It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) Poster


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Film debut of Jonathan Winters.
The billboard that the twin-engine Beechcraft flies through was made of thin balsa wood, except for a thicker frame for support. Stunt pilot Frank Tallman had to fly the aircraft directly through the center of the billboard or the thicker frame would shear off a wing. The billboard was located in Irvine, at what is now the intersection of Interstate 405 and Hwy 133 (Laguna Canyon), near Lion Country Safari, just east of John Wayne Airport. They had practiced with paper signs, but used balsa wood for the actual movie stunt. The wood stopped one engine and the other was sputtering enough that the plane barely made it back to John Wayne airport.
For the intermission of the premiere engagement at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, the filmmakers recorded messages supposedly sent over police radios describing what was happening to various characters. These messages were played not only in the auditorium during the intermission, but out at the concession stand and even in the bathrooms.
The $350,000 that folks are chasing after in 1963 is worth almost $2.5M in 2010.
With the death of Mickey Rooney on April 6, 2014, there are no surviving members of the main cast left.
Peter Falk improvised much of his dialog in the cab scene.
It became well known that Stanley Kramer was casting nearly every comedy performer he could think of. Some famous stars actually contacted Kramer to volunteer for the project, or to inquire as to why they had not been contacted.
The scene where Melville accidentally knocks the blowtorch into the stairs with the sledge hammer took 86 takes to get it just right.
Don Rickles reportedly wanted to be in the movie but was never asked. He never let Stanley Kramer live it down, either, even heckling him about it from the stage whenever Kramer came to see Rickles' show.
In the scene where Pike is attacking Meyer at Irwin and Ray's Garage, Jonathan Winters actually injured Phil Silvers at least twice, visibly seen due to Phil Silver's reactions to getting hit. Once when Pike rams the back of Meyer's head into a gas pump a little too hard, and again at least once during when he is hitting Meyer with a pair of spare tires.
Stan Laurel turned down an invitation to appear in this film. When his partner Oliver Hardy died in 1957, Laurel pledged never to perform again. He never did.
In the scene where Jonathan Winters backed the truck into the water tower, it actually fell too soon, before the truck actually hit it. To compensate, special effects split the screen and slowed down the side with the water tower so that the fall would coincide with the hit.
The actors were given two huge scripts, one with all the dialogue, the other with the action.
Milton Berle said in an interview that in the scene where Ethel Merman hit him with her purse, it left him with a bump that lasted six months.
The film features several pairs of actors known for working together who ironically share no scenes--among them, Jack Benny and Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Phil Silvers and Paul Ford, Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner, Alan Carney and Wally Brown, Leo Gorcey and Stanley Clements, and Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante.
The fictional Santa Rosita State Park was located at Portuguese Bend in Rancho Palos Verdes. It was landscaped for the movie, and is off limits to the general public today.
When the cast first assembled for a meeting with the director, they were shown the stunts and second unit footage that had already been shot. One of the performers was so impressed they asked "Why do you need us?"
During filming of the infamous "gas station" destruction, Jonathan Winters was accidentally left on stage and completely bound in thick tape. Hours later, when the cast returned from lunch, they found that he had not even been able to free his arms from the chair. In retaliation, Winters gave a three-hour lecture to Arnold Stang and Marvin Kaplan on forced potty training.
Phil Silvers held regular crap games on the set.
Most of the desert "chase" sceneswere filmed near what is now Palm Desert, CA. If you look closely, you will see a road sign for Highway 74, which runs south from the heart of the city of Palm Desert. The vast open spaces are now largely residential country clubs with golf courses. The chase scenes that are not in the desert were mostly filmed along Highway 101 between Woodland Hills and Agoura Hills, with a few scenes in Malibu and Port Hueineme. The former Mobile gas station where Don Knotts loses his car is now Wood Ranch Grill in Agoura Hills. The red Dodge and the blue Chevy overturn into a creek at Agoura Road and Vejar Drive, in Agoura Hills.
