included veterans from the worlds of vaudeville (Phil Silvers), burlesque (Buddy Hackett), silent comedy (Buster Keaton), radio (Jack Benny), Golden Age of Hollywood (Zasu Pitts), television (Sid Caesar), advertising (Stan Freberg) and stand-up (Jonathan Winters).

Despite mixed reactions from the critics, the film enjoys a cult following today and it's not hard to find someone who has a favorite memory of the film, whether it's the scene where Jonathan Winters single-handedly wrecks a gas station with his bare hands or the one where Sid Caesar and Edie Adams try to fly a dilapidated airplane.

by Frank Miller
It's A Mad Mad, Mad, Mad World: The Essentials

It's a Mad Mad, Mad, Mad World: The Essentials

SYNOPSIS When an elderly thief dies following a car accident, the other motorists involved hear his dying words about burying the money from his last heist under "a big W" in a Los Angeles location and take off on a madcap chase to beat each other to the loot. Hot on their tail is C.G. Culpepper, a police captain who wants to crack the case before he retires. Greed and desperation throw the group into a series of misadventures that culminate in a disastrous free-for-all with police, firemen and rescue squads standing by. Producer-Director: Stanley Kramer Screenplay: William Rose, Tania Rose Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo Editing: Frederic Knudtson, Robert C. Jones, Gene Fowler, Jr. Art Direction: Rudolph Sternad Music: Ernest Gold Cast: Spencer Tracy (Capt. C.G. Culpepper), Milton Berle (J. Russell Finch), Sid Caesar (Melville Crump), Buddy Hackett (Benjy Benjamin), Ethel Merman (Mrs. Marcus), Mickey Rooney (Ding Bell), Dick Shawn (Sylvester Marcus), Phil Silvers (Otto Meyer), Terry-Thomas (J. Algernon Hawthorne), Jonathan Winters (Lennie Pike), Edie Adams (Monica Crump), Dorothy Provine (Emmeline Finch), Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Peter Falk, Leo Gorcey (Cab Drivers), Jim Backus (Tyler Fitzgerald), Ben Blue (Airplane Pilot), Barrie Chase (Mrs. Halliburton), William Demarest (Chief of Police), Paul Ford (Col. Wilberforce), Edward Everett Horton (Dinckler), Buster Keaton (Jimmy the Crook), Don Knotts (Nervous Man), Carl Reiner (Tower Control), The Three Stooges (Firemen), Joe E. Brown (Union Official), Andy Devine (Sheriff Mason), Sterling Holloway (Fire Chief), Marvin Kaplan, Arnold Stang (Gas Station Attendants), Charles Lane (Airport Manager), Howard da Silva (Airport Officer), Charles McGraw (Lieutenant), ZaSu Pitts (Switchboard Operator), Madlyn Rhue (Police Secretary), Jesse White (Radio Tower Operator), Lloyd Corrigan (Mayor), Stan Freberg (Deputy Sheriff), Mike Mazurki (Miner), Norman Fell (Detective), Jimmy Durante (Smiler Grogan), Allen Jenkins (Police Officer), Doodles Weaver (Salesman), Jack Benny (Man on Road), Jerry Lewis (Mad Driver), Selma Diamond (Voice of Culpepper's Wife), Chick Chandler, Barbara Pepper, Cliff Norton, Roy Roberts (Bits) C-186 m. Why IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD is Essential With its star-studded cast of past and current comedy greats, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is a three hour homage to American comedy, featuring some of the most time-honored gags in the comic tradition, from the slapstick chase and car crash that opens the film to the banana-peel pratfall at the end. The film was one of the first fiction films made in Cinerama and the only comedy ever to use that wide-screen technique. It was also the first Cinerama film to be shot with only one camera. All earlier such films had been shot with three cameras simultaneously. The cast of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World featured one of the most impressive arrays of comic talents in lead and cameo roles ever assembled for one film. They included veterans from the worlds of vaudeville (Phil Silvers), burlesque (Buddy Hackett), silent comedy (Buster Keaton), radio (Jack Benny), Golden Age of Hollywood (Zasu Pitts), television (Sid Caesar), advertising (Stan Freberg) and stand-up (Jonathan Winters). Despite mixed reactions from the critics, the film enjoys a cult following today and it's not hard to find someone who has a favorite memory of the film, whether it's the scene where Jonathan Winters single-handedly wrecks a gas station with his bare hands or the one where Sid Caesar and Edie Adams try to fly a dilapidated airplane. by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101: IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD


In 1974, Dino de Laurentiis produced an unofficial remake titled, Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia.

The first videotape version of the film was made using the 154-minute 35mm negative. In the '90s, footage from an old 70mm print was restored to the film, bringing the running time up to 186 minutes. Most of the remaining six minutes is now believed lost. Kramer considers the 154-minute version the only official one.

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World enjoys a fervent cult following today and "The Mad World Committee" continues to campaign for the restoration of the 70mm version and the return of the missing footage from that version.

The 1991 television documentary Something a Little Less Serious: A Tribute to 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World' brought together Kramer with cast members Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Norman Fell, Buddy Hackett, Marvin Kaplan, Jerry Lewis, Carl Reiner, Mickey Rooney, Arnold Stang and Jonathan Winters. The hour-long program is also included on the film's DVD.

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World has inspired episodes of The Simpsons, Charmed and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and been spoofed in the low-budget horror film Dead End (1986).

by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101: IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD

In 1974, Dino de Laurentiis produced an unofficial remake titled, Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia. The first videotape version of the film was made using the 154-minute 35mm negative. In the '90s, footage from an old 70mm print was restored to the film, bringing the running time up to 186 minutes. Most of the remaining six minutes is now believed lost. Kramer considers the 154-minute version the only official one. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World enjoys a fervent cult following today and "The Mad World Committee" continues to campaign for the restoration of the 70mm version and the return of the missing footage from that version. The 1991 television documentary Something a Little Less Serious: A Tribute to 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World' brought together Kramer with cast members Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Norman Fell, Buddy Hackett, Marvin Kaplan, Jerry Lewis, Carl Reiner, Mickey Rooney, Arnold Stang and Jonathan Winters. The hour-long program is also included on the film's DVD. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World has inspired episodes of The Simpsons, Charmed and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and been spoofed in the low-budget horror film Dead End (1986). by Frank Miller

Trivia & Fun Facts About IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD


In the animated opening titles of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, the world explodes in a cascade of letters that become the cast list. Just before that, for only three frames, they spell out the names of the animators, the same team that made A Charlie Brown Christmas.

B>It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World marked Jonathan Winters' film debut.

In his cameo, Jack Benny drives a Maxwell, the same out-of-date car he drove on his radio and television series. Fans don't look on the car as the real thing, however, because Kramer neglected to have cartoon voice artist Mel Blanc provide the sounds of the car's motor as he had on the radio.

Leo Gorcey's cameo as a cab driver was his first film appearance since he left the Bowery Boys series in 1956.

Stan Laurel turned down an offer to appear in the film because after Oliver Hardy's death in 1957 he had sworn never to perform again.

Some actors who turned down roles in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World included Judy Garland, Bob Hope, George Burns and Red Skelton.

When It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was completed, Spencer Tracy told Stanley Kramer it was the most fun he had ever had on a film set.

With $10 million in grosses in 1964, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was the second highest-grossing film of that year, just behind The Carpetbaggers. As of 1970, it had made $60 million worldwide.

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World opened on November 7, 1963, as the premiere presentation at Hollywood's new Cinerama Dome.

The day before the film's November 17, 1963 New York premiere -- the film was shown in a special charity preview to benefit the Kennedy Child Study Center and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Institute. It was the last public screening ever attended by the Kennedy family before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy shortly thereafter.

In addition to Cinerama showings, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was also released in a 35mm version for regular movie theatres. The 35mm version was actually shorter than the 70mm Cinerama version, which included a prelude, an intermission and special news inserts reporting the characters' progress in searching for the buried loot.

The only version of the film available is the 35 mm print that runs 154 minutes. The 70 mm negative, with additional scenes and music, has been lost.

Allegedly, the 197-minute version of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World includes a dance sequence featuring the voices of The Shirelles, one of the most popular girl groups of the sixties..

A 1970 reissue used the tagline, "If ever this mad, mad, mad, mad world needed It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World it's now!".

Memorable Quotes From IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD:

"Even businessmen, who rob and cheat and steal from people everyday, even they have to pay taxes." -- Jonathan Winters as Lennie Pike

"Now look! We've figured it 17 different ways, and each time we figured it, it was no good, because no matter how we figured it, somebody don't like the way we figured it! So now, there's only one way to figure it. And that is, every man, including the old bag, for himself!" -- Buddy Hackett, as Benjy Benjamin, starting the competition.

"But this is a girl's bike. This is for a little girl." -- Winters, as Lennie Pike, having to find some form of transportation when he loses his truck.

"Now what kind of an attitude is that, 'These things happen?' They only happen because this whole country is just full of people who, when these things happen, they just say, 'These things happen,' and that's why they happen! We gotta have control of what happens to us." -- Ethel Merman, as Mrs. Marcus.

