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Mad It's a Mad Mad Mad World Movie Review

film cab tracy jimmy

1963 – Stanley Kramer –

Mystery man Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante), out of prison and on the run, drives his car off a cliff in California. Four carloads of good Samaritans stop to render aid, and with his dying breaths Grogan tells them of his $350,000 stash from a vague crime committed fifteen years earlier. He speaks in riddles, promising his would-be rescuers that the money is hidden under a giant “W” in the state park in Santa Rosita, California. He drops enough clues to awaken their greed. With that, the race is on.

Mad, Mad represents perhaps the first attempt to make an epic comedy as measured by the size of the cast, the running time of the feature, the overall extravagance, and the ever-present theme of mythic greed (originally, the movie was rumored to be over five hours long). But the comedic range of the film is as confined as its geography and emotions. The slapstick humor sometimes works (the comic plane ride of Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett) and sometimes doesn't (the protracted demolition of a gas station by Jonathan Winters). As various attempts to beat the others to the treasure meet with disaster—the film does a good job of leaving all of its characters in cliff-hanging messes right before the intermission—the story manages to foreshadow the ultimate poetic justice these greedy souls will receive. The final, fitting slip on the banana peel and the concluding shots of laughing faces that the film holds on imply an ultimately benevolent view of its all-too-human characters.

As the police captain who has been trying to recover the stolen money for fifteen years, Spencer Tracy makes his next-to-last screen appearance and seems more than a little out of place. Neither his talents nor his years suit him for physical comedy, and the attempts at domestic humor in the running telephone conversation with his wife (Selma Diamond) become rather labored. Often Tracy will simply explain to sidekick William Demarest the whereabouts of the travelers as a way of linking the strands of the plot. (The anniversary edition of the film contains a special feature with Linwood Dunn showing how the optical printer helped to achieve the special effects in the final town square scene.)

Cast: Spencer Tracy (Captain T.G. Culpepper), Milton Berle (J. Russell Finch), Sid Ceasar (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), Jim Backus (Tyler Fitzgerald), Peter Falk (Second Cab Driver), Marvin Kaplan (Irwin), Buster Keaton (Jimmy the Crook), Don Knotts (Nervous Man), Carl Reiner (Tower Control), Jimmy Durante (Smiler Grogan), Eddie “Rochester” Anderson (first cab driver), Ben Blue (airplane pilot), Joe E. Brown (union official), Barrie Chase (Sylvester's girlfriend), William Demarest (Aloysius), Selma Diamond (voice of Ginger Culpepper), Andy Devine (Sheriff), Norman Fell (detective), Paul Ford (Colonel Wilber-force), Stan Freberg (Deputy sheriff), Leo Gorcey (third cab driver), Sterling Holloway (fire chief), Edward Everett Horton (Dinckler), Charles Lane (airport manager), Mike Mazurki (Sarge), Charles McGraw (Lieutenant), ZaSu Pitts (switchboard operator), Arnold Stang (Ray), Jesse White (radio-tower operator) Screenwriter: Tania Rose, William Rose Cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo, Ernest Gold Producer: Stanley Kramer for United Artists MPAA Rating: G Running Time: 188 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1963: Best Sound Effects Editing; Nominations: Best Color Cinematography, Film Editing, Song (“It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”), Sound, Original Score Budget: $9.4M.

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