A group of motorists hear about a crook's hidden stash of loot and race against each other across the country to get to it.A group of motorists hear about a crook's hidden stash of loot and race against each other across the country to get to it.A group of motorists hear about a crook's hidden stash of loot and race against each other across the country to get to it.
Four out of Spencer Tracy's last five films were made for Stanley Kramer. The others, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner dealt with weighty issues like, free speech, genocide, and interracial marriage. What It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World deals with is greed, simple normal human greed. If something looks too good to be true, chances are it is.
Jimmy Durante an old time crook crashes off a highway and down a steep cliff. He's on the way to digging up the loot from a $350,000.00 robbery from years ago. His dying words tell those people went to aid him where in Santa Rosita Park the loot is buried. Off the group of them go, every man and woman for themselves, with some alliances of family and convenience. A few more treasure seekers get picked up along the way.
That barebones plot description doesn't begin to tell you about some of the funny sequences that follow, Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney in a private plane with a drunken pilot Jim Backus passed out, Edie Adams and Sid Caesar trapped in a hardware store desperately trying to get out, Jonathan Winters as the lunkhead truck driver generally running amuck wherever he goes, and Milton Berle the henpecked husband of all time married to the beautiful Dorothy Provine, her braindead brother Dick Shawn and Ethel Merman the mother-in-law from hell. Berle has a package deal and when you watch the film, you'll see what I mean.
Along the way, the treasure hunters pick up Terry-Thomas, Phil Silvers, Peter Falk and Eddie Anderson. And they leave a whole lot of some of the best character actors and comedians who each in their own way contributes a certain specialty they're famous for.
There are two unbilled appearances by Jack Benny and Jerry Lewis each in situations that show off their peculiar style of comedy.
Watching it all is Spencer Tracy as the Captain of Detectives of the Santa Rosita, Police Department both before the camera and between takes. I remember seeing a quotation by Stanley Kramer that with all these comedians on the set, Tracy was like a king with a hundred jesters, each looking to amuse him. Tracy besides keeping track of this freak show has some domestic problems of his own which are told in telephone conversations with the city pension bureau, his wife, and his daughter. Tracy's expressions are priceless.
My favorite in this film has always been Ethel Merman. Mainly because I know someone back in Brooklyn named Gladys who's exactly like Ethel is here right down to the flaming red hair. I haven't lived in Brooklyn for nine years now, but reports I get say she hasn't changed. I can't watch this film and see Merman without thinking of dear Gladys and the schlump that married her.
It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World is about greed, yet greed has never been presented with such rip roaring humor as it is in this film. For those who need a good laugh and who in this world doesn't.
- Dec 2, 2006