"Trouble? Having any trouble?"
"Yes, and we don't need any help from you!"
Pause
"Well!" -- Jack Benny, as Man in Car, offering unsuccessfully to help Merman, as Mrs. Marcus, and her family.

"I'm coming. That's what I'm here for. That's why you had me, Mama, to save you." -- Dick Shawn, as Sylvester Marcus, riding to the rescue.

"Exactly like your father: a big, stupid, muscle-headed moron!" -- Merman describing Shawn, as her son, Sylvester.

"You know, I'm not entirely uncertain you haven't damaged this machine." -- Terry-Thomas, as J. Algernon Hawthorne.

"As far as I can see, American men have been totally emasculated -- they're like slaves! They die like flies from coronary thrombosis while their women sit under hairdryers eating chocolates and arranging for every second Tuesday to be some sort of Mother's Day! And this infantile preoccupation with bosoms. In all my time in this godforsaken country, the one thing that has appalled me most of all is this preposterous preoccupation with bosoms. Don't you realize they have become the dominant theme in American culture: in literature, advertising and all fields of entertainment. I'll wager you anything you like that if American women stopped wearing brassieres, your whole national economy would collapse overnight." -- Terry-Thomas, as Hawthorne.

"Old fashioneds? Do you think you oughta drink while your flying?"
"Well stop kidding willya, and make us some drinks! You just press the button back there marked 'booze.' It's the only way to fly!" -- Mickey Rooney, as Ding Bat, and Jim Backus, as Tyler Fitzgerald, discussing air safety.

"Dingy, don't let this worry you. We're gonna get killed." -- Hackett, as Benjy Benjamin, trying to fly the plane.

"Even if it is a democracy, in a democracy it don't matter how stupid you are, you still get an equal share." -- Winters, as Lennie.

"Listen, anything you got to say about your mother-in-law, you don't have to explain to me. You know what I mean? Like, if she were the star of a real crummy horror movie, I'd believe it." -- Winters, on Merman.

"My wife is divorcing me, my daughter is applying to the courts to have her name changed, my mother-in-law is suing me for damages, my pension has been revoked. And the only reason you ten idiots will very likely get off lightly, is that the judge will have me up there to throw the book at....I'd like to think that sometime, maybe ten or 20 years from now, there could be something I could laugh at. Anything." -- Spencer Tracy, as Capt. C.G. Culpepper, bemoaning his involvement in the plot.

Compiled by Frank Miller

Trivia & Fun Facts About IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD

In the animated opening titles of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, the world explodes in a cascade of letters that become the cast list. Just before that, for only three frames, they spell out the names of the animators, the same team that made A Charlie Brown Christmas. B>It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World marked Jonathan Winters' film debut. In his cameo, Jack Benny drives a Maxwell, the same out-of-date car he drove on his radio and television series. Fans don't look on the car as the real thing, however, because Kramer neglected to have cartoon voice artist Mel Blanc provide the sounds of the car's motor as he had on the radio. Leo Gorcey's cameo as a cab driver was his first film appearance since he left the Bowery Boys series in 1956. Stan Laurel turned down an offer to appear in the film because after Oliver Hardy's death in 1957 he had sworn never to perform again. Some actors who turned down roles in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World included Judy Garland, Bob Hope, George Burns and Red Skelton. When It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was completed, Spencer Tracy told Stanley Kramer it was the most fun he had ever had on a film set. With $10 million in grosses in 1964, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was the second highest-grossing film of that year, just behind The Carpetbaggers. As of 1970, it had made $60 million worldwide. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World opened on November 7, 1963, as the premiere presentation at Hollywood's new Cinerama Dome. The day before the film's November 17, 1963 New York premiere -- the film was shown in a special charity preview to benefit the Kennedy Child Study Center and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Institute. It was the last public screening ever attended by the Kennedy family before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy shortly thereafter. In addition to Cinerama showings, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was also released in a 35mm version for regular movie theatres. The 35mm version was actually shorter than the 70mm Cinerama version, which included a prelude, an intermission and special news inserts reporting the characters' progress in searching for the buried loot. The only version of the film available is the 35 mm print that runs 154 minutes. The 70 mm negative, with additional scenes and music, has been lost. Allegedly, the 197-minute version of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World includes a dance sequence featuring the voices of The Shirelles, one of the most popular girl groups of the sixties.. A 1970 reissue used the tagline, "If ever this mad, mad, mad, mad world needed It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World it's now!". Memorable Quotes From IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD: "Even businessmen, who rob and cheat and steal from people everyday, even they have to pay taxes." -- Jonathan Winters as Lennie Pike "Now look! We've figured it 17 different ways, and each time we figured it, it was no good, because no matter how we figured it, somebody don't like the way we figured it! So now, there's only one way to figure it. And that is, every man, including the old bag, for himself!" -- Buddy Hackett, as Benjy Benjamin, starting the competition. "But this is a girl's bike. This is for a little girl." -- Winters, as Lennie Pike, having to find some form of transportation when he loses his truck. "Now what kind of an attitude is that, 'These things happen?' They only happen because this whole country is just full of people who, when these things happen, they just say, 'These things happen,' and that's why they happen! We gotta have control of what happens to us." -- Ethel Merman, as Mrs. Marcus. "Trouble? Having any trouble?" "Yes, and we don't need any help from you!" Pause "Well!" -- Jack Benny, as Man in Car, offering unsuccessfully to help Merman, as Mrs. Marcus, and her family. "I'm coming. That's what I'm here for. That's why you had me, Mama, to save you." -- Dick Shawn, as Sylvester Marcus, riding to the rescue. "Exactly like your father: a big, stupid, muscle-headed moron!" -- Merman describing Shawn, as her son, Sylvester. "You know, I'm not entirely uncertain you haven't damaged this machine." -- Terry-Thomas, as J. Algernon Hawthorne. "As far as I can see, American men have been totally emasculated -- they're like slaves! They die like flies from coronary thrombosis while their women sit under hairdryers eating chocolates and arranging for every second Tuesday to be some sort of Mother's Day! And this infantile preoccupation with bosoms. In all my time in this godforsaken country, the one thing that has appalled me most of all is this preposterous preoccupation with bosoms. Don't you realize they have become the dominant theme in American culture: in literature, advertising and all fields of entertainment. I'll wager you anything you like that if American women stopped wearing brassieres, your whole national economy would collapse overnight." -- Terry-Thomas, as Hawthorne. "Old fashioneds? Do you think you oughta drink while your flying?" "Well stop kidding willya, and make us some drinks! You just press the button back there marked 'booze.' It's the only way to fly!" -- Mickey Rooney, as Ding Bat, and Jim Backus, as Tyler Fitzgerald, discussing air safety. "Dingy, don't let this worry you. We're gonna get killed." -- Hackett, as Benjy Benjamin, trying to fly the plane. "Even if it is a democracy, in a democracy it don't matter how stupid you are, you still get an equal share." -- Winters, as Lennie. "Listen, anything you got to say about your mother-in-law, you don't have to explain to me. You know what I mean? Like, if she were the star of a real crummy horror movie, I'd believe it." -- Winters, on Merman. "My wife is divorcing me, my daughter is applying to the courts to have her name changed, my mother-in-law is suing me for damages, my pension has been revoked. And the only reason you ten idiots will very likely get off lightly, is that the judge will have me up there to throw the book at....I'd like to think that sometime, maybe ten or 20 years from now, there could be something I could laugh at. Anything." -- Spencer Tracy, as Capt. C.G. Culpepper, bemoaning his involvement in the plot. Compiled by Frank Miller

The Big Idea


Stanley Kramer had started his career in 1948 with a failed comedy called So This Is New York. After years of first executive producing and then directing and producing message pictures, including The Defiant Ones (1958), Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Kramer decided to attempt another comedy when writer William Rose presented him with a one-page outline for a slapstick epic about greed. He would later say that he hoped people would remember how un-funny his first film had been and appreciate how much he had learned about comedy in the ensuing 15 years.

Kramer's stated goal to was to make the biggest slapstick comedy ever made, "a comedy to end all comedies".

Kramer and Rose planned the script development carefully so they would be ready to shoot by the summer of 1963, a time when most comedians would be free from television, film and stage commitments.

The film's original title was Something a Little Less Serious, a reference to Kramer's reputation as a producer and director of message films.

The first actor Kramer considered casting was Spencer Tracy, with whom he had worked on Inherit the Wind and Judgment at Nuremberg. With all the comedians he was planning to cast, Kramer felt he needed one serious dramatic actor to ground the film in reality, and Tracy, who had functioned as a moral stand-in for the director in their previous, more serious films together, seemed the perfect choice. Kramer and Rose conceived the role of the retiring police captain specifically for him.

Ernie Kovacs was originally slated to play dentist Melville Crump opposite his real-life wife, Edie Adams. When he died in a car wreck, the role went to Sid Caesar, whose latest TV series alternated weekly with Adams' on ABC.

