It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
File:It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Jack Davis
Directed byStanley Kramer
Produced byStanley Kramer
Written byWilliam Rose
Tania Rose
StarringSpencer Tracy
Milton Berle
Sid Caesar
Buddy Hackett
Ethel Merman
Mickey Rooney
Dick Shawn
Phil Silvers
Jonathan Winters
Edie Adams
Dorothy Provine
Music byErnest Gold
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Edited byFrederic Knudtson
Robert C. Jones
Gene Fowler, Jr.
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • November 7, 1963 (1963-11-07)
Running time
161 minutes
192 minutes (premiere cut)
210 minutes (original cut)
197 minutes (2014 DVD release)
CountryUnited States
Budget$9.4 million[1]
Box office$60 million[2]

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a 1963 American epic comedy film, produced and directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Spencer Tracy with an all-star cast, about the madcap pursuit of $350,000 ($2,738,000 today) in stolen cash by a diverse and colorful group of strangers. The ensemble comedy premiered on November 7, 1963.[3] The cast features Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, and Jonathan Winters.

The film marked the first time that Kramer had directed a comedy, though he had produced the comedy So This Is New York in 1948. He is best known for producing and directing drama films about social problems, such as The Defiant Ones, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

His first attempt at a comedy film paid off immensely, as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World became a stunning critical and commercial success in 1963 and went on to win an Academy Award (for Best Sound Editing) and to be nominated for five additional Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. Despite this, the film suffered severe cuts by its distributor United Artists in order to give the film a shorter running time for its general release. The footage was excised against Kramer's wishes. The lost footage seriously deteriorated through the decades and was once thought impossible to restore.[citation needed]

On October 15, 2013, however, it was announced that the Criterion Collection had collaborated with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, and film restoration expert Robert A. Harris to reconstruct and restore It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World to be as close as possible to the original 197-minute version envisioned by Kramer. It was released in a 5-disc "Dual Format" Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack on January 21, 2014.[4][5] It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World featured at #40 in the American Film Institute's list 100 Years...100 Laughs.


"Smiler" Grogan (Jimmy Durante), an ex-convict wanted by police in a tuna factory robbery fifteen years ago and currently on the run, careens his 1957 Ford Fairlane off twisting, mountainous State Highway 74 near Palm Springs, California and crashes. Five motorists stop to help him: Melville Crump (Sid Caesar), a dentist; Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters), a furniture mover; Dingy Bell (Mickey Rooney) and Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett), two friends on their way to Las Vegas; and J. Russell Finch (Milton Berle), an entrepreneur who owns Pacific Edible Seaweed Company in Fresno. Just before he dies (literally kicking a bucket), Grogan tells the five men about $350,000 buried in Santa Rosita State Park near the Mexican border under "The Big W".

Initially, the motorists try to reason with each other and share the money, but it soon becomes an all out race to get the money first. Unbeknownst to them all, Captain T.G. Culpeper (Spencer Tracy), Chief of Detectives of the Santa Rosita Police Department, has been patiently working on the Smiler Grogan case for years, hoping to someday solve it and retire. When he learns of the fatal crash, he suspects that Grogan may have tipped off the passersby, so he has them tracked by various police units. His suspicions are confirmed by their behavior. Everyone experiences multiple setbacks on their way to the money. Crump and his wife Monica (Edie Adams) charter an old WWI-era Jenny biplane and eventually make it to Santa Rosita, but are soon unknowingly locked in the basement of a hardware store by its owner (Edward Everett Horton). They eventually free themselves with dynamite. Bell and Benjamin charter a modern plane, but when their wealthy alcoholic pilot (Jim Backus) knocks himself out drunk, the two are forced to fly and land the plane themselves. Finch, his wife Emmeline (Dorothy Provine), and his loud and obnoxious mother-in-law, Mrs. Marcus (Ethel Merman), are involved in a car accident with Pike's 1954 Ford furniture van. The three flag down British Army Officer Lt. Col. J. Algernon Hawthorne (Terry-Thomas) in his 1951 Willys station wagon and convince him to drive them to Santa Rosita. After many arguments, most caused by Mrs. Marcus, she and Emmeline refuse to go any farther, and Finch and Hawthorne leave them by the side of the road in Yucca Valley.

