It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Michael Douglas once stated that “greed is good.” It can also be downright hilarious with the right participants. In the case of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the question wasn’t who was involved, but rather, who wasn’t? Nearly every funny man in Hollywood appeared in this epic 1963 film that has kept audiences laughing ever since.

Directed by Stanley Kramer and produced by United Artists, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World assembled a cast of legendary status. A sampling of the actors with starring roles includes: Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, Ethel Merman, Peter Falk, Jonathon Winters, Dick Shawn, Buddy Hackett and the lone straight man of the bunch, Spencer Tracy. Add a list of cameo appearances that included Don Knotts, Jerry Lewis, The Three Stooges and Carl Reiner and you have perhaps the largest group of comedians ever assembled for a single motion picture.

When a recently freed bank robber, ‘Smiler’ Grogan (played by Jimmy Durante) accidentally drives his car off a cliff on a windy mountainous California road, a number of motorists stop to offer their assistance. Upon reaching the dying criminal, his last words just so happen to mention the location of $350,000 in stolen money that is buried under “The Big W” – a park in the nearby vicinity.

The stunned motorists, which include dentist Melville Crump (Caesar), his wife (Edie Adams), comedy writers Benjy Benjamin (Hackett) and Ding Bell (Rooney), husband J. Russell Finch (Berle) and his domineering wife (Dorothy Provine) and mother-in-law (Merman), not-too-bright moving man (Winters) and a pair of cabbies (Falk and Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson) all try to figure out a way to divvy up the fortune fairly but, of course, that doesn’t work.

Soon, greed gets the best of the group and its every man and woman for themselves. A frantic and hilarious race towards the Big W ensues and, in the process, attracts the attention of the local police commanded by the morally upstanding Captain T.G. Culpepper.

Soon, bystanders are also trying to get in on the action, including a boozed up millionaire and a con artist. Slapstick ensues at every turn in the road, as well as a never-ending supply of stunts (which required a never-ending supply of stuntmen), all of which leads to an uproariously spectacular climactic finale.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was shot in widescreen Cinerama format and had a running time of just over 3 hours. It would be cut down to 2 ½ hours for theatrical release but was recently restored to its original length so that the film can be seen in all its intended glory. It’s a timeless madcap classic and a virtual “Whose Who” of Hollywood comedy, the likes of which will never be recreated.

If you count It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as one of your favorite classic films, we would love to hear your thoughts in our comments section below.

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