The Producers (2005)
New York, 1959. Max Bialystock was once the king of Broadway, but now all his shows close on opening night. Things turn around when he's visited by the neurotic accountant Leo Bloom, who proposes a scheme tailor-made for producers who can only make flops: raise far more money than you need, then make sure the show is despised. No one will be interested in it, so you can pocket the surplus. To this end, they produce a musical called Springtime for Hitler written by escaped Nazi Franz Liebken. Then they get the insanely flamboyant Roger De Bris to direct. Finally, they hire as a lead actress the loopy Swedish bombshell Ulla (whose last name has over 15 syllables). As opening night draws near, what can go wrong? Well, there's no accounting for taste...
After putting together another Broadway flop, down-on-his-luck producer Max Bialystock teams up with timid accountant Leo Bloom in a get-rich-quick scheme to put on the world's worst show.
- The movie opens with the opening night (which is also the closing night) of washed-up producer Max Bialystock's (Nathan Lane) latest Broadway endeavor, Funny Boy: A Musical Version of Hamlet. The crowd leaves the theater exclaiming about how awful the show was ("Opening Night").
Later, Bialystock's new accountant, Leopold Bloom (Matthew Broderick), comes to check the books for Funny Boy. Leo's visit is interrupted when Hold-Me-Touch-Me (Eileen Essell), one of Max's elderly backers, stops by to drop off a "checkie" and play naughty games with Max. Leo confesses that he's always wanted to be a producer. However, he's extremely nervous -- he carries his blue baby blanket with him, rubs his face with it when he becomes anxious, and descends into full-blown hysterics when Max takes the blanket away. After calming down and looking at the show's books, Bloom gets an idea and muses that you could make more money with a flop than with a hit, though it would be illegal. Bialystock tries to convince the insecure Bloom to collaborate with him to put on the biggest flop in history, then take the money and go to Rio de Janeiro ("We Can Do It"), but Bloom refuses and goes back to his accounting firm.
Leo finds himself unhappy with his job and fantasizes about being a Broadway producer ("I Wanna Be a Producer," a big production number with elaborate sets and chorus girls wearing costumes made of pearls -- a riff on the line "beautiful girls wearing nothing but pearls" from "We Can Do It"). He has an epiphany and quits, returning to Bialystock and agreeing to help him with his flop. They form a partnership, Bialystock & Bloom.
Max and Leo search for the worst play ever written and settle on Springtime for Hitler, a "singing love-letter to Adolph Hitler" written by Neo-Nazi Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell). The lederhosen-wearing Liebkind receives them on his roof, where he raises carrier pigeons. The partners ask him to sign over the rights to produce the show, but first they are coerced into wearing swastika armbands while singing and dancing to "the Führer's favorite tune" and taking the sacred Siegfried Oath ("Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop"). They swear, under penalty of death, to never never never dishonor the spirit or the memory of Adolph Elizabeth Hitler.
They then meet the worst director in town, a flamboyant homosexual named Roger DeBris (Gary Beach), and his equally flamboyant assistant Carmen Ghia (Roger Bart). DeBris, claiming that he's going to a costume party, appears in an elaborate sequined evening gown in the style of the Chrysler Building. It takes some persuasion -- and Max and Leo have to meet DeBris' live-in production team, who resemble the Village People -- but at the mention of a Tony Award, DeBris agrees to direct ("Keep it Gay"). DeBris' middle name, as it turns out, is also Elizabeth.
Max and Leo return to their office to find Swedish bombshell Ulla Inga Hansen-Bensen-Yanson-Tallen-Hallen-Svaden-Swanson (Uma Thurman) wanting an audition, though none are scheduled. Bialystock allows her to try out anyway ("When You Got it, Flaunt it"), and they hire her as their secretary and cast her.
At one point as they're preparing to go out, Leo asks Max if he can wear one of Max's black hats. Max tells him it's a Broadway producer's hat, and Leo can't wear it until he has a show on Broadway.