Pike tries to get motorist Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers) in his ivory-colored 1948 Ford convertible to take him to Santa Rosita, but he is betrayed, and the greedy Meyer races for the money on his own, leaving Pike stranded with only a little girl's bike from his furniture van. A furious Pike later meets up with Meyer, bent on retribution. Enraged by Meyer, Pike literally destroys a gas station owned by two brothers, Ray and Irwin (Arnold Stang and Marvin Kaplan), single-handedly.

Pike steals Ray and Irwin's Dodge M37 tow truck and meets up with Mrs. Marcus and Emmeline and picks them up. While in a town called Plaster City, Mrs. Marcus calls her devoted, powerfully built, but dim-witted son Sylvester (Dick Shawn), who lives on Silver Strand Beach near Santa Rosita, to get the money for them, but misunderstanding and believing his mother is in trouble, he instead races to her in his red 1962 Dodge Dart convertible. Meyer experiences his own setbacks, including sinking his car while trying to cross the Kern River and nearly drowns. He manages to steal a blue 1956 Ford Sunliner belonging to a passing motorist (Don Knotts) by telling him he's with the CIA and re-joins the hunt. All the while, Culpeper and the police department observe their activities from afar. Around this time, two taxi drivers (Peter Falk and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson) get in on the chase in their 1959 Plymouth Yellow Cabs.

Eventually all the characters arrive at Santa Rosita State Park at the same time and search for the big W. Emmeline, who wants no part of the money, looks up from taking a drink from a water fountain and sees, in the distance, "The Big W", composed of four palm trees growing in the shape of the letter "W". Pike finds it next and informs everyone else. Culpeper, who saw Emmeline's discovery, orders all policemen to leave the area, and goes in solo to retrieve the money. However, after suffering a gradual but extensive personal breakdown during the course of the day, he now plans to take the money to Mexico to escape a dysfunctional family and an apparently unappreciated career with a very small pension. After everyone digs up the money, Culpeper identifies himself and talks them into turning themselves in, promising a jury will be more lenient. But when the group sees Culpeper fleeing with the money, they realize what's happening and give chase in the two 1959 Plymouth cabs. At that point, Chief Aloysius (William Demarest), who had blackmailed (unbeknownst to Culpeper) the mayor to triple Culpeper's pension, reluctantly tears up the pension papers and orders Culpeper's arrest.

After a long chase sequence, all of the men end up stranded on the fire escape of a condemned office building. The suitcase of money opens, and the money falls into the streets below, where passers-by scoop it up. The men all try to climb down a fire truck's extension ladder even though the fireman (Sterling Holloway) told them "one at a time". Their combined weight causes the firemen to lose control of the ladder, causing the ladder to fling them into various locations, causing many injuries and landing all of the men in the prison hospital wing. The group, in various stages of traction, criticizes Culpeper for taking the money, but he rebukes them, saying they will likely get off easily despite their recklessness because he will have the harshest sentence. He wonders if anything will ever make him laugh again, given that his wife is divorcing him, his mother in-law is suing for damages, his daughter is getting her name legally changed, and he is losing his pension. At that moment Mrs. Marcus, flanked by Monica and Emmeline, enters, begins to berate everyone, and promptly slips on a banana peel carelessly tossed by Benjy before the women entered the room, and is carried out on a stretcher, still berating everyone, including those carrying her out. All the men, except Sylvester, begin to laugh hysterically despite the pain it causes; within seconds even Culpeper joins in.


Principal cast[edit]

Supporting cast[edit]

Cameo appearances[edit]

Cast notes[edit]

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According to Mark Evanier, William Rose's original story outline indicated that the five principals who visit Smiler Grogan's crash site were intended for Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, Jackie Gleason, and Red Skelton. Skelton was unable to take much time off from his television series, and thus agreed to only make a cameo appearance in the film. However, his demands for a high salary led to Stanley Kramer turning him down. Lucille Ball, Martha Raye, Joan Davis, and Imogene Coca were suggested as the men's female companions. Sophie Tucker and Mae West were both suggested for the role of Milton Berle's mother-in-law, that went to Merman. Rose wanted Jack Benny to play the role of the detective monitoring the group throughout the film. The role of Smiler Grogan was originally intended for Buster Keaton.

