It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is one of the best ensemble comedies and the star-studded film remains a classic to this day.
Imagine yourself being surrounded by some of the best comedy stars of the day. It sounds impossible, right? Think again because this film doesn’t have a few of them but brings everyone together in an epic race to find the Big W. Let’s get one thing straight though. This isn’t a case of everyone joining together in the third act. Many of our favorite comedians and comedy stars will pop up in cameos throughout the film. Some were unable to join in the fun because of scheduling conflicts or salary demands. Yet for all the people who were offered a role in this laugh riot, nobody ever reached out to Don Rickles. Rickles never let Kramer hear the end of it.
When “Smiler” Grogan (Jimmy Durante) crashes off of State Highway 74, a few innocents rush down to help him. While he may kick the bucket shortly thereafter, it’s not before he tells this crew of folks that there’s $350,000 worth of treasure underneath a Big W located in the Santa Rosita State Park. As quickly as you would expect them to be on their merry way, they all seek to find the treasure. Life certainly finds a way.
While they’re seeking the treasure, the police–headed by Captain T.G. Culpeper (Spencer Tracy)–are also after the money. Or at least looking for the people who are after the treasure. There is honestly a lot going on here. What else can you expect with this many people?!? Before we know it, Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers) and Lt. Col. J. Algernon Hawthorne (Terry-Thomas) hear about the money. Obviously, they also want it. Can anybody really blame them? All of them face setbacks on their way to the movie. These setbacks only manage to add on to the pile of laughs. No laugh is bigger than the laugh at the end of the film when Mrs. Marcus (Ethel Merman) slips on a banana in front of many injured men at the hospital.
Many comedians have to share screen time here and they certainly make the best of it. Yes, some are barely featured but this is one of the downfalls of an epic giant of this nature. It doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a laugh riot. Personally, I found myself rooting for Melville (Sid Caesar) and Monica Crump (Edie Adams) because of my having discovered Sid Caesar and Your Show of Shows a few years prior. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is one of the first films that I watched in my journey to watch all of the comedies honored by the American Film Institute in their list of 100 Years, 100 Laughs. It is just as funny now as it was twelve years ago when I first watched the film.
A comedy of this nature can’t simply be replicated. Oh, you can certainly try alright but chances are more likely to result in failure. One of the reasons is why they don’t make comedies like this anymore. Ninety minutes is the perfect length for a comedy. Running over 100 minutes is stretching it a bit. Anything over 2 hours and you’re really just asking for pressure. While it’s true that some comedies work with a 2-hour plus run time, the numbers are really few and far between.
It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a laugh-riot for the ages.
DIRECTOR: Stanley Kramer
SCREENWRITERS: William Rose and Tania Rose
CAST: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, Dorothy Provine, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Jim Backus, Ben Blue, Joe E. Brown, Alan Carney, Barrie Chase, William Demarest, Andy Devine, Peter Falk, Norman Fell, Paul Ford, Sterling Holloway, Edward Everett Horton, Marvin Kaplan, Buster Keaton, Don Knotts, Charles McGraw, Zasu Pitts, Carl Reiner, Madlyn Rhue, Arnold Stang, The 3 Stooges, Jesse White, and Jimmy Durante