Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen




For, Friday, April 8, 2016

No one’s going to argue that the 1963 epic comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” is anything but too long and overblown for its thin plot but it’s also inarguable that it’s pretty funny.

Not hysterical. Not a classic. But especially for those of us who know the many comedy stars gathered here, there are plenty of laughs over the course of the film’s 205-minute running time, to be shown at Cinemark Theaters on Sunday, April 10, at 2 p.m., and Wednesday, April 13, at 2 and 7 p.m.

After crashing his car on a mountainous Southern California state highway, a fugitive (Jimmy Durante) reveals the whereabouts of a stash of cash before literally kicking the bucket. But all he says is that it’s buried in the (fictional) Santa Rosita State Park under a “big W.” And the witnesses — Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett, Milton Berle.

All are law-abiding citizens but the possibility of digging up $350,000 (“tax-free”) is too much for them. At first they talk about divvying up the money but then it becomes a free-for-all as each driver races to be the first at the park.


     Jonathan Winters, 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World'

What they don’t realize, of course, is that a police captain (Spencer Tracy) that has been chasing down the money for years is monitoring their every move.

Caesar and his wife (Edie Adams); Berle and his wife (Dorothy Provine) and mother-in-law (Ethel Merman) and the others run into one problem after another trying to get to their destinations, and before long there are others involved, chiefly Terry-Thomas and Phil Silvers.

Others on hand include Arnold Stang, Marvin Kaplan, Dick Shawn, Peter Falk and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, and there are cameos by Jack Benny, Stan Freberg, Leo Gorcey, Sterling Holloway, Edward Everett Horton, Buster Keaton, Don Knotts, Jerry Lewis, the Three Stooges and many more.

There are lots of car chases and those familiar with Southern California will recognize many landmarks, and while some of the gags are over the top, there are also lots of nice little moments, which, for me, provide the biggest laughs.


Edie Adams, left, Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Ethel Merman and Milton Berle in the epic comedy 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.'

Winters is especially charming and hangdog as a moving-van driver with an “aw, shucks” attitude; Merman is hysterical as a loud-mouthed herridan that eventually gets her comeuppance; Terry-Thomas’ banter with Berle is pointed and funny; and Adams and Provine make the most of their put-upon-wife characters; and Hackett and Rooney make a good team, bouncing off each other.

“It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” was filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 and shown as one of the first single-camera Cinerama pictures (as opposed to earlier three-camera Cinerama films). It was a box-office success, the third biggest film of 1963, and earned an Oscar for best sound editing (and was also nominated in five other categories).