According to Paul Scrabo, Paul Picerni was originally cast as the second detective at Smiler Grogan's crash site. Picerni was unable to appear in the film, but he recommended Nicholas Georgiade for the role, also a cast member of The Untouchables. According to Georgiade, he was to have another scene in which his character had a police radio conversation with Spencer Tracy's Culpeper character. The scene was ultimately not filmed. An early cast list indicated that Jerry Lewis' role was originally intended for Jack Paar. According to Michael Schlesinger, the role of Algernon Hawthorne was meant for Peter Sellers, who demanded too much money and was thus replaced by Terry-Thomas.

According to Robert Davidson,[6] the role of Irwin was originally offered to Joe Besser, who was unable to participate when Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas could not give him time off from his co-starring role in The Joey Bishop Show. According to the Monthly Film Bulletin, Jackie Mason was then cast in the role of Irwin, but had to bow out because of his night club commitments. The role ultimately went to Marvin Kaplan. According to Mark Evanier, Bob Hope was to have a cameo in the film. During the production of Mad World, Hope was arguing with the studio about the future projects that he was due in his contract, and they ultimately refused to allow him to appear. Further telephone conversations in Captain Culpeper's office were scripted and filmed but ultimately removed before the film's premiere. Culpeper was to be disturbed by a "Dr. Chadwick" and by an "Uncle Mike", in addition to his wife and daughter. The roles were respectively played by Elliott Reid and Morey Amsterdam.

Actress Eve Bruce filmed a scene as a showgirl who asks Benjy Benjamin and Ding Bell to help her put on suntan lotion. The scene was eventually cut and she is uncredited. Cliff Norton is listed in the opening credits, but is nowhere to be found in the film. Norton had a role as a detective who appears at the Rancho Conejo airport. King Donovan, playing an airport official, also appeared at Rancho Conejo. Both actors' scenes were cut but were credited. According to Mark Evanier, Howard Morris was booked to appear in Mad World and never appeared in the film, although he was paid for two days work. Don Knotts originally shot a second scene in which he tries to use a telephone in a diner. Also featured in the scene was Barbara Pepper. The sequence was not used in the finished film.


In the early 1960s, screenwriter William Rose, then living in the UK, conceived the idea for a film (provisionally titled So Many Thieves, and later Something a Little Less Serious) about a comedic chase through Scotland. He sent an outline to Kramer, who agreed to produce and direct the film. The setting was subsequently shifted to America and the working title changed to Where, But In America?, then One Damn Thing After Another and then It's a Mad World, with Rose and Kramer adding additional Mads to the title as time progressed.[7] Kramer considered adding a fifth "mad" to the title before deciding that it would be redundant but noted in interviews that he later regretted it.

Although well known for serious films such as Inherit the Wind and Judgment at Nuremberg (both starring Tracy), Kramer set out to make the ultimate comedy film. Filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 and presented in Cinerama (becoming one of the first single-camera Cinerama features produced), Mad World also had an all-star cast, with dozens of major comedy stars from all eras of cinema appearing in the film. The film followed a Hollywood trend in the 1960s of producing "epic" films as a way of wooing audiences away from television and back to movie theaters. The film's theme music was written by Ernest Gold with lyrics by Mack David. Kramer hosted a roundtable (including extensive clips) on the film with stars Caesar, Hackett and Winters as part of a special The Comedians, Stanley Kramer’s Reunion with the Great Comedy Artists of Our Time broadcast in 1974 as part of ABC's Wide World of Entertainment.[8] The last reported showing of the film on major network television was on ABC on July 16, 1979,[9] and before that, on CBS on May 16, 1978.[10]