Top-billed Spencer Tracy worked on the film for a total of nine days. Aware of Tracy's poor health--stemming from type 2 diabetes and emphysema--director Stanley Kramer only allowed him to work for three to four hours a day and did not let him appear in any of the hot and arid desert exterior scenes. A stunt double was used for Tracy in a few action scenes, one of which includes him running up the building stairs during the climactic chase where you don't see his face.
In the opening title animation, when the figure blows up the world and the actors' names scatter on the screen, there is a very brief moment - only three frames, in fact - when the letters form the names of the animators, including Bill Melendez, Bernie Gruver [ Bernard Gruver ], and other animators.
Phil Silvers, while filming the scene where he drives his car into the river, nearly drowned because he couldn't swim.
The role of Ray (one of the gas station attendants) was intended for Jackie Mason. Mason withdrew due to his nightclub commitments and Arnold Stang replaced him at late notice.
The final gas station collapse did not go quite as planned. The water tower crashed into the small building behind the station, which was rigged to collapse but was accidentally triggered before the water tower actually hit it. Special-effects technician Linwood G. Dunn was called in to optically fix the scene. Dunn took the scene and split-screened the small building, first freeze-framing it then catching the collapsing action up to the water tower strike. All this took place on the right side of the frame.
The main part of the film was shot during the summer months of 1962 because many cast members were on hiatus from television series which they were working on.
Bob Hope, Jackie Mason, George Burns and Red Skelton were all offered roles, but declined. Judy Holliday turned down a part because of poor health.
The statue of Lincoln, that the cab driver lands in the arms of, was made entirely out of foam rubber. It was on outdoor display as part of the Universal Studios tour until it deteriorated from the weather late in 1966.
Ethel Merman's role was originally written as the father-in-law, and Groucho Marx was one of the choices to play it.
A dance sequence featuring The Shirelles was filmed but never used and appears to no longer survive. However, their uncredited performances of the title song and "31 Flavours" can still be heard on the soundtrack album.
Despite being released by Cinerama, this film was not shot in the three-strip Cinerama process, but was projected on the deeply curved original Cinerama screen upon original release, which was exclusively to Cinerama theatres, followed by release to "regular" theatres. It was shot in Ultra Panavision 70, a one-strip process that, when projected on a huge curved screen, somewhat mimics the Cinerama effect. The souvenir booklet for the film, sold during the picture's roadshow run, falsely boasted that the Cinerama image, which normally required the use of three strips of film on three projectors running simultaneously, had been "miraculously blended into one", when in fact the film was not being projected in Cinerama at all.
Marvin Kaplan said that he and Arnold Stang were given the job of "entertaining" Jonathan Winters during the periods in between his scenes.
The famously stone-faced Buster Keaton was originally set to play "Smiler Grogan." When the part was re-assigned to Jimmy Durante, Keaton was given another role as "Jimmy", a former smuggler who Captain Culpepper forces to help him in his plan to run away with the money.
On 17 November 1963, the day before the movie opened for the public in New York, there was a much-publicized gala charity premiere benefit at the Cinerama Theater for the Kennedy Child Study Center in New York and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Institute of Washington. In addition to the stars in attendance, most of President Kennedy's family was there, including his mother, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and brothers Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas five days later.
In guitar legend Jeff Beck's 1999 album "Who Else?". the first track is titled "What Mama Said". There is a repeated sound sample of Dick Shawn (as Sylvester) saying "Y'all hear what Mama said?". This line is from the scene where the men are all digging up the money under "The Big W". Beck did this as an homage to this film, as it is one of his favorite movies due in much part to its many crazy car stunts.
Zasu Pitts' final film appearance. Suffering from cancer, she died during post-production several months after filming wrapped up and four months before the movie's release.
Premiered at and was the first film ever shown at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California, 7 November 1963.
Arnold Stang broke his left forearm just days before his scenes were shot. In all shots, he wears garage workman's gloves on both hands and his his left arm is always crooked, and held in place by a cast concealed under his garage uniform.
Edie Adams almost didn't accept the role of Monica because her husband Ernie Kovacs was killed in an auto accident a few months earlier.
