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The Producers (1967) Poster

(1967)

Trivia

Jump to: Director Trademark (1)
Because of the "Springtime For Hitler" musical number, the film was banned in Germany. It wasn't shown in that country until it was included in a film festival featuring the works of Jewish filmmakers.
Mel Brooks cannot read music. "Springtime for Hitler" and "Prisoners of Love" (as were all the songs Brooks writes for his films) were hummed into a tape recorder and transcribed by an expert.
Gene Wilder said in an interview on TCM that at the first reading of the script he excused himself to leave for a dentist appointment he could not miss when in fact, he had to go to the unemployment office to collect a check for $55 he desperately needed at the time.
The "hysterical" scene was filmed at the end of a long day, and an exhausted Gene Wilder told Mel Brooks that he just didn't think he "had it in him" to shoot it that day. Brooks solved the problem by loading the actor up with sugar and caffeine (in the form of two Hershey bars and a cup of coffee), after which the scene was shot in just two takes.
Dustin Hoffman was set to play Franz Liebkind, but declined when he got the part of Benjamin in The Graduate (1967). Brooks only allowed Hoffman the chance to go off to the audition for the film because his wife (Anne Bancroft) was in it, and Brooks was familiar enough with the role of Benjamin to know Hoffman was utterly wrong for it (as written) and would never be cast.
Mel Brooks related the following in an interview with Larry Siegel in 'Playboy' in 1966:
  • PLAYBOY: What else are you working on?


  • BROOKS: Springtime for Hitler.


  • PLAYBOY: You're putting us on.


  • BROOKS: No, it's the God's honest truth. It's going to be a play within a play, or a play within a film - I haven't decided yet. It's a romp with Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun at Berchtesgaden. There was a whole nice side of Hitler. He was a good dancer - no one knows that. He loved a parakeet named Bob - no one knows that either. It's all brought out in the play.