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The opening live action scenes, where "Smiler" Grogan drives off the road, and subsequent scenes when the four vehicles briefly speed down the mountain before slowing down and stopping so that the drivers can talk, were filmed on the "Seven Steps" section (also known as "Seven-Level Hill") of the Pines to Palms Highway (California State Highway 74), south and west of Palm Desert. The rocky point where Durante's car sails off into space, known by Mad World fans as "Smiler's Point", can easily be spotted today on Highway 74, minus the man-made, temporary ramp that helped the car go airborne. The locations were out of sequence and facing both eastbound and westbound. One stretch of road before the "seventeen different ways" location appears to be the same as the one on which Grogan was, moments before his crash.[citation needed]

During the scene immediately before the start of the mad dash for the $350,000 loot (i.e., the "seventeen different ways" conversation), Melville incorrectly calculates Bell's and Benjamin's share of the cash under his "25 total share plan" as $97,000 rather than $98,000 (7 shares x $14,000/share). So the sum of Melville's stated figures is only $349,000. Many of the scenes that take place on what look like lonely stretches of road were filmed in areas of Southern California that have since been developed in the decades following the movie's production. Culpeper predicts that the vehicles — generally going east — will head south (a right turn). Not too long after, in a desert highway scene, the four speeding vehicles travel (presumably) somewhat westbound down a slight incline to a "T" intersection and begin to make sweeping left turns (southbound) onto the cross street. Winters' moving van cut diagonally across a sandy patch of desert at the southeast corner of Ramon Road and Bob Hope Drive (Rio del Sol Road at the time) in Palm Desert, now the paved and landscaped parking lot of the Agua Caliente Indian Resort & Casino.[citation needed]

The desolate desert road scene in which Caesar is momentarily blinded by an unfurled road map, resulting in the other three vehicles, that are behind his vehicle, trying to avoid his zig-zagging, was filmed as the cars traveled northbound on Rio del Sol Road in Palm Desert. This stretch of roadway is now populated with numerous residences, condominium complexes, and retail businesses and has been widened into a four-lane boulevard. Soon afterwards, the vehicles make another left turn, this time onto a very dusty road leading to the airport from which Melville and Monica charter a plane. In the later scene in which Jack Benny encounters Berle's character and his group, the entire area, which was practically open desert in the film, is now a modern suburban neighborhood in Yucca Valley.[citation needed]

Many of the actors performed some of their own stunts, including some crashing falls by Caesar, physical antics by Winters, and Silvers' drive into a flowing Kern River, where he almost drowned. Caesar severely injured his back while filming the hardware store scene and was unable to return to the film for some time.[citation needed] Winters had been left tied to a chair while the rest of the cast went to lunch, and when the cast returned an hour later, Winters said, "When I get out of this chair, gang, you [meaning Kaplan and Stang] belong to me" and gave the two a lecture on forced potty training. Silvers pulled a groin muscle running during the scene in the alley behind the building at the end, shortly before the shooting of the scene in which the men chase Tracy up several flights of stairs and onto a fire-escape, so Silvers' stunt double stood in for him for several non-stunt scenes.[citation needed]

The gas station scenes with Marvin Kaplan and Arnold Stang, first with Berle, Merman, Provine, and Terry-Thomas, and later with Silvers and Winters, were filmed at a specially constructed set built on composer Jimmy Van Heusen's property near Palm Springs, California. Van Heusen first saw the completed gas station on his Friday drive from Los Angeles out to his weekend retreat. He did not know the gas station was a film set, thinking instead that his business manager had leased a portion of his property for an actual service station.[citation needed] The destruction scene with Winters, Kaplan, and Stang was filmed that weekend, with the site cleanup scheduled for the next week. Stang filmed the entire scene nursing a broken wrist in a cast covered by a thick work glove. On Monday morning's return trip to Los Angeles, Van Heusen saw the destroyed gas station and thought something terrible had happened, fearing he might be sued by injured parties. During shooting of the gas station's destruction, Winters, whose character toppled the water tower with a tow truck, asked to perform the stunt himself. Although two of the tower's legs were rigged with hidden cables which were pulled from off-screen to make the tower fall away from the truck, Kramer overruled Winters, saying that he could not be certain in which direction the tower would fall and thus could not guarantee the actor's safety.[citation needed]

