Mel Brooks’ feature directorial debut starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, The Producers, is one of the best comedies of all-time.
When producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) learns from accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) that he can turn flops into money-makers, it changes everything. Hysterics ensue for a solid hour and a half. There’s nothing more to say about the plot. Mostly, this is because the film is over 50 years old. You know what they say? The rest is history!
Mostel and Wilder give dynamic performances. Wilder would go onto act in a few more films for Brooks. But there’s something about watching Mostel’s performance that can easily be described as a master class in acting. Here’s this Jewish producer who makes his career out of sleeping with women. At first glance, it probably isn’t a role that anybody would want to take on. What makes it work so well is how funny the script is on top of Mostel and Wilder’s deliveries. Over fifty years later, it’s hard imagining anyone else in these roles. Yes, I say this knowing full well that the film was adapted into a Broadway musical, which was in turn also adapted into a film.
This film works as a satire on two different levels. We see this through the relationship between Bialystock and Bloom. We especially see this with the whole production of an absurd musical. Brooks presents a satirical way of how theater works in a way that only he can do so. He is said to have met producers that acted similar to what we see on screen. It isn’t surprising when you stop and think about it.
Springtime for Hitler is one of the most hysterical things that I’ve ever seen. It works as a World War 2/Holocaust satire. At the time of release, the world was just over twenty years removed from the Holocaust. Again, Holocaust humor is tricky to pull off. This isn’t to say that it cannot be done because it absolutely can. Writer-director Mel Brooks just happens to be one of the few who can pull it off. Lo and behold, the song is certainly one of the greatest songs in cinematic history. It may be true that this song isn’t for everyone but it’s one of those songs that you cannot help but sing or hum along to it.
While the film got off to a rough start, it certainly is not for everyone. When you think about it now, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when people didn’t like this movie. The film managed to develop an audience but it wasn’t an easy path in getting there. Not at all.
This wouldn’t be Brooks’ only foray into humor at the expense of Jewish pain. He would pen a song about the Spanish Inquisition for History of the World, Part I. Everyone has their own way of coping but Jews frequently turn to humor. To Brooks’ great credit, The Producers is one of the best comedies in history.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Mel Brooks
CAST: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn, Kenneth Mars