Most of the roles in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World were created with specific actors in mind. Kramer had surprisingly little trouble getting exactly the cast he wanted, partly because he offered comparatively good salaries -- from $50,000 to $150,000 -- for even the smallest roles.

Groucho Marx wasn't available to play Milton Berle's father-in-law, so the character's gender was changed so they could cast Ethel Merman.

The one great clown Kramer didn't even approach was Charles Chaplin. The producer-director thought it would be impossible, since Chaplin was living in self-imposed exile in Switzerland and was so wealthy no amount of money could have lured him back to the screen.

Don Rickles desperately wanted to be in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, but Kramer never asked him, a sore point that he heckled the producer-director about every time Kramer came to see Rickles perform live.

Kramer cast Jimmy Durante as the crook who dies in the first scene because he felt the actor's face could be both funny and tragic at the same time.

by Frank Miller

The Big Idea

Stanley Kramer had started his career in 1948 with a failed comedy called So This Is New York. After years of first executive producing and then directing and producing message pictures, including The Defiant Ones (1958), Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Kramer decided to attempt another comedy when writer William Rose presented him with a one-page outline for a slapstick epic about greed. He would later say that he hoped people would remember how un-funny his first film had been and appreciate how much he had learned about comedy in the ensuing 15 years. Kramer's stated goal to was to make the biggest slapstick comedy ever made, "a comedy to end all comedies". Kramer and Rose planned the script development carefully so they would be ready to shoot by the summer of 1963, a time when most comedians would be free from television, film and stage commitments. The film's original title was Something a Little Less Serious, a reference to Kramer's reputation as a producer and director of message films. The first actor Kramer considered casting was Spencer Tracy, with whom he had worked on Inherit the Wind and Judgment at Nuremberg. With all the comedians he was planning to cast, Kramer felt he needed one serious dramatic actor to ground the film in reality, and Tracy, who had functioned as a moral stand-in for the director in their previous, more serious films together, seemed the perfect choice. Kramer and Rose conceived the role of the retiring police captain specifically for him. Ernie Kovacs was originally slated to play dentist Melville Crump opposite his real-life wife, Edie Adams. When he died in a car wreck, the role went to Sid Caesar, whose latest TV series alternated weekly with Adams' on ABC. Most of the roles in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World were created with specific actors in mind. Kramer had surprisingly little trouble getting exactly the cast he wanted, partly because he offered comparatively good salaries -- from $50,000 to $150,000 -- for even the smallest roles. Groucho Marx wasn't available to play Milton Berle's father-in-law, so the character's gender was changed so they could cast Ethel Merman. The one great clown Kramer didn't even approach was Charles Chaplin. The producer-director thought it would be impossible, since Chaplin was living in self-imposed exile in Switzerland and was so wealthy no amount of money could have lured him back to the screen. Don Rickles desperately wanted to be in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, but Kramer never asked him, a sore point that he heckled the producer-director about every time Kramer came to see Rickles perform live. Kramer cast Jimmy Durante as the crook who dies in the first scene because he felt the actor's face could be both funny and tragic at the same time. by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera


It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was shot in Ultra-Panavision, which was a wide-screen process that made it possible to shoot a film in Cinerama but with only one camera.

The film was so crammed with action that each leading actor was given two scripts: one for the dialogue and one for physical comedy.

Because he was ill during the shooting of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (this was one of his last films), Spencer Tracy could only work four hours a day. He was shot mostly in close-ups, with a double doing any action shots required for the character.

When Sid Caesar got into a screaming battle with writer William Rose about re-writing his lines, Kramer defused the situation by bringing out Tracy and introducing him to the comic.

The cast was in awe of Tracy and spent much of their time between scenes keeping him amused. Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett delighted him with off-color take-offs on Boys Town (1938), in which Rooney had co-starred with Tracy. Jonathan Winters would improvise entire movies while impersonating Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

Usually a very disciplined performer who liked to know exactly what was going to happen in each scene before he shot it, Tracy quickly warmed up to the more improvisatory approach of the various comics cast in the film.

Much of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was shot on location in Palm Springs during a very hot summer. Kramer set up an air-conditioned truck filled with benches, stools and chairs where the cast could cool off between shots.

In addition to Palm Springs, other locations included the Mojave Desert and various highways in Colorado and California. The final credits include special thanks to fifteen different California communities.

When Jack Benny shot his cameo appearance, Kramer let him hold the comic pause before his signature line, "Well," as long as he wanted. The entire crew was holding back laughter before he finally said the line. In the editing room, however, Kramer shortened the pause a bit.

Milton Berle always made sure he was the last person left on camera any time he was in a group scene. He even invented bits of business that kept him on screen longer than the others.

While filming Winters' destruction of the gas station, the crew forgot that he had been bound in tape and went off to lunch without freeing him.

Producer-director Stanley Kramer asked Buster Keaton to perform one of his signature bits, moving two steps forward then one back before racing away from whatever was threatening him. Even in his eighties, the comedian was as spry as he had been in his prime.

Kramer later said, "During the filming of Mad World with all the comedians, I think Spencer Tracy was in poorer health than I (believed): he had bad color and no stamina whatever. But then, even though this lack of energy showed, I think he had his best time ever during the making of a film. The comedians worshipped him. Never before or since has a king had a court full of jesters who strove only to entertain him so that his majesty might say, 'That was funny,' or just laugh and smile. Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney - even the silent Sid Caesar - crowded about him and vied for his affection. They had it. And he talked about them to the very last; he loved them all."

The slapstick stunts were conceived on such a grand scale they required 39 stunt men at a cost of $252,000.

Billing was a huge problem with such a large cast of famous names. Kramer finally decided to give Tracy top billing, since he was the biggest film name in the cast. He then billed the leading comedians in alphabetical order, followed by supporting players billed the same way. The only name which didn't conform to this credit ranking besides Tracy's was Jimmy Durante's. Kramer wanted to give him special mention to compensate for the brevity of his role.

Possibly as a reflection of the battle over billing, after the leading players' names are listed alphabetically, hands appear to shift various names to the top.

The final cost of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was $9.4 million.

To publicize the film, Kramer spent $400,000 flying in international press to interview the stars and view a special screening.

by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was shot in Ultra-Panavision, which was a wide-screen process that made it possible to shoot a film in Cinerama but with only one camera. The film was so crammed with action that each leading actor was given two scripts: one for the dialogue and one for physical comedy. Because he was ill during the shooting of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (this was one of his last films), Spencer Tracy could only work four hours a day. He was shot mostly in close-ups, with a double doing any action shots required for the character. When Sid Caesar got into a screaming battle with writer William Rose about re-writing his lines, Kramer defused the situation by bringing out Tracy and introducing him to the comic. The cast was in awe of Tracy and spent much of their time between scenes keeping him amused. Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett delighted him with off-color take-offs on Boys Town (1938), in which Rooney had co-starred with Tracy. Jonathan Winters would improvise entire movies while impersonating Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Usually a very disciplined performer who liked to know exactly what was going to happen in each scene before he shot it, Tracy quickly warmed up to the more improvisatory approach of the various comics cast in the film. Much of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was shot on location in Palm Springs during a very hot summer. Kramer set up an air-conditioned truck filled with benches, stools and chairs where the cast could cool off between shots. In addition to Palm Springs, other locations included the Mojave Desert and various highways in Colorado and California. The final credits include special thanks to fifteen different California communities. When Jack Benny shot his cameo appearance, Kramer let him hold the comic pause before his signature line, "Well," as long as he wanted. The entire crew was holding back laughter before he finally said the line. In the editing room, however, Kramer shortened the pause a bit. Milton Berle always made sure he was the last person left on camera any time he was in a group scene. He even invented bits of business that kept him on screen longer than the others. While filming Winters' destruction of the gas station, the crew forgot that he had been bound in tape and went off to lunch without freeing him. Producer-director Stanley Kramer asked Buster Keaton to perform one of his signature bits, moving two steps forward then one back before racing away from whatever was threatening him. Even in his eighties, the comedian was as spry as he had been in his prime. Kramer later said, "During the filming of Mad World with all the comedians, I think Spencer Tracy was in poorer health than I (believed): he had bad color and no stamina whatever. But then, even though this lack of energy showed, I think he had his best time ever during the making of a film. The comedians worshipped him. Never before or since has a king had a court full of jesters who strove only to entertain him so that his majesty might say, 'That was funny,' or just laugh and smile. Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney - even the silent Sid Caesar - crowded about him and vied for his affection. They had it. And he talked about them to the very last; he loved them all." The slapstick stunts were conceived on such a grand scale they required 39 stunt men at a cost of $252,000. Billing was a huge problem with such a large cast of famous names. Kramer finally decided to give Tracy top billing, since he was the biggest film name in the cast. He then billed the leading comedians in alphabetical order, followed by supporting players billed the same way. The only name which didn't conform to this credit ranking besides Tracy's was Jimmy Durante's. Kramer wanted to give him special mention to compensate for the brevity of his role. Possibly as a reflection of the battle over billing, after the leading players' names are listed alphabetically, hands appear to shift various names to the top. The final cost of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was $9.4 million. To publicize the film, Kramer spent $400,000 flying in international press to interview the stars and view a special screening. by Frank Miller

The Critics Corner - The Critics Corner: IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD


"It is a milestone for the manner in which it has taken these primitive comedy techniques [of silent comedy], fortified them with staggering sensations of sight and sound that represent modern filmmaking at its technically slickest, and emerged not an overstuffed anachronism, but a blend of the best of two eras -- the innocent simplicity of the golden age of slapstick and the satirical 'message' approach popular in these uneasy times of disenchantment, self-examination and moral reevaluation." -- Tube, Variety.