The airport terminal scenes were filmed at the now-defunct Rancho Conejo Airport in Newbury Park, California, though the control tower shown was constructed only for filming. Other airplane sequences were filmed at the Sonoma County Airport north of Santa Rosa, California; at the Palm Springs International Airport; and in the skies above Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, and Orange County. In the Orange County scene, stuntman Frank Tallman flew a Beech model C-18S through a highway billboard advertising Coca-Cola. A communications mix-up resulted in the use of linen graphic sheets on the sign rather than paper, as planned. Linen, much tougher than paper, damaged the plane on impact.[citation needed] Tallman managed to fly it back to the airstrip, discovering that the leading edges of the wings had been smashed all the way back to the wing spars. Tallman considered that incident the closest he ever came to dying on film. (Both Tallman and his business partner and fellow flier on Mad World, Paul Mantz, would eventually die in separate air crashes over a decade apart.)[citation needed]

In another scene, Tallman flew the plane through an airplane hangar at about 150 knots, with only 23 feet of clearance from wingtips to walls and only 15 feet from the top of the tail to the hangar ceiling. Known as a Butler building, the hangar was built during World War II and is still in use today at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, next to the Pacific Coast Air Museum, in Santa Rosa. At the end of the sequence, the airplane is shown crashing through a plate glass window covering an open airport hangar, made to look like a restaurant, and stopping abruptly. No special effects were used in this scene, which was filmed with the actors and plane in the same space at the same time, with real propellers destroying the window framework. Careful viewing of this incredibly dangerous stunt reveals an arresting cable that was tied to the tail of the airplane at just the right length to make the airplane stop as it hit a curbing.[citation needed] The aircraft that the Crumps chartered was a vintage Standard J trainer.[citation needed]

Part of the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital retirement community, in Woodland Hills, is visible in the background of the scene where characters Lenny Pike and Mrs. Marcus (in the tow truck Pike stole from the service station that he destroyed in his rampage) stop at an intersection (using present-day names, terminating northbound Mulholland Drive at Valley Circle Boulevard, Avenue San Luis, and Calabasas Road) before making a U-turn. Kramer died in the hospital of the retirement community in 2001. Anderson (1977), Durfee (1975), and Rhue (2003) also died there. Although the fictional city of Santa Rosita was really shot in Long Beach, California; Rancho Palos Verdes, California; San Pedro, California; and Santa Monica, California; Santa Rosita's location on a map in the police station scenes was portrayed as south of San Diego, California, and north along the coast from Mexico, hence Culpeper's attempt to flee there. In reality, San Diego's southern city limits border Mexico, and the southernmost "X" on the police station map would also be in San Diego, somewhere between the eastern part of Imperial Beach, and the southern part of Chula Vista, California.[citation needed]

The YMCA at Long Beach Boulevard at 6th Street in Long Beach stood in for the police station. In one shot near the YMCA, a sign for Cormier Chevrolet, southwest of the station, and Sears store signs, north of the station, appear. However, a Sears store sign also appears above and several businesses away from the hardware store from which Melville and Monica exit, via a Chinese laundry. Combined with other information available from the film, the likely conclusions are that the police station is less than three blocks total from the hardware store and that the Sears store was split between nearby locations.[citation needed] The downtown Long Beach YMCA is now at North Waite Court at 6th Street, a block west of the station location. Sears does not currently exist in the area. In 1965 Cormier Chevrolet relocated to Carson, California, several miles northwest of downtown Long Beach, just south of the San Diego Freeway, where WIN Chevrolet subsumed it on November 15, 2011.[12]

"Santa Rosita Beach State Park" was actually a private estate locally known as "Portuguese Point" near Abalone Cove Shoreline Park (Lua error: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.), Rancho Palos Verdes. None of the "Big W" remains, with the last palm tree having fallen in the 2000s. However, in 2011, internet filmmaker James Rolfe[13] and Price Morgan, following earlier efforts,[14] found an angled palm tree stump on the location, with patterns matching those seen on the base of the rightmost palm in the movie.[citation needed]

