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

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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
theatrical release poster by Jack Davis
Directed byStanley Kramer
Produced byStanley Kramer
Written byWilliam Rose
Tania Rose
StarringSpencer Tracy
Music byErnest Gold
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Editing byFrederic Knudtson
Robert C. Jones
Gene Fowler, Jr.
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release dates
  • November 7, 1963 (1963-11-07)
Running time161 minutes
192 minutes (premiere cut)
210 minutes (original cut)
CountryUnited States
Budget$9.4 million[1]
Box office$60,000,000[2]
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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
theatrical release poster by Jack Davis
Directed byStanley Kramer
Produced byStanley Kramer
Written byWilliam Rose
Tania Rose
StarringSpencer Tracy
Music byErnest Gold
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Editing byFrederic Knudtson
Robert C. Jones
Gene Fowler, Jr.
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release dates
  • November 7, 1963 (1963-11-07)
Running time161 minutes
192 minutes (premiere cut)
210 minutes (original cut)
CountryUnited States
Budget$9.4 million[1]
Box office$60,000,000[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 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.


"Smiler" Grogan (Jimmy Durante), a suspect in a tuna factory robbery some 15 years earlier and on the run from the police, recklessly passes a number of vehicles on a twisting, mountainous road in Southern California's Mojave Desert before his car careens off a cliff and crashes. Five motorists from four of the passed vehicles stop to assist: dentist Melville Crump (Sid Caesar); furniture mover Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters); "Dingy" Bell (Mickey Rooney) and "Benjy" Benjamin (Buddy Hackett), two friends on their way to Las Vegas; and milquetoast business entrepreneur, J. Russell Finch (Milton Berle). Just before he dies, Grogan tells the men about $350,000 in cash buried "under a big 'W'" in Santa Rosita State Park at Santa Rosita Beach near the Mexican border. Two detectives (Norman Fell, Nicholas Georgiade) who had been tailing Grogan arrive, and the lead detective asks the men pointed questions about their interaction with Grogan. Each of the men not-so-artfully dodges the questions, clearly having decided to retrieve the treasure. The detectives permit the five to return to their vehicles after receiving Finch's contact information. The motorists then drive away from the accident site, initially testing each other's resolve on the road, then stop to try to reason with one another on how to share the money. When they can't agree on any one particular distribution, they run to their vehicles to engage in an all-out race to reach the loot first. All four vehicles are eventually abandoned.

Meanwhile, Captain T. G. Culpeper (Spencer Tracy), of the Santa Rosita Police Department, who has been patiently working on the Grogan case for 15 years, hopes to solve it and retire with honor. Learning of the fatal crash, he suspects that "Smiler" might have given one or more of the witnesses a clue to the stolen loot's location and has police units track their movements. Culpeper phones police (Andy Devine, Stan Freberg) in another jurisdiction about Grogan. Culpeper's switchboard operator (ZaSu Pitts) takes calls; later, Culpeper has a disastrous phone conversation with his wife Ginger (Selma Diamond) and their daughter Billie Sue (Louise Glenn).

Everyone experiences multiple setbacks en route to the money. Melville and his wife Monica (Edie Adams) charter a shabby World War I-era biplane to Santa Rosita from an unlicensed pilot (Ben Blue) and arrive by cab to a hardware store. After telling the cabbie (Leo Gorcey) to wait outside, a store employee (Doodles Weaver) lets them in just before closing time. But the store's owner, Mr. Dinkler (Edward Everett Horton), unaware of the couple's presence, locks the door to the basement, into which the pair had just descended, intending to find and buy a pick and shovel. Melville wrecks the place in various failed attempts to escape before blasting a hole in the wall with dynamite.

Dingy and Benjy question an airport manager (Charles Lane) and, against his objections, convince hungover pilot Tyler Fitzgerald (Jim Backus) to shuttle them to Santa Rosita in his modern twin-engine aircraft. Fitzgerald carelessly lets them operate the controls while he mixes drinks in the back of the plane; soon Benjy's erratic steering knocks him unconscious and the pair have to fly and land the plane on their own. A group of air-traffic controllers (Carl Reiner, Eddie Ryder, Jesse White) are unable to assist them in landing, and a retired Air Force officer (Paul Ford) is brought in to help them land. Dingy and Benjy eventually land the plane, crashing into an airport terminal but escaping unharmed.

Two other cab drivers (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Peter Falk), who respectively whisk Dingy and Benjy away from the airport, and Melville and Monica from the hardware store, also get in on the hunt.

Pike crashes his furniture truck into the car containing Finch, his wife Emmeline (Dorothy Provine), and his overbearing mother-in-law, Mrs. Marcus (Ethel Merman). Finch persuades Pike to ride off for help on a girl's bicycle that is much too small for him. The remaining three flag down British army Lt. Col. J. Algernon Hawthorne (Terry-Thomas) to drive them to the nearest phone, later ignoring Pike on the roadside nearby. The four stop at a service station owned by two brothers (Arnold Stang, Marvin Kaplan) who decline Finch's request to rent the station's tow truck. After many arguments, most caused by Mrs. Marcus, she and Emmeline refuse to go any farther, and Finch and Hawthorne leave them behind.

