Directed By: Stanley Kramer
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman
Tag line: "It's The Biggest Entertainment Ever To Rock The Screen With Laughter!"
Trivia: The roles of Melville and Monica Crump were originally larger roles and written with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in mind
Stanley Kramer’s It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a big, loud, extremely funny film featuring an all-star cast, dozens of cameos, and a whole lot of property damage. At nearly three hours long, it’s more than a gargantuan comedy; this movie is an all-out epic. It even has an intermission!
While attempting to escape, convicted felon “Smiler” Grogan (Jimmy Durante) loses control of his car on a remote California highway, sending it plummeting to the bottom of a cliff. A group of good Samaritans pull over to see if they can lend a helping hand: Russell Finch (Milton Berle), a businessman heading out of town with his wife (Dorothy Provine) and her loud-mouth mother (Ethel Merman); Dr. Melville Crump (Sid Caesar), a dentist, and his wife Monica (Edie Adams), on their way to a second honeymoon; Ding (Mickey Rooney) and Benjy (Buddy Hackett), two pals bound for Las Vegas; and Pike (Jonathan Winters), a truck driver scheduled to make a delivery in Yuma. Yet instead of helping Grogan, the group catches his dying words. Having spent 15 years in custody for his role in a tuna factory robbery, Grogan tells them he’s buried $350,000 in cash in Santa Rosita State Park, and that anyone willing to drive down there and dig it up is welcome to it. This kicks off the race to end all races, with each vehicle trying to beat the others to Santa Rosita and become rich beyond their wildest dreams. What none of them realizes is their every move is being tracked by the police, who, under the leadership of Santa Rosita’s Capt. Culpepper (Spencer Tracy), plan to apprehend all of them the moment they’ve reached their destination.
Everything about It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is big, starting with its primary cast, many of whom were established stars when the movie was released in 1963. Along the way, a number of other characters join the race for the loot, including a British adventurer (Terry-Thomas), a con artist (Phil Silvers) and a lifeguard who’s also a mama’s boy (Dick Shawn). That’s a damned impressive collection of performers, if you ask me, but the numerous cameos are just as extraordinary, featuring everyone from Jack Benny and Jerry Lewis to Buster Keaton and The Three Stooges! Fortunately, there’s plenty going on in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World to keep them all hopping, with not one, but two aerial sequences (the funniest involving Ding and Benjy, who convince millionaire Jim Backus to fly them to Santa Rosita, only to be left steering the plane themselves when their pilot is knocked unconscious), a gas station torn to bits (thanks to Pike) and a hardware store that’s nearly burned to the ground (when Dr. and Mrs. Crump are inadvertently locked in the basement, and try to escape). All this, plus a death-defying finale set atop a condemned building, results in a madcap adventure that’s downright hilarious from start to finish.