Rolfe and Morgan each claimed receiving permission from the owner to film the grounds to document their condition, which had deteriorated considerably since Something a Little Less Serious: A Tribute to "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", a 1991 documentary included on the DVD version. Otherwise, this film location is off-limits to the general public, though the stump can easily be viewed by climbing a hill that is around 100 feet to the south of the house. This hill is gated to vehicles but the public is allowed. Through the years, the property has taken on a noticeable slant toward the ocean, due to the slow but ongoing Portuguese Bend landslide.[citation needed]

The final chase scene actually started in Santa Monica, most notably on Pacific Coast Highway, at the California Incline. At the intersection, the cabs turned left, briefly heading east, then parked, while the police car turned right, heading west, on Pacific Coast Highway. The cabs U-turned and chased the police car west to Malibu, past Corral Canyon Road and Solstice Canyon Road, nearly as far as Point Dume, to Puerco Canyon Road, down to and east along Malibu Road (although the shots supposedly along Malibu Road were actually filmed at the southern end of South Victoria Avenue in Oxnard, California). In reality, Puerco Canyon Road is east, not west, of Corral Canyon Road and Solstice Canyon Road and of Point Dume. The little that's left of the southern branch of Puerco Canyon Road still intersects with Malibu Road, but the part just to the west of Cher's residence that connected to Pacific Coast Highway is no longer accessible. The ensemble then traversed part of the path in the opposite direction and next appeared south in Long Beach, California, where the cars passed The Pike amusement park with its wooden roller coaster, and traveled around the Rainbow Pier.[citation needed]

The Arcade under Ocean Boulevard near Pine Avenue is also part of the scene. Near the end of the chase scene, in Long Beach, the vehicles turn by the no-longer-existing Farmers & Merchants Bank branch at or near Long Beach Boulevard and Anaheim Street and, not long after, head east on East 10th Street, turn south onto Long Beach Boulevard (against one-way traffic heading north, with the first cab running over a fire hydrant just outside Daigh's Garage, immediately south of Square Deal Radiator Service, all on the east side of the street), then turn west onto the 200 block of East 9th Street (identified by a street name sign, initially visible to the viewer's left).[citation needed] The sharp-eyed will note that twice during this chase sequence, the cars drive by buildings adorned with signs reading "Nixon For Governor"; these scenes were shot in 1962, when the future President's ill-fated campaign for governor of California was in full swing. The outside stairwell in which the eleven men left the three women is now closed to entry by padlocks and has a loose door across the steps. The rooftop of the abandoned building is at 201-207 East Broadway in downtown Long Beach. The matte painting for the long shot of the plaza required 21 exposures for the composite, seven elements times three color separations.[citation needed]

The fire escape and ladder miniature used in the final chase sequence is on display at the Hollywood Museum in Hollywood. Also, the Santa Rosita Fire Department's ladder truck was a 1960s Seagrave Fire Apparatus open-cab Mid-Mount Aerial Ladder.[15] Portions of the life-size building and fire escape were constructed on the Universal Studios back lot. In the original ending as conceived by Kramer, the heroes-turned-criminals in the prison hospital were visited by a non-sympathetic doctor (intended to be played by Groucho Marx), rather than Mrs. Marcus. His punchline would have been "...don't believe what you see on TV because crime does not pay". That ending was dropped for the final one.[citation needed]

Production began on April 26, 1962 and expected to end by December 7, 1962 but in fact continued for a while longer,[16] apparently conflicting with the notion that Tracy's trip down the zip line into the pet store on December 6, 1962 was the last scene filmed.[17] Veteran stuntman Carey Loftin was also featured in the documentary, explaining some of the complexity as well as simplicity of stunts, such as the day he "kicked the bucket" as a stand-in for Durante.[18]

Widescreen process[edit]