One major reason the film ever got released at all was due to the intervention of Peter Sellers. After Brooks completed the picture, at that point entitled "Springtime for Hitler," executive producer Joseph E. Levine told Brooks the film wouldn't be released because he thought it was in poor taste and not very funny. Meanwhile, while Sellers was in Hollywood making I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968), he liked to screen movies for him and his friends' entertainment. One night this film was screened, and Sellers loved it. When he heard it would not be released he began calling Levine, and eventually convinced him to release it - the only compromise being that the title be changed to "The Producers".
Mel Brooks was so surprised to win the Oscar for Best Screenplay, he collected the award without a speech prepared.
Mel Brooks' voice is dubbed in for a singer in "Springtime for Hitler". Mel only sings: "Don't be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi Party" for dancer Tucker Smith.
The movie's line "We find the defendants incredibly guilty." was voted as the #88 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007. "I'm author. You are the audience. I outrank you!" was #14 in the same.
Mel Brooks based the character of Max Bialystock on a real Broadway producer he knew who used to seduce little old ladies in exchange for checks that were supposedly to produce his latest play, which would usually be called "Cash."
To better get into character, Kenneth Mars slept in his costume every night. It was also Mars's idea to have Liebkind's helmet spattered with pigeon defecation.
The scene with Max and Leo outside the fountain at Lincoln Center was the last scene to be filmed. Gene Wilder thought Leo's ecstasy mirrored his own at the time, and was what convinced him to stay with acting.
May contain the first use of the term "creative accounting".
Brooks says that producer Joseph E. Levine wanted to fire Gene Wilder after seeing some of the footage because he thought he 'stunk.' He wanted to give Mel Brooks $35,000 more to find someone better, but the director convinced Levine that Wilder was fine and would make the movie work.
Gene Wilder wrote half of Leo's courtroom monologue at the end. Mel Brooks wrote the other half.
Gene Wilder imagined his reactions to the madness throughout the film would be the same as the audience's watching it.
Gene Wilder wondered if Kenneth Mars really was crazy throughout filming and not just acting because of some of his antics.
The name "Bialystock" is taken from the Polish city with the same name, from which Mel Brooks's ancestors had come. Until the Holocaust, Bialystock had been a major Eastern European Jewish city.
In a Playboy magazine interview (December 1974 issue), Mel Brooks recalled the filming: "I did dumb things. First day on the set, first scene, sound men are ready, cameras are rolling, the director's supposed to say: 'Action!' Being a little nervous, I said: 'Cut!'"
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"Roger De Bris" character is based upon Edward D. Wood Jr..
Although Mel Brooks always had Zero Mostel in mind to play Bialystock, they reportedly had clashes of ego on the set and found it hard to get along. Indeed, they never worked together again.
At one point when reading scripts, Max reads the line "Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to find he'd been transformed into a gigantic cock-roach". This is the first line of the book "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka. "The Metamorphosis" was later adapted as a stage play and an opera.
The original screenplay had Franz Liebkind having Max and Leo swearing on The Siegfried Oath, accompanied by "The Ride of the Valkyries" and promising fealty to Siegfried, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul von Hindenburg, The Graf Spee, The Blue Max, and Adolph "You know who." This explains Franz's outraged cry when entering Max's office, "You have broken the Siegfried Oath - you must die!" The Oath was restored in the musical version.
The "Springtime For Hitler" number took two days to film and was the the most expensive scene in the film. But Mel Brooks said he also spent almost 14 days of his allotted 40-day shooting schedule getting the movie's vital opening scene--with Bialystock seducing an old-lady investor - just right.
Since Mel Brooks had never directed a movie before, he had to convince producer Joseph E. Levine that since he had written the script, he could visualize making it much better than any other outside director new to the project. He also agreed to work for scale.
Zero Mostel was thoroughly embarrassed by how fat he was during the filming and lamented how, for all he'd done, he'd be forever remembered as "That fat guy in The Producers."
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Roger Ebert recounted how he was in an elevator with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft in New York after the film premièred. A woman got onto the elevator, recognized him and said, 'I have to tell you, Mr. Brooks, that your movie is vulgar.' Brooks replied, 'Lady,' he said, 'it rose below vulgarity.'
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Adapted as a Broadway stage musical by Mel Brooks, "The Producers" opened at the St James Theater in April 2001, with Nathan Lane as Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Bloom. The renowned musical went on to run for 2502 performances and won a record-breaking 12 Tony awards.
The character played by Gene Wilder is named Leo Bloom. His co-star Zero Mostel became famous for his portrayal of James Joyce's character Leopold Bloom in an Off-Broadway production of "Ulysses In Nighttown."
The name of the character Carmen Ghia (Andréas Voutsinas) comes from the Karmann Ghia, a Volkswagen coupe manufactured from 1955 to 1974.
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It has been alleged that the film was "banned in Germany". Following the film's lacklustre response in the UK, German distributors did decline to distribute it, but their lack of interest did not constitute a ban.
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Estelle Winwood said about the film - "Oh, that dreadful picture. I can't bear to watch it, even on a small television. I must have needed the money - living in Hollywood weakens one's motives. It reminds me of the saying that nobody ever went broke underestimating the American public's taste."
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The name "Rudolfo" that the "hold me, touch me" lady gives to Bialystock when they are playing "The Contessa and the Chauffeur" at the movie's beginning, is also the name of the chauffeur Bialystock hired after he and Bloom raise the money for the play.
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Although Peter Sellers was instrumental in prompting the film's release, Mel Brooks claims he offered Sellers the role of Leo Bloom (eventually played by Gene Wilder), but that he turned it down.