"It's made, as it says, with its profusion of so many stars, so many 'names' playing leading to 5-second bit roles, that it seems to be a celebrities' parade. And it is also, for all its crackpot clowning and its racing and colliding of automobiles, a pretty severe satirizing of the money madness and motorizing momentum of our age." -- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times "A Keystone comedy is really what Kramer has made, but writ large, with the stupefying ambition that produces from time to time the world's largest lollipop, pizza, bass drum, or beer stein." - Newsweek.

"To watch on a Cinerama screen in full colour a small army of actors inflict mayhem on each other with cars, planes, explosives and other devices for more than three hours with stereophonic sound effects is simply too much for the human eye and ear to respond to, let alone the funny bone." - Dwight MacDonald.

"Mad World reaches its nadir with an abortive climax that puts Spencer Tracy and ten comedians atop a fire ladder reeling several stories about the street, presumably on the assumption that eleven men suspended in mid-air will be eleven times funnier than Harold Lloyd used to be. Alas, the law of diminishing returns prevails." - Time.

"...stretches its material to snapping point but offers happy hours of star-spotting...There are several great sequences, most of which involve Terry-Thomas, whose image of America as a bosom- and money-fixated society is spot on." - Adrian Turner, TimeOut Film Guide.

"The picture may be long, but this allows all the stars ample time in the spotlight. Merman is funny playing a thoroughly obnoxious woman; Winters and Silvers are also particularly memorable. There is much humor that falls flat, but also a great deal of hilarity in this film, both visual and verbal." - Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic.

"Three hours of frantic chasing and violent slapstick is too much even when done on this scale and with this cast, but one must observe that scene for scene it is extremely well done and most of the players are in unusually good form though they all outstay their welcome and are upstaged by the stunt men." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide.

"...the film really starts to drag in its second hour. There's only so much double crossing, screaming and fighting one can take. That being said, all road pictures have stolen something from this flick...The final half hour picks up the pace with a wild cab driving sequence and a fire engine ladder rescue one has to see to believe. A raucous comedy that doesn't know when to quit. Worthwhile just to see the world's best comedians at work." - crazy4cinema.com

AWARDS & HONORS

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World placed ninth on The New York Times' ten best list.

Photoplay magazine honored It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World with two Laurel Awards, one for Top Road Show and one for Top Song.

The film received two Golden Globe nominations, Best Motion Picture-Musical/Comedy and Best Motion Picture Actor-Musical/Comedy for Jonathan Winters.

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was nominated for an Eddie for Best Edited Feature Film by the American Cinema Editors.

The film received six Oscar® nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Song, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing, winning in the last category.

The Mystery Writers of America nominated It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World for an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture. The nomination went to the film's writers, William and Tania Rose.

Compiled by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford

The Critics Corner - The Critics Corner: IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD

"It is a milestone for the manner in which it has taken these primitive comedy techniques [of silent comedy], fortified them with staggering sensations of sight and sound that represent modern filmmaking at its technically slickest, and emerged not an overstuffed anachronism, but a blend of the best of two eras -- the innocent simplicity of the golden age of slapstick and the satirical 'message' approach popular in these uneasy times of disenchantment, self-examination and moral reevaluation." -- Tube, Variety. "It's made, as it says, with its profusion of so many stars, so many 'names' playing leading to 5-second bit roles, that it seems to be a celebrities' parade. And it is also, for all its crackpot clowning and its racing and colliding of automobiles, a pretty severe satirizing of the money madness and motorizing momentum of our age." -- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times "A Keystone comedy is really what Kramer has made, but writ large, with the stupefying ambition that produces from time to time the world's largest lollipop, pizza, bass drum, or beer stein." - Newsweek. "To watch on a Cinerama screen in full colour a small army of actors inflict mayhem on each other with cars, planes, explosives and other devices for more than three hours with stereophonic sound effects is simply too much for the human eye and ear to respond to, let alone the funny bone." - Dwight MacDonald. "Mad World reaches its nadir with an abortive climax that puts Spencer Tracy and ten comedians atop a fire ladder reeling several stories about the street, presumably on the assumption that eleven men suspended in mid-air will be eleven times funnier than Harold Lloyd used to be. Alas, the law of diminishing returns prevails." - Time. "...stretches its material to snapping point but offers happy hours of star-spotting...There are several great sequences, most of which involve Terry-Thomas, whose image of America as a bosom- and money-fixated society is spot on." - Adrian Turner, TimeOut Film Guide. "The picture may be long, but this allows all the stars ample time in the spotlight. Merman is funny playing a thoroughly obnoxious woman; Winters and Silvers are also particularly memorable. There is much humor that falls flat, but also a great deal of hilarity in this film, both visual and verbal." - Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic. "Three hours of frantic chasing and violent slapstick is too much even when done on this scale and with this cast, but one must observe that scene for scene it is extremely well done and most of the players are in unusually good form though they all outstay their welcome and are upstaged by the stunt men." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide. "...the film really starts to drag in its second hour. There's only so much double crossing, screaming and fighting one can take. That being said, all road pictures have stolen something from this flick...The final half hour picks up the pace with a wild cab driving sequence and a fire engine ladder rescue one has to see to believe. A raucous comedy that doesn't know when to quit. Worthwhile just to see the world's best comedians at work." - crazy4cinema.com AWARDS & HONORS It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World placed ninth on The New York Times' ten best list. Photoplay magazine honored It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World with two Laurel Awards, one for Top Road Show and one for Top Song. The film received two Golden Globe nominations, Best Motion Picture-Musical/Comedy and Best Motion Picture Actor-Musical/Comedy for Jonathan Winters. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was nominated for an Eddie for Best Edited Feature Film by the American Cinema Editors. The film received six Oscar® nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Song, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing, winning in the last category. The Mystery Writers of America nominated It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World for an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture. The nomination went to the film's writers, William and Tania Rose. Compiled by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World on Criterion Blu-ray


Only a few big-screen Road Show movies of the 1960s still perform as sure-fire audience grabbers -- attractions like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Another title presently making an enthusiastic rebound is Stanley Kramer's all-star 1963 comedy extravaganza It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Just a couple of seasons before, Kramer's On the Beach had given movie audiences the most grim and downbeat ending imaginable: "It's a Dead, Dead, Dead...". The critically snubbed maker of ideologically safe "Big Issue" movies was considered the last producer in Hollywood to have a sense of humor. But with the blessing of United Artists Kramer sunk a fortune into a three-hour "marathon of mirth", timed to debut at the grand opening of Hollywood's new Cinerama Dome Theater. The construction made big news -- UA's publicity files contain reams of photos of various Mad World stars visiting the half-completed Dome ... and wondering if it would be finished in time for the premiere.

Produced on a gargantuan scale, Mad World is unlike any comedy before. Kramer signed practically the entire galaxy of comedy stars past and present, with a fair number of future comic talents to boot. Others in cameo appearances have instantly familiar faces going back as far as four decades. The moment we hear the inimitable Sterling Holloway we smile in recognition. Joe E. Brown's bellowing voice makes an impact even in a brief wide shot. Perhaps representing Preston Sturges, William Demarest does well in an extended role, while the normally non-comic actors Charles McGraw and Mike Mazurki fit in perfectly as tough guy straight men.

Every six year-old in the audience loved the film's first über-corny joke, when the fugitive crook played by Jimmy Durante literally kicks the bucket. A highway system and a big swath of Southern California are immediately caught up in an ultimate race-competition to recover a fortune in stolen loot. The screenplay by William and Tania Rose makes no claims to greatness but provides three solid hours of set piece scenes that allow the main cast of comic stars to shine. Mad World preserves personae that might now be lost to the memory of old TV series and variety shows. Sid Caesar is given an extended version of one of his Your Show of Shows double-talk marathons. Phil Silvers' TV image as a fast-talking conman is given a terrific big-screen showcase. By 1963 Milton Berle had a reputation as a guy who got laughs on fossil-era TV by wearing a woman's dress; here he plays a fairly complex henpecked husband, dealing with the worst battle-ax mother of all time. She's none other than Ethel Merman, an extrovert apparently game for any comedy nonsense, anytime, anywhere.