The film was promoted as the first film made in "one-projector" Cinerama. (The original Cinerama process filmed scenes with three separate cameras. The three processed reels were projected by three electronically synchronized projectors onto a huge curved screen.) It was originally planned for three camera Cinerama and some reports say that initial filming was done using three cameras but was abandoned. One camera Cinerama could be Super Panavision or Ultra Panavision, which was essentially the Super Panavision process with anamorphic compression at the edges of the image to give a much wider aspect ratio.[citation needed] When projected by one projector, the expanded 70mm image filled the wide Cinerama screen. Ultra Panavision was used to film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Other films shot in Ultra Panavision and released in Cinerama include The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Hallelujah Trail, Battle of the Bulge, and Khartoum. Super Panavision films released in Cinerama include Grand Prix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Ice Station Zebra.[citation needed]

Animated credit sequence[edit]

Kramer's comedy was accentuated by many things, including the opening animated credits, designed by Saul Bass. The film begins with mention of Spencer Tracy, then the "in alphabetical order" mention of nine of the main cast (Berle, Caesar, Hackett, Merman, Rooney, Shawn, Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Winters), followed by hands switching these nine names two to three times over. Animation continues with paper dolls and a windup toy world spinning with several men hanging on to it and finishing with a man opening a door to the globe and getting trampled by a mad crowd. One of the animators who helped with the sequence was future Peanuts animator Bill Melendez.[citation needed]

Financial outcome and reception[edit]

The film opened at the newly built Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles on November 7, 1963. The UK premiere was on December 2, 1963 at the Coliseum Cinerama Theatre in London's West End. Distinguished by the largest number of stars to appear in a film comedy, Mad World opened to acclaim from many critics[19] and tremendous box office receipts, becoming the 3rd highest-grossing film of 1963, quickly establishing itself as one of the top 100 highest-grossing films of all time when adjusted for inflation, earning an estimated theatrical rental figure of $26 million. It grossed $46,332,858 domestically[20] and $60,000,000 worldwide,[2] on a budget of $9.4 million.[20] However, because costs were so high it only earned a profit of $1.25 million.[1]

The film's great success inspired Kramer to direct and produce Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (also starring Tracy and also written by William Rose)[21] and The Secret of Santa Vittoria (also scored by Gold and also co-written by William Rose).[22] The movie was re-released in 1970 and earned an additional $2 million in rentals.[23]

The film holds a 75% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[24] According to Paul Scrabo, Kramer began thinking about his success with Mad World during the 1970s, and considered bringing back many former cast members for a proposed film titled The Sheiks of Araby. William Rose was set to write the screenplay. Years later, Kramer announced a possible Mad World sequel, which was to be titled It's a Funny, Funny World.[citation needed]

Awards and honors[edit]

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The film won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing and received Oscar nominations for its color cinematography, film editing, sound recording, music score, and original song for the title song.[25] It also received two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy and for Jonathan Winters' performance as Best Actor - Musical or Comedy, respectively losing to Tom Jones and Alberto Sordi for The Devil.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in the following lists:

Home media[edit]

Existing footage is in the form of original 70 mm elements of the general release version (recent restored versions shown in revival screenings are derived from these elements). A 1991 VHS and LaserDisc from MGM/UA was an extended 183-minute version of the film, with most of the reinserted footage derived from elements stored in a Los Angeles warehouse about to be demolished.[27] According to a 2002 interview with master preservationist Robert A. Harris, this extended version is not a true representation of the original roadshow cut and included footage that was not meant to be shown in any existing version.[28]

A restoration effort was made by Harris in an attempt to bring the film back as close as possible to the original roadshow release. The project to go ahead with the massive restoration project would gain approval from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (parent company of UA), although it did require a necessary budget for it to proceed.[28]