The Rancho Conejo Airport, where Dingy and Benjy land, was a real airport by that name that was open in Newbury Park, a part of Thousand Oaks, from 1960 to 1965. In 2013 the property is covered by a gated community named Rancho Conejo Village. It is just north of the 101 freeway at the Ventu Park exit. The Rancho Conejo Airport never had a tower. The one in the movie was built just for the movie.
Stanley Kramer said that he allowed gambling on the set, since it would allow him to use anyone that happened to be playing on the spur of the moment.
Edie Adams said that she did not find out until afterward that they were using real dynamite in the scene in the store cellar.
Melville Crump was originally to be played by Ernie Kovacs, but he died in a one-car accident before principal shooting. In real life he was married to Edie Adams, who played Monica Crump.
Cara Williams was originally named as one of the female leads, most likely the Edie Adams role.
Milton Berle said in the interview that Phil Silvers lost the most money during the crap games.
The hangar that the aircraft flies through is located at Charles Schulz Sonoma County Airport just north of Santa Rosa, California. The hangar is still there in 2014.
The roles of Melville and Monica Crump were originally larger roles and written for Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in mind. However, when production on The Judy Garland Show (1963) ran into trouble, she had to turn down the part. Rooney was eventually given the supporting role of Ding "Dingy" Bell. Edie Adams, who was originally cast in the role of Emeline, was given the role of Monica. Ernie Kovacs was then cast as Melville but was tragically killed in a car crash before shooting began and was replaced by Sid Caesar.
Arnold Stang said in an interview that Stanley Kramer offered to replace him in the cast, since his arm was broken, with full pay. Arnold said that he told Kramer that he would have taken the role even if he had lost his arm.
Besides supervising all stunts, Carey Loftin was stunt double for Terry-Thomas. As a joke, he showed up on set with one of his teeth painted black to simulate the gap in Terry-Thomas' bridge.
The role of Irwin the garage mechanic, played by Marvin Kaplan, was originally offered to Joe Besser.
Phil Silvers injured himself in one of the later scenes of the movie and was replaced by a stunt double. In those later scenes his face is always away from the camera.
Milton Berle's character is 6 months younger than his mother-in-law played by Ethel Merman.
Leo Gorcey's first cinematic appearance since Crashing Las Vegas (1956).
Contrary to popular belief, the car that Jack Benny drives in his cameo is not a Maxwell, the defunct brand of automobile famed as his "jalopy" on his radio show. The car he is driving is a 1931 or 1932 Cadillac. It is either a Series 355-0A (which came with a V-8 engine) or a Series 370-A (which came with a V-12 engine).
Many of the locations for "Santa Rosita" were filmed in Long Beach, CA. The "Santa Rosita" Police Department was in real life the main branch of the YMCA at 6th and Long Beach Blvd. The hardware store the Crumps were locked in was at 5th and Locust.
The next-to-last film for production designer Rudolph Sternad. He died eight months before it was released.
Stanley Kramer once said that Phil Silvers was the biggest gambler he had ever seen in or out of Las Vegas.
Jerry Lewis remarked in the interview that although he lost $500 in the crap game, he had a lot of fun.
In addition to Cinerama showings, it was also released in a 35mm version for regular movie theaters. The 35mm version was actually shorter than the 70mm Cinerama version, which included a prelude, an intermission and special news inserts reporting the characters' progress in searching for the buried loot.
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Jerry Lewis:  the car driver who deliberately drives over Culpepper's hat.
Jack Benny:  the car driver who stops to offer help to Mrs. Marcus.
The Three Stooges:  airport firemen, with the shortest cameo in the movie: five seconds.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

In-And-Out Burger restaurants feature a pair of palm trees forming a "Big X" as an homage to this movie, the favorite movie of founder Harry Snyder.
Only one of the four palm trees that made up the "Big W" survived into the 21st century. However, some time between 2000 and 2010, the remaining tree (the very far-right of the Big W) was lost during a storm, leaving a stump. None of the trees have been replaced as of July 2010.
The "big W" is visible almost the moment the cast arrives at the park. In a wide shot showing the first ones to arrive (Edie Adams, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney) you can see three of the four palms to the extreme left of the screen, albeit obscured by bushes.

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