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When Leo is going hysterical in Max's office, Gene Wilder imagined Zero Mostel was hurting his pet dog to put him in the right frame of mind.
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The film's first screening, an unpublicized sneak review at the huge Lane Theater in Philadelphia, was seen by barely a handful of people, including a "bag lady, according to Mel Brooks.
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According to an interview with director and Blue Underground owner William Lustig, the original negative was destroyed because the then-owner decided it wasn't necessary to pay for the storage of its negative library.
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One of Roger Ebert's Great Movies.
Ulla's repeated line "Goddag på dig!" is Swedish for "Good day to you!"
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Gene Wilder's "Whom Has He Hurt" speech was completely improvised.
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Next to Max Bialystok's office is a door with "Hertzberg Dance School" printed on the glass. Michael Hertzberg was the film's first assistant director.
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Mel Brooks's original title for the film was "Springtime for Hitler" but the studio wouldn't allow it. They did say that they would allow "Springtime for Mussolini," but Brooks didn't like that and ended up calling it "The Producers".
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Bill Macy's movie debut.
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Mel Brooks worked on two real-life Broadway musical flops. He did a rewrite on the failed musical "Shinbone Alley" (1957), and wrote the libretto for "All American", which starred Ray Bolger and ran for 80 performances in 1962.
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Zero Mostel took Gene Wilder under his wing and the two became friends. "You may have heard stories about how bombastic, aggressive, and dictatorial Zero might be," said Wilder. "It didn't happen with me. He always took care of me. I loved him. He looked after me as if I were a baby sparrow."
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Andréas Voutsinas did his own makeup.
When it was completed, the film was in danger of not receiving a theatrical release. Producer Joseph Levine was dubious about its offensive humour and thought it might cause more trouble than it was worth so the film was temporarily shelved.
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Mel Brooks originally conceived the film as a non-musical play, but realized it required too many set changes. He then played with the idea of it as a book, but it had too much dialogue. Eventually, he realized it could only work as a movie.
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Composer John Morris was given the daunting task of creating the showcase musical number "Springtime for Hitler." Mel Brooks directed him to create the biggest, flashiest, tackiest, most terrible number he could think of. "Every time we hit a level," said Morris, "we'd have to go broader, bigger, and that was the fun of it."
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The "Springtime for Hitler" sequences were filmed at Broadway's Playhouse Theater (torn down in 1969), whose marquee can be glimpsed momentarily. However, in the scene where the theater blows up, we see the marquee of the Cort Theater, which stood (and still stands) across 48th Street from the Playhouse.
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The original Swedish title for the film was a direct translation of the original title - Producenterna (The Producers). The film didn't arouse much interest from the public. This changed when the title was replaced by "Det våras för Hitler" (Springtime for Hitler). Then the film became an instant smash. All subsequent Mel Brooks films then got Swedish title starting with "Det våras för..." e.g. "Det våras för Frankenstein" (Young Frankenstein (1974))/ ..."Sherriffen" (Blazing Saddles (1974)) / ..."Galningarna" (High Anxiety (1977) etc. except for Brooks' two last films, which received the Swedish titles "Robin Hood: Karlar i trikåer" (Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)) and "Dracula - Död men lycklig" (Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995); literally "Dracula - Dead but Happy").
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Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006.
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The basic story, that of a crooked producer who makes money by producing flop shows, was originally used in New Faces of 1937 (1937).
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This is considered to be one of the most controversial films of all time.
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This is the first film directed by Mel Brooks and scored by John Morris. The two would continue to work together until Life Stinks (1991).
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Mel Brooks, being a first time director, was often challenged in his creative decisions by Zero Mostel who had his own ideas about staging and performance after years of experience on the stage and in film. Brooks was used to the lightning pace of live television and could easily get impatient with the slowness of a film shoot. Zero, in turn, often offered unsolicited advice to Brooks on how he should direct a scene. The two lashed out at each other occasionally, but there was a mutual respect. Any animosity on the set was short lived.
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Newspaper articles from 1966 indicate Mel Brooks originally conceived of this as a Broadway comedy titled "Springtime for Hitler" and that his original choice for the role of Leopold Bloom was Paul Anka.
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Leo Bloom is named after Leopold Bloom, main character of the James Joyce novel Ulysses.
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The date on the copy of Variety announcing the casting call is September 6, 1967.
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The film was shot entirely on location in New York City.
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The ad shown in Variety for the open casting call for the role of Adolf Hitler says it will be held at 254 W. 54th St., at that time a TV studio of CBS. In a few years, the studio would become "Studio 54."
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Director Trademark 

Mel Brooks:  [The Producers]  This was Mel Brooks' first movie. All of Brooks's future movies make at least one reference to this one, some with bits of a musical and others by referring to Nazi Germany.

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