Released on January 21, 2014 as a two Blu-ray and three DVD set, the Criterion Collection release contains two versions of the film, a restored 4K digital film transfer of the 159-minute general release version and a new 197-minute high-definition digital transfer, reconstructed and restored by Robert A. Harris using visual and audio material from the longer original "road-show" version not seen in over 50 years. Some scenes have been returned to the film for the first time, and the Blu-ray features a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. It also features a new audio commentary from It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World aficionados Mark Evanier, Michael Schlesinger, and Paul Scrabo, a new documentary on the film’s visual and sound effects, an excerpt from a 1974 talk show hosted by director Stanley Kramer featuring Mad World actors Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, and Jonathan Winters, a press interview from 1963 featuring Kramer and cast members, excerpts about the film's influence taken from the 2000 American Film Institute program 100 Years...100 Laughs, a two-part 1963 episode of Canadian TV program Telescope that follows the film’s press junket and premiere, a segment form the 2012 special The Last 70mm Film Festival featuring surviving Mad World cast and crew members hosted by Billy Crystal, a selection of Stan Freberg's original TV and radio ads for the film with a new introduction by Freberg, trailers and radio spots from the 1960s/70s, and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Lou Lumenick with new illustrations by legendary cartoonist Jack Davis, along with a map of the shooting locations by artist Dave Woodman.[29]


Various subsequent films that employed the concept of a comedic search for money featuring an ensemble cast have either been speculated by critics, or confirmed by their creators, to have been modeled after It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, including Scavenger Hunt (1979),[30] Million Dollar Mystery (1987),[31] Rat Race (2001)[32] and Three Kings (2011).[33]

Attempted sequel[edit]

Claims of attempts to produce a sequel to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World have circulated, but no film producers have officially confirmed a sequel contract despite attempts.[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 146
  2. 2.0 2.1 Box Office Information for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,; retrieved September 5, 2013.
  3. Variety film review; November 6, 1963, page 6.
  4. "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as 197-Min Cut". Movie-Censorship. October 25, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  5. "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) - The Criterion Collection". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  6. Robert Davidson. "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Cast Members". The Three Stooges Online Filmography. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
  7. "Behind the Mad-ness — It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". Urban Cinephile. July 1, 2004. Retrieved September 2, 2009.
  8. "Stanley Kramer Collection". Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  9. "'Mad World' Repeats". Sumter, South Carolina: The Daily Item. July 16, 1979. p. 6B. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  10. Jet. Johnson, p. 66. May 18, 1978. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  11. "Pacific Coast Air Museum". Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  12. "City of Carson, Report to Mayor and City Council, Special Orders of the Day" (PDF). December 6, 2011. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  13. "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Location Hunt". May 12, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
  14. Earl Kress. "It's The Big 'W', I Tell Ya!". Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  15. Archived 15 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World production log". December 19, 1962. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  17. "Modern photos of locations in 1963 movie 'It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'". Retrieved May 31, 2010.
  18. "Something a Little Less Serious: A Tribute to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1991)". Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  19. Don Mersereau (November 11, 1963). "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, United Artists (Review)". Boxoffice Magazine. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  20. 20.0 20.1 Box Office Information for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  21. "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)". Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  22. "The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)". Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  23. "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, January 6, 1971 p 11
  24. Film reviews for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  25. "The 36th Academy Awards (1964) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  26. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  27. ANDREWS, ROBERT M. (August 26, 1991). "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Obsession : Movies: An aide to Rep. Norman Mineta carries on a lonely crusade to locate all of the 56 minutes lopped from Stanley Kramer's 1963 classic". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  28. 28.0 28.1 "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Restoration". Home Theater Forum. June 2, 2002. Archived from the original on April 3, 2002. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  29. "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) - The Criterion Collection". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  30. Michaels, Bob (December 29, 1979). "Entertainment Tough To Find In 'Scavenger Hunt' Movie". Palm Beach Post. {{cite web}}: Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  31. Maslin, Janet (June 12, 1987). "FILM: 'MILLION DOLLARY MYSTERY'". The New York Times. {{cite news}}: Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  32. Silverman, Stephen (August 27, 2001). "The Joker is Wild: Mad at 'Rat Race'". People. {{cite web}}: Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  33. George, Vijay (May 13, 2011). "Exploring genres". The Hindu. {{cite web}}: Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  34. "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Sequel -". January 9, 2007.
  35. "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, MAD Sequel - CINEMABLEND". January 9, 2007.

External links[edit]

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