Also receiving a plum role is Terry-Thomas as the ultimate silly Englishman. Mad World aspires to a level of comedy above the slapstick-vaudeville level only when Terry-Thomas and Milton Berle trade opinions and insults about the emasculation of the American male. As for the institution of motherhood, Dick Shawn's sex-obsessed beach lothario has only two speeds in his gearbox. He's either zonked out dancing to the Twist, or howling in infantile emotional madness when he thinks his Mama is in trouble. Even Merman's shrill harpy is sobered somewhat by "Junior's" manic excess.

Some of the star names make big impressions in slightly smaller parts. Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney are greedy goofballs hitching a ride in the fancy airplane of millionaire Jim Backus -- the jokes are stock but their execution is flawless. Other star faces charm us by being wholly innocent. Primarily a stand-up comedian, the marvelous Jonathan Winters may be the freshest thing in the movie. He is immediately lovable, whether playing sad dismay or murderous rage. Guest star Don Knotts plays brilliantly off Phil Silvers as a hyper-neurotic motorist. Knotts can't be on screen for more than three minutes, and every jumpy-jittery move he makes is hilarious. Cabdriver Peter Falk is always in the company of bigger stars and hasn't any dedicated moments. Yet he sets the record for the number of stolen scenes.

1963 is not the best year to find sex or race equality. Dorothy Provine and Edie Adams are comic decoration, mostly there to look on while their husbands wreck half of California. Provine at least contributes a rare non-greedy attitude to the mix. Meanwhile Barrie Chase seems to have transferred her sex drive to her dancing, as she gyrates in a black bikini. She plays straight woman to Dick Shawn, but one must listen carefully to pick up on the fact that she's meant to be a philandering married woman. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson lends his distinctive voice to his role as a cabbie, but in an earlier bit, black actor Nick Stewart is called upon to do a Mantan Moreland-style "take" when the fortune hunters run his truck off the road.

Holding the center of the mayhem is police chief Spencer Tracy, the straight-man anchor keeping Mad World from spinning off into utter incoherence. He's so desperate to escape from his hysterical wife and daughter that he's willing to commit a felony. Near retirement and in fairly frail condition, Tracy isn't called upon to leave his desk until the final act of the show. When he joins the stampede of crazy car crashes and stunt work, it's mostly through a clever trick now attributed to the legendary makeup artist Dick Smith -- Tracy and many other stars are doubled by stuntmen wearing specially-made rubber masks. Most of Tracy's running and stair climbing in the final scene is flawlessly doubled.

Mad World is of course packed with comic action. The film's car stunts still hold up today. In 1963, most car chases were cheated with camera speed tricks, and car crashes were still being depicted by an off-screen sound effect. Only in Don Siegel's extended chase through San Francisco in The Lineup had we seen cars leaning into hazardous turns at top speed. Mad World's flotilla of vehicles racing for the loot are genuinely hair-raising. Those cars are really moving as they narrowly miss trees, intersections and each other. Hitting a dip at perhaps 90 mph, Dick Shawn's red convertible jumps through the air for at least seven or eight car lengths. With Jonathan Winters' stuntman clutching an open door for dear life, one of the taxicabs does a wild U-Turn across four lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway. At least a dozen times in Mad World, one's reaction is a stunned, "Did they really do that?" They sure did.

At least five or six major scenes are orchestrated around physical destruction and mayhem. Third-banana comics Marvin Kaplan and Arnold Stang wail and squawk as Jonathan Winters' figurative bull in a china shop demolishes their desert gas station, one wall at a time. Seeking to escape from the basement of a hardware store, Sid Caesar and Edie Adams smash everything in sight, almost electrocute themselves and nearly burn the place down. Hackett and Rooney's mad plane flight displays hair-raising stunts not seen since the silent days -- the plane buzzes within feet of a control tower and flies right through a billboard (the film's iconic image). They bring it to a stop by crashing into an airport restaurant, its propellers still spinning madly. Is it funny? It's too overstated not to be funny. At this outlandish scale, Kramer's comedy frequently achieves a cinematic state of grandiose absurdity.

Critics unimpressed by Mad World instead praised its five-minute animated title sequence by Saul Bass. It was too easy to label it an overblown lowbrow epic loaded with ham actors pretending to be funny, especially by critics looking for Thematic Significance. The movie is an encyclopedia of silly comedy, a pastiche of action slapstick & 'wacky' skit humor whose only purpose is to entertain. Although Mad World does tend to divide audiences, in theatrical screenings it plays like a winner. Its growing popularity reflects our nostalgia for its once-in-a-lifetime cast of comic personalities, especially the great performers that have since passed away. MGM's beautifully restored 70mm theatrical prints make Stanley Kramer's comedy marathon very much worth revisiting.

The Criterion Collection's Dual Format five-disc Blu-ray + DVD release of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World contains a mountain of contents spread across both formats. MGM's 65mm restoration of the standard (163 minute) edit is a thing of beauty. The transfer is very colorful and sharp, which helps in the many wide shots. The 5.1 audio track is a showcase for Ernest Gold's circus-like musical score as well as the raucous novelty song, "Thirty-One Flavors" by Gold and Lyricist Mack David.

Original three-panel Cinerama was so cost-prohibitive on How the West Was Won that the company switched to 65mm Ultra Panavision 70 (aka Super Cinerama 70), an enhanced single-strip 65mm format. They made specially rectified (distorted) prints that would look correct when projected onto deeply curved screens. The same Cinerama name and logo were kept, which has led to much confusion over the years as to why 2001 doesn't have "seams".

The second Blu-ray disc contains noted film restorer Robert A. Harris' highly ingenious reconstruction of a longer Road Show cut, which at 197 minutes falls only a few minutes short of premiere length. Harris has tracked down even more 'puzzle pieces' than were seen on a now-legendary 1991 laserdisc. As the negative trims for the long version were junked after the film was shortened, the laserdisc was made from pieces saved from an old projection print. Harris retransferred these and used 3-D image mapping technology to restore the color from the old flat-letterboxed video laserdisc master. A restoration demo on the disc shows how complicated the process was. In general, the restored material consists of pieces of scenes, often trims from the beginning or the end. Spotting the added footage in this extended version is easy because of the instantaneous changes in picture quality. It's an editor's delight, as one can mentally reverse-engineer the decisions made to shorten the film's running time.

Besides the existing Overture and Intermission music, Harris re-incorporated other lost bits of the Road Show version, from pieces found with collectors and in overseas archives. The amusing "police radio chatter" heard during the intermission (and even piped to the Cinerama Dome's restrooms!) has now been returned to its rightful place. A sequence with Mike Mazurki and Phil Silvers has superimposed Japanese subtitles, while English subtitles are needed for one scene that has no audio. Production stills cover short scenes for which audio was found, but no picture. A much-wanted addition is a brief scene in which Spencer Tracy calls crooked fishing boat owner Buster Keaton to set up his escape by sea to Mexico. The short version never gives us a shot of Keaton's face, but his body language running after Tracy's car is unmistakable. Unfortunately, the restored clip is audio-only. True to Mad World's theme of universal greed, Keaton agrees to Tracy's caper with the caveat, "Is there something in it for me?"

The extras are extensive, to say the very least. An appreciative and enthusiastic commentary is provided by Mad World boosters Mark Evanier, Michael Schlesinger and Paul Scrabo. Additional insights into the film's elaborate sound work and complex special effects are found in a piece hosted by sound designer Ben Burtt and visual specialist Craig Barron. Included in the lengthy featurette are several minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from effects supervisor Linwood Dunn. For the first time we see a very young Jim Danforth, animating the little puppets of the main characters atop the fire ladder.

Besides the five-minute restoration comparison piece, most of the other extras are excerpts of TV shows and other get-togethers attended by Mad World cast members. As might be expected, some pecking-order egos are involved. The comics seem unanimous in their admiration for Kramer and his mega-comedy, with the most- repeated comment being that making such a lavish epic today would now be impossible for any number of reasons. Trailers, TV and radio spots (some written and performed by Stan Freberg) are present, and the insert pamphlet carries an essay by Lou Lumenick. Original ad art by Jack Davis has a big presence as well. His 'jolly chase' graphic theme suggests that the world is rushing toward a zany apocalypse.

Southern California residents always get a big chuckle from the oddball geography in the map seen in Spencer Tracy's office -- it invents major highways as well as a new town called Santa Rosita. A special map insert by artist Dave Woodman shows where twenty of the film's major scenes were filmed. Santa Rosita is a composite of Palos Verdes, downtown Long Beach and the California Incline in Santa Monica.