Next, they need to raise the money: two million dollars. Bialystock pimps himself out to every rich old lady he can get his hands on in exchange for the dough ("Along Came Bialy"). Max and Leo return to their office to find that Ulla has painted everything white, from the walls and the furniture to the knickknacks and the telephone. Max leaves and Leo laments the danger that a relationship will distract him from his work, but he allows himself to kiss Ulla anyway ("That Face"). After the kiss, he throws away his blue blanket.
Auditions are run by DeBris and his assistant Ghia, with Liebkind, Bialystock, and Bloom observing. During the singing auditions for Hitler, Liebkind flips out over a performance and shows the auditioner how the song is supposed to be sung ("Haben Sie Gehört Das Deutsche Band?"). Max hires Liebkind to play Hitler on the spot.
On opening night ("Opening Night (Reprise)"), Leo turns up at the theater with the special Broadway producer's hat, but Max admonishes him not to wear it until the curtain has gone up and come down. Leo wishes everyone good luck, and the others (minus Bialystock) chastise him for breaking the ancient theater taboo while Bialystock invokes bad luck in every way he can think of, from breaking a mirror and walking under a ladder to throwing a black cat in front of people going backstage ("You Never Say Good Luck on Opening Night"). As Liebkind goes backstage there's a loud crash, and he exclaims that he's broken his leg. Desperate, they recast Roger DeBris as Hitler and file into the theater to watch Springtime for Hitler.
The audience is horribly offended by the opening number and people begin to walk out. Then Roger DeBris enters as Hitler. After seeing the flamboyant Hitler playing the Nazis for laughs, the crowd views the show as a satire and loves it ("Springtime for Hitler").
Bialystock and Bloom return to the office, distraught at the success of their show. Bloom fishes his blue blanket out of the wastebasket, grabs the two sets of books (one labeled "Show to the IRS," the other "Never show to the IRS") and attempts to go turn himself in, but is stopped by Bialystock. As they tussle, DeBris and Ghia arrive to celebrate. Liebkind, wearing a cast and carrying a crutch and a gun, bursts in shooting and shouting that Bialystock and Bloom must die because they broke the Siegfried Oath. There is commotion, DeBris and Ghia hide in the closet, and Liebkind runs out of bullets. Just as Max thinks he's saved the day by convincing Liebkind that it was the actors who mocked Hitler and therefore Liebkind should go kill them all, the police show up. They arrest Liebkind, who promptly breaks his other leg while trying to escape. Then they find the duplicate sets of books and arrest Bialystock for tax fraud, as Bloom is nowhere in sight. After they all leave, Ulla comes in and finds Bloom hanging on the back of the door. She convinces him to take the money from the safe and run away with her to Rio.
In jail, Bialystock gets a postcard from Bloom about how much fun he and Ulla are having in Rio. Bialystock laments his predicament ("Betrayed"). However, Leo and Ulla come to Max's aid in court because Leo realizes that Max, despite being sleazy and manipulative, has been a good friend to him ("'Til Him"). Ulla reveals that she's now Mrs. Bloom ("he wouldn't do it unless we got married!"). Bialystock and Bloom are each sentenced to five years in Sing Sing penitentiary -- the judge (David Huddleston) conveniently ignoring the fact that Bloom is not being tried for anything. ("It breaks my heart to break up such a beautiful friendship, so I won't.") They write and produce a musical in prison ("Prisoners of Love," with piano accompaniment by Liebkind), selling 700% of the ownership shares to the prisoners and prison staff. They're pardoned and released because they lifted the spirits of the other inmates.
Bialystock and Bloom take Prisoners of Love to Broadway, where Ulla and chorus girls play the prisoners and Max and Leo's prison buddies sit in the audience in chains. Leo finally gets to wear the producer's hat, and the partners become successful producers ("Leo and Max") of such blockbusters as A Streetcar Named Murray, South Passaic, Maim, and Katz.