It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

  • Produced and Directed by Stanley Kramer
  • November 7, 1963

A group of strangers start trying to recover $350,000 they are alerted too by a dying stranger.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is an all-star screwball comedy from back in the day. The list of big names from the era is quite huge. And their time on screen varies from minor to significant. Listing all those who appear-even the cameos-would take quite some time but the main cast includes Spencer Tracy as Captain T. G. Culpeper, Jimmy Durante as Smiler Grogan, Milton Berle as J. Russell Finch, Ethel Merman as Mrs. Marcus, Dick Shawn as Sylvester Marcus, Sid Caesar as Melville Crump, Edie Adams as Monica Crump, Buddy Hackett as “Benjy” Benjamin, Mickey Rooney as Ding Bell, the great Terry-Thomas as Lt. Col. J. Algernon Hawthorne, Jonathan Winters as Lennie Pike, Phil Silvers as Otto Meyer, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as a cab driver, and Peter Falk as another cab driver. That is a huge and talented cast right there (and those are the ones I recognize) but they are supported by numerous talented cameos as well.

Of the cameos we have such names as Jim “Mr. Magoo” Backus as airplane owner/pilot Tyler Fitzgerald, Joe E. Brown as a union official giving a speech at a construction site, Andy “Voice of Friar Tuck” Devine as the sheriff of Crockett County, Norman “Mr. Roper” Fell as the main detective at the “Smiler” Grogan accident site, the great Buster Keaton as Jimmy the Crook, Don “Barney Fife and Mr. Furley” Knotts as a nervous motorist with Otto Meyer, Carl Reiner as a Rancho Conejo airport tower controller, The Three Stooges (consisting here of Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Joe DeRita) as Rancho Conejo Airport firemen, Jack Benny as a man driving a car in desert, and Jerry Lewis as a man driving over a hat. And those are the names I easily recognize. All that talent of the era showing up mostly for a simple gag before disappearing.

My personal favorite of the cameos though are The Three Stooges of the era who showed up as firemen. They just make a face and do nothing beyond that. But it’s so funny to me. The stars show up here to have some fun and they go away. A film like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World that did just that seemed much more possible decades ago than it does today. Here there was no effort to stretch it out. They did just as much as needed. No egos involved.

All the performers in this were having fun with their work here. And there are moments when you can see individuals on camera trying not to laugh or just simply not smile. This is a movie with an all-star cast that do not have the modern all-star egos to be tended to. They are there to just do a good movie and have a good time. Some may even have been friends having a good time together. That’s awesome and not easy to accomplish these days.

Don’t go into It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World thinking you will be getting anything too deep or complex because you will not get it. As stories go the narrative is pretty thin. Though all the mains get a story of sorts there are no great character arcs to be found. The whole film is just a mad scramble to get money. The only real twist is what happens with Captain T. G. Culpeper. I thought it might be coming but did not feel secure in saying that until it actually happened.

I will not call this hilarious. There are some funny jokes in it but there wasn’t much aside from the Stooges that made me audibly laugh. I was more entertained by the general absurdity and the cornball nature of the humor. And there is the added fun of the effort of searching out the aforementioned celebrities. These were recognizable names to me.

The simple story is propelled by unbridled greed. It spreads like an infection and leads to excessive stupidity and desperation by the growing list of characters. Everybody-and I do mean everybody-that becomes aware of the money is trying to screw over the other guy in order to get a small fortune hidden by Smiler Grogan who gets in a serious car accident at the start of the movie. Alliances shift quickly and people change cars quite readily. Reality is tossed out the window quite often.

The film is frenetic and bordering on comedically surreal. The finale borders on cartoonish in a good way. It is a crazy chase with people flying off a of a fire truck with all the primaries involved.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is considered a comedy classic. I won’t go that far but I will say it’s something you should check out. A gathering of comedy greats like this is rare in any time period. It’s worth watching for that alone. You will be entertained but you won’t be splitting your sides as some comedies have aged better than this one. Still though I recommend it.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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