By Glenn Erickson

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World on Criterion Blu-ray

Only a few big-screen Road Show movies of the 1960s still perform as sure-fire audience grabbers -- attractions like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Another title presently making an enthusiastic rebound is Stanley Kramer's all-star 1963 comedy extravaganza It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Just a couple of seasons before, Kramer's On the Beach had given movie audiences the most grim and downbeat ending imaginable: "It's a Dead, Dead, Dead...". The critically snubbed maker of ideologically safe "Big Issue" movies was considered the last producer in Hollywood to have a sense of humor. But with the blessing of United Artists Kramer sunk a fortune into a three-hour "marathon of mirth", timed to debut at the grand opening of Hollywood's new Cinerama Dome Theater. The construction made big news -- UA's publicity files contain reams of photos of various Mad World stars visiting the half-completed Dome ... and wondering if it would be finished in time for the premiere. Produced on a gargantuan scale, Mad World is unlike any comedy before. Kramer signed practically the entire galaxy of comedy stars past and present, with a fair number of future comic talents to boot. Others in cameo appearances have instantly familiar faces going back as far as four decades. The moment we hear the inimitable Sterling Holloway we smile in recognition. Joe E. Brown's bellowing voice makes an impact even in a brief wide shot. Perhaps representing Preston Sturges, William Demarest does well in an extended role, while the normally non-comic actors Charles McGraw and Mike Mazurki fit in perfectly as tough guy straight men. Every six year-old in the audience loved the film's first über-corny joke, when the fugitive crook played by Jimmy Durante literally kicks the bucket. A highway system and a big swath of Southern California are immediately caught up in an ultimate race-competition to recover a fortune in stolen loot. The screenplay by William and Tania Rose makes no claims to greatness but provides three solid hours of set piece scenes that allow the main cast of comic stars to shine. Mad World preserves personae that might now be lost to the memory of old TV series and variety shows. Sid Caesar is given an extended version of one of his Your Show of Shows double-talk marathons. Phil Silvers' TV image as a fast-talking conman is given a terrific big-screen showcase. By 1963 Milton Berle had a reputation as a guy who got laughs on fossil-era TV by wearing a woman's dress; here he plays a fairly complex henpecked husband, dealing with the worst battle-ax mother of all time. She's none other than Ethel Merman, an extrovert apparently game for any comedy nonsense, anytime, anywhere. Also receiving a plum role is Terry-Thomas as the ultimate silly Englishman. Mad World aspires to a level of comedy above the slapstick-vaudeville level only when Terry-Thomas and Milton Berle trade opinions and insults about the emasculation of the American male. As for the institution of motherhood, Dick Shawn's sex-obsessed beach lothario has only two speeds in his gearbox. He's either zonked out dancing to the Twist, or howling in infantile emotional madness when he thinks his Mama is in trouble. Even Merman's shrill harpy is sobered somewhat by "Junior's" manic excess. Some of the star names make big impressions in slightly smaller parts. Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney are greedy goofballs hitching a ride in the fancy airplane of millionaire Jim Backus -- the jokes are stock but their execution is flawless. Other star faces charm us by being wholly innocent. Primarily a stand-up comedian, the marvelous Jonathan Winters may be the freshest thing in the movie. He is immediately lovable, whether playing sad dismay or murderous rage. Guest star Don Knotts plays brilliantly off Phil Silvers as a hyper-neurotic motorist. Knotts can't be on screen for more than three minutes, and every jumpy-jittery move he makes is hilarious. Cabdriver Peter Falk is always in the company of bigger stars and hasn't any dedicated moments. Yet he sets the record for the number of stolen scenes. 1963 is not the best year to find sex or race equality. Dorothy Provine and Edie Adams are comic decoration, mostly there to look on while their husbands wreck half of California. Provine at least contributes a rare non-greedy attitude to the mix. Meanwhile Barrie Chase seems to have transferred her sex drive to her dancing, as she gyrates in a black bikini. She plays straight woman to Dick Shawn, but one must listen carefully to pick up on the fact that she's meant to be a philandering married woman. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson lends his distinctive voice to his role as a cabbie, but in an earlier bit, black actor Nick Stewart is called upon to do a Mantan Moreland-style "take" when the fortune hunters run his truck off the road. Holding the center of the mayhem is police chief Spencer Tracy, the straight-man anchor keeping Mad World from spinning off into utter incoherence. He's so desperate to escape from his hysterical wife and daughter that he's willing to commit a felony. Near retirement and in fairly frail condition, Tracy isn't called upon to leave his desk until the final act of the show. When he joins the stampede of crazy car crashes and stunt work, it's mostly through a clever trick now attributed to the legendary makeup artist Dick Smith -- Tracy and many other stars are doubled by stuntmen wearing specially-made rubber masks. Most of Tracy's running and stair climbing in the final scene is flawlessly doubled. Mad World is of course packed with comic action. The film's car stunts still hold up today. In 1963, most car chases were cheated with camera speed tricks, and car crashes were still being depicted by an off-screen sound effect. Only in Don Siegel's extended chase through San Francisco in The Lineup had we seen cars leaning into hazardous turns at top speed. Mad World's flotilla of vehicles racing for the loot are genuinely hair-raising. Those cars are really moving as they narrowly miss trees, intersections and each other. Hitting a dip at perhaps 90 mph, Dick Shawn's red convertible jumps through the air for at least seven or eight car lengths. With Jonathan Winters' stuntman clutching an open door for dear life, one of the taxicabs does a wild U-Turn across four lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway. At least a dozen times in Mad World, one's reaction is a stunned, "Did they really do that?" They sure did. At least five or six major scenes are orchestrated around physical destruction and mayhem. Third-banana comics Marvin Kaplan and Arnold Stang wail and squawk as Jonathan Winters' figurative bull in a china shop demolishes their desert gas station, one wall at a time. Seeking to escape from the basement of a hardware store, Sid Caesar and Edie Adams smash everything in sight, almost electrocute themselves and nearly burn the place down. Hackett and Rooney's mad plane flight displays hair-raising stunts not seen since the silent days -- the plane buzzes within feet of a control tower and flies right through a billboard (the film's iconic image). They bring it to a stop by crashing into an airport restaurant, its propellers still spinning madly. Is it funny? It's too overstated not to be funny. At this outlandish scale, Kramer's comedy frequently achieves a cinematic state of grandiose absurdity. Critics unimpressed by Mad World instead praised its five-minute animated title sequence by Saul Bass. It was too easy to label it an overblown lowbrow epic loaded with ham actors pretending to be funny, especially by critics looking for Thematic Significance. The movie is an encyclopedia of silly comedy, a pastiche of action slapstick & 'wacky' skit humor whose only purpose is to entertain. Although Mad World does tend to divide audiences, in theatrical screenings it plays like a winner. Its growing popularity reflects our nostalgia for its once-in-a-lifetime cast of comic personalities, especially the great performers that have since passed away. MGM's beautifully restored 70mm theatrical prints make Stanley Kramer's comedy marathon very much worth revisiting. The Criterion Collection's Dual Format five-disc Blu-ray + DVD release of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World contains a mountain of contents spread across both formats. MGM's 65mm restoration of the standard (163 minute) edit is a thing of beauty. The transfer is very colorful and sharp, which helps in the many wide shots. The 5.1 audio track is a showcase for Ernest Gold's circus-like musical score as well as the raucous novelty song, "Thirty-One Flavors" by Gold and Lyricist Mack David. Original three-panel Cinerama was so cost-prohibitive on How the West Was Won that the company switched to 65mm Ultra Panavision 70 (aka Super Cinerama 70), an enhanced single-strip 65mm format. They made specially rectified (distorted) prints that would look correct when projected onto deeply curved screens. The same Cinerama name and logo were kept, which has led to much confusion over the years as to why 2001 doesn't have "seams". The second Blu-ray disc contains noted film restorer Robert A. Harris' highly ingenious reconstruction of a longer Road Show cut, which at 197 minutes falls only a few minutes short of premiere length. Harris has tracked down even more 'puzzle pieces' than were seen on a now-legendary 1991 laserdisc. As the negative trims for the long version were junked after the film was shortened, the laserdisc was made from pieces saved from an old projection print. Harris retransferred these and used 3-D image mapping technology to restore the color from the old flat-letterboxed video laserdisc master. A restoration demo on the disc shows how complicated the process was. In general, the restored material consists of pieces of scenes, often trims from the beginning or the end. Spotting the added footage in this extended version is easy because of the instantaneous changes in picture quality. It's an editor's delight, as one can mentally reverse-engineer the decisions made to shorten the film's running time. Besides the existing Overture and Intermission music, Harris re-incorporated other lost bits of the Road Show version, from pieces found with collectors and in overseas archives. The amusing "police radio chatter" heard during the intermission (and even piped to the Cinerama Dome's restrooms!) has now been returned to its rightful place. A sequence with Mike Mazurki and Phil Silvers has superimposed Japanese subtitles, while English subtitles are needed for one scene that has no audio. Production stills cover short scenes for which audio was found, but no picture. A much-wanted addition is a brief scene in which Spencer Tracy calls crooked fishing boat owner Buster Keaton to set up his escape by sea to Mexico. The short version never gives us a shot of Keaton's face, but his body language running after Tracy's car is unmistakable. Unfortunately, the restored clip is audio-only. True to Mad World's theme of universal greed, Keaton agrees to Tracy's caper with the caveat, "Is there something in it for me?" The extras are extensive, to say the very least. An appreciative and enthusiastic commentary is provided by Mad World boosters Mark Evanier, Michael Schlesinger and Paul Scrabo. Additional insights into the film's elaborate sound work and complex special effects are found in a piece hosted by sound designer Ben Burtt and visual specialist Craig Barron. Included in the lengthy featurette are several minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from effects supervisor Linwood Dunn. For the first time we see a very young Jim Danforth, animating the little puppets of the main characters atop the fire ladder. Besides the five-minute restoration comparison piece, most of the other extras are excerpts of TV shows and other get-togethers attended by Mad World cast members. As might be expected, some pecking-order egos are involved. The comics seem unanimous in their admiration for Kramer and his mega-comedy, with the most- repeated comment being that making such a lavish epic today would now be impossible for any number of reasons. Trailers, TV and radio spots (some written and performed by Stan Freberg) are present, and the insert pamphlet carries an essay by Lou Lumenick. Original ad art by Jack Davis has a big presence as well. His 'jolly chase' graphic theme suggests that the world is rushing toward a zany apocalypse. Southern California residents always get a big chuckle from the oddball geography in the map seen in Spencer Tracy's office -- it invents major highways as well as a new town called Santa Rosita. A special map insert by artist Dave Woodman shows where twenty of the film's major scenes were filmed. Santa Rosita is a composite of Palos Verdes, downtown Long Beach and the California Incline in Santa Monica. By Glenn Erickson

