Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's Simply "Mad"

If the end of summer is getting you down---Labor Day weekend reminds us that fall is just around the corner---and you feel like you need a pick me up, I'm going to recommend a movie.

But check with your doctor first, to make sure that laughing convulsively won't do you any harm.

Then go out and rent "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

Or anything with Peter Sellers in it, if your local DVD store doesn't carry IAMMMMW.

The reason you should grab a copy of IAMMMMW is simple, just like what Jackie Gleason told "60 Minutes" when asked why "The Honeymooners" is still popular.

"Because it's funny," The Great One said.

Many of you have probably seen "World," which I have, numerous times. You might be leaning back right now and saying, "Oh yeaaaaah.....that WAS funny!"

Only a laugh riot---one of the funniest movies ever made.

I bring it up because one of the cable networks showed "World" over the weekend, and I sadly only caught the last hour---which wasn't too bad, actually, because that final hour contains some of the funniest physical comedy ever caught on celluloid.

But to truly appreciate "World," you need to see it from beginning to end. Just make sure you have over two-and-a-half hours to kill. That's how long the film is, sans commercial breaks.

"World" was released in 1963, just two weeks before President Kennedy was assassinated. It was directed by Stanley Kramer, who had a gift for presenting physical comedy and films with "big" scenes.

The ensemble cast reads like a Who's Who of American film and television comedy. In fact, most of the players were predominantly TV stars who only dabbled in movies.

The all-star cast, in no particular order, includes: Sid Caesar; Mickey Rooney; Jim Backus; Milton Berle; Jonathan Winters; Spencer Tracy; Buddy Hackett; Dick Shawn; Ethel Merman; Jimmy Durante; Terry-Thomas; Edie Adams; Dorothy Provine; Don Knotts; Jesse White; William Demarest; Peter Falk; Buster Keaton; Carl Reiner; Phil Silvers; and many more who had cameos, like Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, and The Three Stooges.

The plot is made for madcap zaniness. An old man (Durante) wipes out in the desert and, just before he dies, he mumbles to the folks who rush to his aid something about a hidden treasure. The cache of money is supposedly buried in Santa Rosita Beach State Park under "a big W."

The "Big W" turns out to be four palm trees that protrude from the ground in a W-like design.

What ensues after the Samaritans leave Durante's body in the desert is a full-throttle race to the treasure.


Much of the cast of "World," including Spencer Tracy (right, in white)
Courtesy Corbis Images


Filming began in 1962. The great comedian Ernie Kovacs was slated to play a lead role, but Kovacs sadly died not long before cameras rolled. His widow, Edie Adams, had already been signed and she agreed to stay with the project---mainly because Ernie's estate needed the money.

The list of stars asked to be part of the ensemble who couldn't or wouldn't do the film included Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ronald Reagan, and others.

The movie is simply a riotous romp through the California desert, and it culminates in everyone chasing Spencer Tracy, who plays a police chief who tries to abscond with all the dough once it's dug up.

The climactic moment takes place with many of the cast teetering on a fire truck's extended ladder over town. They get expelled off the ladder one by one, with hilarious results.

I won't spoil the ending, in case you haven't seen it, or have forgotten it.

If you can't find "World," you can "settle" for any of the Pink Panther movies starring Sellers (or a vehicle called "The Party" with Sellers, though he doesn't play his Inspector Clouseau character in it), or Woody Allen's first film, "Take the Money and Run," which will also prompt tears of laughter.

Or head to Amazon.com or a similar site and buy the aforementioned films. They're nice to have on the shelf when laughter is the medicine you need at the time.

2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your post and appreciate you mentioning that EK was supposed to play the role of Melville Crump that eventually went to Sid Caesar. Not everyone knows that. Of course Sid Caeser is a genius and did a wonderful job but it would have been interesting to see what Ernie would have done with his particular brand of genius.

    Al Quagliata, Editor

    The Ernie Kovacs Blog

    Ernie Kovacs Dot Net A Tribute To Television's Original Genius

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment and stopping by, Al!

    It's an honor to have someone who champions Ernie Kovacs taking the time to drop me a word!

    That's a good question, as far as what EK would have brought to the Crump role. Doubtless, it would have been brilliant.

    ReplyDelete

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