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

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

Synopsis of Movie

It was a big, big, big, big comedy that United Artists and producer/director Stanley Kramer were after, and they certainly got their wish. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was not only one of the longest comedies on film (at nearly 3 hours in its original version), it also boasted one of the most impressive casts of comic actors ever assembled: Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Buddy Hackett, Dick Shawn, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters and far too many others to mention. Leading man Spencer Tracy held the monstrous cast together, playing the lone straight man in a lineup of jokers.

The screwball antics are touched off by a freak death on a California mountain pass. Recently freed bank robber ‘Smiler’ Grogan (Jimmy Durante, in one of the film’s countless celebrity cameos) careens off a cliff, crashing onto the desert floor below. Before he kicks the bucket (literally), Grogan tells a secret to the motorists who have stopped to help: $350,000 in stolen loot is buried beneath “the big W” at a not-too-distant park. The motorists—henpecked hubby J. Russell Finch (Berle), his wife (Dorothy Provine) and mother-in-law (Merman), dentist Melville Crump (Caesar) and his wife (Edie Adams), comedy writers Benjy Benjamin (Hackett) and Ding Bell (Rooney), dim-witted moving man Lennie Pike (Winters) and two enterprising cabbies (Peter Falk and Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson)—all try to decide on a fair way of splitting the cash, but negotiations crumble once greed sets in.

The “every man for himself” race for the big W attracts the attention of the police, and unfailingly honest Captain T.G. Culpepper is soon on the treasure hunters’ trail. By the time the money madness hits its peak, the hunt has been joined by con man Otto Meyer, drunken millionaire Tyler Fitzgerald and others, as one slapstick sequence follows another until the madcap finale.

Shot in the widescreen Cinerama format, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World still barely had room to fit its enormous cast of characters. In addition to the major roles, the movie had surprising cameos at every turn: Jerry Lewis, Don Knotts, Carl Reiner, ZaSu Pitts, Doodles Weaver, the Three Stooges, and once more, too many others to mention. An army of stuntmen was called into service as well, as the film tried to match the size of its cast with the size of its slapstick stunts.

It was the Around the World in 80 Days of comedy, and like that film, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World toured the nation as a roadshow before opening in general release. The movie’s length was cut to just over 2½ hours for the wide release and for subsequent showings on television and on video, but its full 3-hour glory was eventually restored, allowing audiences to recapture the madness as it was meant to be seen.

Movie Release History

1963 - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Movie Sub Categories

live-action
comedy

Movie Studio

United Artists

Cast

Captain T.G. Culpepper  Spencer Tracy
Melville Crump  Sid Caesar
J. Russell Finch  Milton Berle
Mrs. Marcus  Ethel Merman
Ding Bell  Mickey Rooney
Otto Meyer  Phil Silvers
Benjy Benjamin  Buddy Hackett
Sylvester Marcus  Dick Shawn
J. Algernon Hawthorne  Terry-Thomas
Lennie Pike  Jonathan Winters
Monica Crump  Edie Adams
Emmeline Finch  Dorothy Provine
Second Cab Driver   Peter Falk
First Cab Driver  Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson
Sheriff Mason  Andy Devine
Airplane Pilot   Ben Blue
Union Official  Joe E. Brown
Tyler Fitzgerald   Jim Backus
Police Sergeant   Alan Carney
Detective   Norman Fell
Jimmy the Crook  Buster Keaton
Smiler Grogan  Jimmy Durante
Sylvester's Girlfriend   Barrie Chase
Mayor  Lloyd Corrigan
Chief Aloysius  William Demarest
Ginger Culpepper (voice)  Selma Diamond
Colonel Wilberforce   Paul Ford
Deputy Sheriff   Stan Freberg
Billie Sue (voice)  Louise Glenn
Third Cab Driver  Leo Gorcey
Fire Chief   Sterling Holloway
Irwin  Marvin Kaplan
Dinckler  Edward Everett Horton
Nervous Man  Don Knotts
Airport Manager  Charles Lane
Miner  Mike Mazurki
Lieutenant Matthews   Charles McGraw
Switchboard Operator Gertie  ZaSu Pitts
Tower Control Rancho Conejo   Carl Reiner
Schwartz   Madlyn Rhue
Ray   Arnold Stang
Truck Driver  Nick Stewart
Chinese Laundryman  Sammee Tong
Radio Tower Operator Rancho Conejo  Jesse White
Fireman  Moe Howard
Fireman  Larry Fine
Fireman  Joe DeRita
Man in Car  Jack Benny
Policeman  Paul Birch
Detective in Squad Room  Stanley Clements
Patrolman  Roy Engel
Detective  Nicholas Georgiade
Policeman in Helicopter  Don C. Harvey
Traffic Cop   Tom Kennedy
Police Dispatcher  Harry Lauter
George the Steward  Ben Lessey
Pilot's Wife  Bobo Lewis
Man Who Runs Over Hat  Jerry Lewis
Miner's Son  Bob Mazurki
Man Outside Store  Doodles Weaver
Unknown Chick Chandler
Unknown Minta Durfee
Unknown Cliff Norton
Unknown Roy Roberts
Unknown Eddie Ryder

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