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World


One doesn't ordinarily think of director/producer Stanley Kramer as a man with a knack for comedy. After all, this was the creator of such big, important message movies as The Defiant Ones (1958), On the Beach (1959), and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). So it was with great trepidation that critics approached his slapstick epic, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Kramer hadn't made a comedy since he produced So This is New York in 1948 with Richard Fleischer directing. But he wanted a break from the serious dramas that had become his calling card and envisioned It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as both an encyclopedia of American comedy styles and routines as well as a scathing satire on greed.

Critics, for the most part, found the film too long (it was just over three hours), too excessive, and not funny enough. Audiences, on the other hand, were starved for a good laugh (the film was released just five days prior to John F. Kennedy's assassination) and turned out in droves, making it the second biggest moneymaker of 1963 (Cleopatra claimed the number one spot). Even today, the film enjoys a cult following and it's not hard to find someone who has a favorite memory of the film, whether it's the scene where Jonathan Winters single-handedly wrecks a gas station with his bare hands or the one where Sid Caesar and Edie Adams try to fly a dilapidated airplane.

Kramer would later claim that It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was the most difficult film he ever made and it's not hard to see why when you consider the huge cast, countless stunts, and special effects. Working with a script by William Rose, who wrote the delightful British car-race comedy, Genevieve (1953), Kramer came up with a crazy quilt plot about several motorists racing to discover a hidden treasure in stolen money buried under some palm trees in Los Angeles.

Due to club commitments by most of the professional comedians in the film, the only convenient time for the entire cast to shoot the film was in the middle of summer, which was not the most pleasant time to be in the Mojave Desert, the film's major location. Nevertheless, one of the highlights of the production for Kramer was working again with Spencer Tracy (He starred in Kramer's Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg), who had a strict four hour a day work schedule. Kramer later said, "During the filming of Mad World with all the comedians, I think Spencer Tracy was in poorer health than I (believed): he had bad color and no stamina whatever. But then, even though this lack of energy showed, I think he had his best time ever during the making of a film. The comedians worshipped him. Never before or since has a king had a court full of jesters who strove only to entertain him so that his majesty might say, 'That was funny,' or just laugh and smile. Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney - even the silent Sid Caesar - crowded about him and vied for his affection. They had it. And he talked about them to the very last; he loved them all."

Since its original premiere in 70mm, there have been various versions of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in distribution. The 70mm version, with a running time of 162 minutes, included 8 minutes of overture music with 16 minutes of an intermission title card that broadcast "news bulletins" on the soundtrack, reporting progress in the search for the money. The more common version shown is the 35mm version with a running time of 154 minutes. Of course, there are some diehard fans who continually lobby for the 197-minute version which includes a dance sequence featuring the voices of The Shirelles. At any length, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is still a fun showcase for some of the great comic talents of the 20th century, even if some of the cameos like Buster Keaton, Ben Blue, Jack Benny, and The Three Stooges, only last a few seconds.

Director/Producer: Stanley Kramer
Screenplay: Tania Rose, William Rose
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Music: Ernest Gold
Title credits: Saul Bass
Cast: Spencer Tracy (Capt. T.G. Culpeper), Sid Caesar (Melville Crump), Milton Berle (J. Russell Finch), Ethel Merman (Mrs. Marcus), Mickey Rooney (Ding Bell), Phil Silvers (Otto Meyer), Buddy Hackett (Benjy Benjamin).
C-182m. Letterboxed.

by Jeff Stafford

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

One doesn't ordinarily think of director/producer Stanley Kramer as a man with a knack for comedy. After all, this was the creator of such big, important message movies as The Defiant Ones (1958), On the Beach (1959), and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). So it was with great trepidation that critics approached his slapstick epic, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Kramer hadn't made a comedy since he produced So This is New York in 1948 with Richard Fleischer directing. But he wanted a break from the serious dramas that had become his calling card and envisioned It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as both an encyclopedia of American comedy styles and routines as well as a scathing satire on greed. Critics, for the most part, found the film too long (it was just over three hours), too excessive, and not funny enough. Audiences, on the other hand, were starved for a good laugh (the film was released just five days prior to John F. Kennedy's assassination) and turned out in droves, making it the second biggest moneymaker of 1963 (Cleopatra claimed the number one spot). Even today, the film enjoys a cult following and it's not hard to find someone who has a favorite memory of the film, whether it's the scene where Jonathan Winters single-handedly wrecks a gas station with his bare hands or the one where Sid Caesar and Edie Adams try to fly a dilapidated airplane. Kramer would later claim that It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was the most difficult film he ever made and it's not hard to see why when you consider the huge cast, countless stunts, and special effects. Working with a script by William Rose, who wrote the delightful British car-race comedy, Genevieve (1953), Kramer came up with a crazy quilt plot about several motorists racing to discover a hidden treasure in stolen money buried under some palm trees in Los Angeles. Due to club commitments by most of the professional comedians in the film, the only convenient time for the entire cast to shoot the film was in the middle of summer, which was not the most pleasant time to be in the Mojave Desert, the film's major location. Nevertheless, one of the highlights of the production for Kramer was working again with Spencer Tracy (He starred in Kramer's Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg), who had a strict four hour a day work schedule. Kramer later said, "During the filming of Mad World with all the comedians, I think Spencer Tracy was in poorer health than I (believed): he had bad color and no stamina whatever. But then, even though this lack of energy showed, I think he had his best time ever during the making of a film. The comedians worshipped him. Never before or since has a king had a court full of jesters who strove only to entertain him so that his majesty might say, 'That was funny,' or just laugh and smile. Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney - even the silent Sid Caesar - crowded about him and vied for his affection. They had it. And he talked about them to the very last; he loved them all." Since its original premiere in 70mm, there have been various versions of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in distribution. The 70mm version, with a running time of 162 minutes, included 8 minutes of overture music with 16 minutes of an intermission title card that broadcast "news bulletins" on the soundtrack, reporting progress in the search for the money. The more common version shown is the 35mm version with a running time of 154 minutes. Of course, there are some diehard fans who continually lobby for the 197-minute version which includes a dance sequence featuring the voices of The Shirelles. At any length, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is still a fun showcase for some of the great comic talents of the 20th century, even if some of the cameos like Buster Keaton, Ben Blue, Jack Benny, and The Three Stooges, only last a few seconds. Director/Producer: Stanley Kramer Screenplay: Tania Rose, William Rose Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo Music: Ernest Gold Title credits: Saul Bass Cast: Spencer Tracy (Capt. T.G. Culpeper), Sid Caesar (Melville Crump), Milton Berle (J. Russell Finch), Ethel Merman (Mrs. Marcus), Mickey Rooney (Ding Bell), Phil Silvers (Otto Meyer), Buddy Hackett (Benjy Benjamin). C-182m. Letterboxed. by Jeff Stafford

TCM Remembers - Stanley Kramer


In High Noon (1952), a sheriff stands alone as the clock ticks down toward a deadly showdown. A World War II veteran is forced to come to terms with his paralyzed body in The Men (1950). On the front lines of battle, an African American soldier is hounded by racist comrades in the groundbreaking drama, Home of the Brave (1949).

With these films, Stanley Kramer built his reputation as a producer of important films. He made movies with a conscience, movies with a message. Although his films were sometimes criticized as being too simplistic in dealing with tough subjects, Kramer still deserves a great deal of credit for tackling sensitive subject matter no other director or studio wanted to address. His exploration of timely social issues is what makes his cinema unique and his recent passing leaves us with no one to fill his shoes.

Kramer learned his craft within Hollywood's studio system. He began as a production assistant on So Ends Our Night(1941) and was soon writing and editing. By the late forties, Kramer broke away from the studio hierarchy and formed an independent production company. Outside of the Hollywood system, he could tackle social issues head-on while producing well-crafted and meaningful dramas. In The New York Times obituary for Kramer, the director was quoted in accessing his own career and it's most appropriate here: "I decided that somewhere between the films on outer space and Sylvester Stallone, there is a place for me. I was always associated with films that had an opinion. I don't believe films change anyone's mind, but I was spawned during the Roosevelt era, a time of great change, and I still believe in trying to get people to think."