Pike tries to get motorist Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers) to take him to Santa Rosita but foolishly tells him about the scheme, prompting the greedy Meyer to abandon Pike and race for the money himself. When he has a blowout, Meyer is forced to stop at the aforementioned service station, which an outraged Pike destroys when he finds Meyer there. Meyer escapes, and after the rampage, Pike steals the station's tow truck and later reluctantly picks up Mrs. Marcus and Emmeline. Mrs. Marcus calls her beach-bum son Sylvester (Dick Shawn), who lives near Santa Rosita, to tell him to look for the loot, but the Oedipally-obsessed Sylvester, who is dancing with his laconic girlfriend (Barrie Chase), races hysterically to the defense of his mother instead. Meyer experiences his own setbacks, including losing his car in a river. After flagging down a nervous motorist (Don Knotts) (and persuading him with a conspiracy theory suggesting Meyer is a CIA agent hunted by Russians), Meyer steals the motorist's car. All the while, the police secretly track their activities, while Culpeper bides his time. He is severely disgruntled, having given a measly pension despite solving the Grogan case.

Eventually, all of the interlopers arrive at the state park and begin searching for the "Big W." They are observed by Captain Culpeper, who is, unbeknownst to his coworkers, intent on keeping the loot for himself. He orders all policemen to leave the area and waits for the others to retrieve the money. Emmeline, the only one who wanted no part of the scheme, is the first to recognize that the "Big W" is actually an arrangement of four palm trees. As Culpeper steps out of the bushes and greets her, she unwittingly reveals the location to him and suggests they split the money so she can retire to a convent. Soon Pike, then the others, recognize the "W" as well and frantically begin digging while Culpeper quietly mixes in with the non-diggers. After a suitcase containing the loot is dug up and opened, the group argues about the money's distribution. Culpeper then identifies himself, takes the suitcase, and suggests to the stunned ensemble that a jury might be more lenient if they turn themselves in voluntarily. Initially taking Culpeper's advice, the defeated claimants climb into the two taxis and drive out of the park.

When the two taxicab groups notice Culpeper leaving with the money, they immediately reverse direction and chase him, foiling his plan to store his police vehicle with the help of Jimmy the Crook (Buster Keaton) in a seaside garage and hop a boat bound for Mexico. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to reach Culpeper by radio, Police Chief Aloysius (William Demarest) realizes Culpeper's intentions and reluctantly revokes his newly trebled pension — which Aloysius had secured by twisting the arm of the mayor (Lloyd Corrigan) less than a half hour before. He tears up the envelope containing the pension papers that the mayor yielded and orders Culpeper's arrest.

At the end of the chase, stranded high up the decaying fire escape ladders of an abandoned building, are eleven men in the group, each of whom is continually trying to keep the other ten men from possessing the suitcase containing the money, despite warnings from a union official (Joe E. Brown) that the ladders are unsafe. During the struggle the suitcase accidentally opens, spilling the cash into the air to flutter upon the crowd below. As the ladders break away from the building, a fire engine arrives to rescue the men, who then simultaneously attempt to climb down the extended fire truck ladder. Their combined weight breaks the ladder's hydraulic system, causing it to gyrate uncontrollably, flinging or dropping them in various directions.

The dejected men, now immobile in a prison hospital in bandages and casts, blame one another for their predicament and especially Culpeper for seizing the money. Replying that their sentences may be lighter because he will probably take most of the blame in court, ex-Captain Culpeper adds that, perhaps in 10 or 20 years, there will be something about all this he can laugh about. Benjy throws his banana peel toward a wastebasket, but it misses and lands on the floor, moments before the nagging Mrs. Marcus enters, flanked by Monica and Emmeline, vociferously scolding all of the hospitalized men. Mrs. Marcus slips on the banana peel, falls flat on her back, and is hurriedly carried off on a gurney while Culpeper and all the other injured men laugh hysterically.


Principal cast[edit]

Supporting cast[edit]

Cameo appearances[edit]

Cast notes
Film and television comedian Ernie Kovacs was originally scheduled to play the character "Melville Crump"[4] before being killed in an automobile accident on January 13, 1962. Kramer subsequently filled the role with comedian Sid Caesar. Kovacs' wife, Edie Adams, remained in the cast as Caesar's screen wife, in part due to the enormous tax obligations that Kovacs left behind. Wally Brown was also going to be given a role but died two months before Kovacs, not long before filming began.

According to the Monthly Film Bulletin, Jackie Mason was originally cast in the role of Irwin, the main service station attendant, but according to Robert Davidson,[5] 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.