For his directorial debut, Not As A Stranger (1955), Kramer signed up the all-star cast of Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Olivia de Havilland and Gloria Grahame to reveal the trials and tribulations of doctors and nurses balancing medical school with their personal relationships. In The Defiant Ones (1958) shackled Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier together as escaped convicts. As they flee the law they're forced to confront each other's racism and ultimately discover that beneath their skin color, they are not so different. On the Beach (1959) was Kramer's anti-atom bomb polemic in which Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins and Fred Astaire survive an initial nuclear holocaust only to face a slow, painful death from fallout.

From the arms race to Biblical scripture, the following year Kramer turned his attention to the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 in Inherit the Wind(1960). This famous courtroom trial was a true-life clash of the titans as Fredric March and Spencer Tracy face off on the issue of Evolution versus Creationism. Although names are changed, March gave a grandstanding performance as William Jennings Bryan, the mouthpiece for conservatism, while Tracy played Clarence Darrow, a tireless fighter for progressive thought.

Kramer's films were more than just entertainment; his stories were political platforms for the Civil Rights Movement, disarmament and liberal thinking. For audiences who thought the director couldn't take on an issue greater than the Scopes Monkey Trial, Kramer's next film would prove to be even more controversial. Again, Kramer booked a cast of Hollywood's hottest names to bring mass appeal to his very serious film.

In Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) Spencer Tracy presides over a German war-criminal trial which delves into the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Burt Lancaster sits smugly on the stand as Ernst Janning, an unrepentant officer of the Gestapo, as Maximilian Schell mounts his defense. Montgomery Clift, as a Jew subjected to a sterilization experiment, nervously submits his testimony. Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich each take the stand. Hollywood's greatest stars came out to shed light on one of the darkest moments of the 20th century. The Academy responded with 11 nominations, including for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Tracy), Supporting Actor (Clift), Supporting Actress (Garland), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and Editing. Schell won Best Actor for his dynamic performance as Herr Rolfe.

However, Stanley Kramer wasn't "Mr. Message Film" all the time. In a lighter moment, he produced the surrealist anti-fascist fantasy, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T(1953) in which he enlisted the talents of Dr. Seuss. More famously, he pooled the greatest comics together for an insane Cinerama screwball farce - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

By Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

TCM Remembers - Stanley Kramer

In High Noon (1952), a sheriff stands alone as the clock ticks down toward a deadly showdown. A World War II veteran is forced to come to terms with his paralyzed body in The Men (1950). On the front lines of battle, an African American soldier is hounded by racist comrades in the groundbreaking drama, Home of the Brave (1949). With these films, Stanley Kramer built his reputation as a producer of important films. He made movies with a conscience, movies with a message. Although his films were sometimes criticized as being too simplistic in dealing with tough subjects, Kramer still deserves a great deal of credit for tackling sensitive subject matter no other director or studio wanted to address. His exploration of timely social issues is what makes his cinema unique and his recent passing leaves us with no one to fill his shoes. Kramer learned his craft within Hollywood's studio system. He began as a production assistant on So Ends Our Night(1941) and was soon writing and editing. By the late forties, Kramer broke away from the studio hierarchy and formed an independent production company. Outside of the Hollywood system, he could tackle social issues head-on while producing well-crafted and meaningful dramas. In The New York Times obituary for Kramer, the director was quoted in accessing his own career and it's most appropriate here: "I decided that somewhere between the films on outer space and Sylvester Stallone, there is a place for me. I was always associated with films that had an opinion. I don't believe films change anyone's mind, but I was spawned during the Roosevelt era, a time of great change, and I still believe in trying to get people to think." For his directorial debut, Not As A Stranger (1955), Kramer signed up the all-star cast of Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Olivia de Havilland and Gloria Grahame to reveal the trials and tribulations of doctors and nurses balancing medical school with their personal relationships. In The Defiant Ones (1958) shackled Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier together as escaped convicts. As they flee the law they're forced to confront each other's racism and ultimately discover that beneath their skin color, they are not so different. On the Beach (1959) was Kramer's anti-atom bomb polemic in which Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins and Fred Astaire survive an initial nuclear holocaust only to face a slow, painful death from fallout. From the arms race to Biblical scripture, the following year Kramer turned his attention to the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 in Inherit the Wind(1960). This famous courtroom trial was a true-life clash of the titans as Fredric March and Spencer Tracy face off on the issue of Evolution versus Creationism. Although names are changed, March gave a grandstanding performance as William Jennings Bryan, the mouthpiece for conservatism, while Tracy played Clarence Darrow, a tireless fighter for progressive thought. Kramer's films were more than just entertainment; his stories were political platforms for the Civil Rights Movement, disarmament and liberal thinking. For audiences who thought the director couldn't take on an issue greater than the Scopes Monkey Trial, Kramer's next film would prove to be even more controversial. Again, Kramer booked a cast of Hollywood's hottest names to bring mass appeal to his very serious film. In Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) Spencer Tracy presides over a German war-criminal trial which delves into the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Burt Lancaster sits smugly on the stand as Ernst Janning, an unrepentant officer of the Gestapo, as Maximilian Schell mounts his defense. Montgomery Clift, as a Jew subjected to a sterilization experiment, nervously submits his testimony. Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich each take the stand. Hollywood's greatest stars came out to shed light on one of the darkest moments of the 20th century. The Academy responded with 11 nominations, including for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Tracy), Supporting Actor (Clift), Supporting Actress (Garland), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and Editing. Schell won Best Actor for his dynamic performance as Herr Rolfe. However, Stanley Kramer wasn't "Mr. Message Film" all the time. In a lighter moment, he produced the surrealist anti-fascist fantasy, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T(1953) in which he enlisted the talents of Dr. Seuss. More famously, he pooled the greatest comics together for an insane Cinerama screwball farce - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). By Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

Quotes

He's just like your father: a big, stupid, muscle-headed moron.
- Mrs. Marcus
Even businessmen, who rob and cheat and steal from people everyday, even they have to pay taxes.
- Lennie Pike
I'll wager you anything you like, if American women stopped wearing brassieres, your whole national economy would collapse overnight!
- J. Algernon Hawthorne
Now look! We've figured it seventeen different ways, and each time we figured it, it was no good, because no matter how we figured it, somebody don't like the way we figured it! So now, there's only one way to figure it. And that is, every man, including the old bag, for himself!
- Benjy Benjamin
So good luck and may the best man win!
- Ding Bell
Except you lady, may you just drop dead!
- Benjy Benjamin
Oh Russell, I feel sick.
- Emmeline Finch
Now take it easy honey, these things happen ya know.
- J. Russell Finch
Now what kind of an attitude is that, these things happen? They only happen because this whole country is just full of people, who when these things happen, they just say these things happen, and that's why they happen! We gotta have control of what happens to us.
- Mrs. Marcus

Trivia

Many of the locations for "Santa Rosita" were filmed in Long Beach, CA. The "Santa Rosita" Police Department was in real life the main branch of the YMCA at 6th and Long Beach Blvd. The Hardware store the Crumps were locked in was at 5th and Locust.

The first Cinerama film using anamorphic lenses.

The cameo by Leo Gorcey marked his first appearance on film since he left the Bowery Boys series in 1956.

Premiered at and was the first film ever shown at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California, 7 November 1963.

Stang broke his arm just days before his scenes were shot; in all shots his arm is forever crooked and held in place by a cast under his uniform.

Notes

Presented in Cinerama. Location scenes filmed in Santa Rosita Beach State Park, California, and across highways from Colorado to San Diego. Screen credits extend thanks to the California communities of Agoura, Kernville, Long Beach, Malibu, Oxnard, Palm Desert, Palm Springs (Palos Verdes Estates), San Pedro, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, 29 Palms, Universal City, and Yucca Valley. Reviewed at running times 190-197 min; continuity lists 162 min for 70mm prints and 154 min for 35mm. The 70mm showings included 8 min of music; 16 min of intermission, considered to be part of the presentation in early engagements; and "news bulletins" on the soundtrack reporting progress in the search for the money.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1963 New York Times Film Critics

Released in United States 1998

Released in United States Fall November 7, 1963

Re-released in United States on Video June 26, 1991

Shown at WideScreen Fim Festival in Long Beach, California October 23-25 and October 30 - November 1, 1998.

Previously distributed by CBS/Fox Video.

Jerry Lewis has a guest appearance in the film. Film underwent an 18-month restoration period for 1991 video re-release.

Released in USA on laserdisc (restored version) September 1991.

Released in United States 1998 (Shown at WideScreen Fim Festival in Long Beach, California October 23-25 and October 30 - November 1, 1998.)

Re-released in United States on Video June 26, 1991 (restored version)

Released in United States Fall November 7, 1963