Judy Garland, Groucho Marx, Stan Laurel, Bud Abbott, George Burns, Bob Hope, Don Rickles, Judy Holliday, and Red Skelton were among the many celebrities offered or considered for roles in the film.[citation needed] Ethel Merman's role was originally written for Groucho (as Finch's father-in-law), who reportedly demanded too much money; so the part was rewritten.[citation needed] Laurel did not want to be seen in his old age, especially without his comedy partner Oliver Hardy, who died in 1957.


In the early 1960s, screenwriter William Rose, then living in the UK, conceived the idea for a film (provisionally titled 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 One Damn Thing After Another and then It's a Mad World, from Thomas Middleton's 1605 comedy A Mad World, My Masters, with Rose and Kramer adding additional Mads to the title as time progressed.[6] 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. Box-office revenues were dropping, so the major studios experimented with a number of gimmicks to attract audiences, including widescreen films.

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.[7] The last reported showing of the film on major network television was on CBS on May 16, 1978.[8]


The four-minute opening animated title sequence was created by Saul Bass.

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, California. 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.

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 so 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.

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. Right afterward, 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.

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. 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 one of his groin muscles 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.

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. 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. Though two of the tower's legs were rigged with hidden cables which were pulled from offscreen 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.

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. 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.)

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 the 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, California.

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. The aircraft that the Crumps chartered was a vintage Standard J trainer.

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 (supposedly) 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, California, and the southern part of Chula Vista, California.

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. 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.[10]

"Santa Rosita State Park" was actually a private estate locally known as "Portuguese Point" near Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, Rancho Palos Verdes. None of the "Big W" remains, the last palm having fallen in the 2000s, although in 2011 internet filmmaker James Rolfe[11] and Price Morgan, following earlier efforts,[12] separately found an angled palm tree stump on the location, with patterns matching those seen on the base of the rightmost palm in the movie. 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.

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. 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). (The sharp-eyed will also 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 rooftop of the abandoned building is at 207 (sometimes stated instead as 201) 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.

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.[13] Portions of the life-size building and fire escape were constructed on the Universal Studios back lot.

Production began on April 26, 1962 and expected to end by December 7, 1962 but in fact continued for a while longer,[14] 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.[15]

Silvers, a compulsive gambler, had a running crap game going during the production. According to Something a Little Less Serious, Jerry Lewis, whose character ran over Culpeper's hat, reportedly stopped by the set and left $500 poorer.

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.[16]


The film ran 210 minutes in its preview showing. Kramer cut the film to 192 minutes for the premiere release. During its roadshow 70mm run, United Artists, seeing that it had a mammoth hit on its hands, cut the film to 161 minutes without Kramer's involvement in order to add an extra daily showing. The general release 35mm version runs 154 minutes, with overture and exit music excised. At the film's premiere, radio transmissions between the film's fictional police played in the theater lobby and rest rooms during the intermission. The police transmissions featured Detective Matthews (Charles McGraw) and the police personnel that follow the group. These three reports (each approx. one minute in length) may have added to the 210-minute length.

As of the present, all except three of the 192 minutes of footage as shown in the roadshow version exists in one form or another, some with both picture and sound, others with only picture, and others with only sound—this is due to the fact that the original elements to the roadshow version were cut away and tossed during initial editing. The existing cut footage derives from the many 70mm roadshow prints (including Japanese prints with subtitles) that were themselves cut away after the film's premiere engagement in 1963, and have deteriorated over time in terms of the visual. Only in recent times has this footage been digitally enhanced and restored using state-of-the-art technology for a version that will be discussed later.

One of the first official attempts to return Mad World to its original length came in 1991 under the supervision of director Stanley Kramer. For this version, 20 minutes of the lost material was unearthed by MGM/UA via two 70 mm preview reels, totaling 20 minutes in length, that contained a few scenes in their entirety, some of which was seen in the roadshow version. These two 70mm reels provided the extra scenes for the 1991 extended video version. No out-take footage was used, with the exception of a two-second wide shot of the Beechcraft aircraft, needed to bridge a highly sought-after bit of Buddy Hackett being doused with a bucket of water.

While not officially referring to it as a director's cut, Kramer helped oversee the re-incorporation of this missing footage into a 182-minute "special edition" video version for VHS and Laserdisc. Screenwriter Tania Rose was also contacted by the Special Edition team and after viewing the footage gave her endorsement to the project. Because of the quality of the missing scenes, the lack of a large budget for a film restoration, and a lack of interest at the time by restoration experts, it was decided that a digital tape reconstruction for presentation on Laserdisc would at least be a venue for film fans to finally see the footage. Years later, the improved quality of DVD would make the poor quality of the restored footage more jarring, so the standard edited version is presented instead. The special edition version has aired on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Comparisons between the two show that the extended version is of inferior video quality to that of the DVD, since film transfer techniques and formats have improved.

Currently, the best 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 restoration effort was made by master preservationist Robert A. Harris - who was responsible for the meticulous resotrations of Lawrence of Arabia (1989), Spartacus (1991), My Fair Lady (1994), Vertigo (1996), and Rear Window (1998) - 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.[17] Harris went on to supervise the restorations of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (both 2008), though until October 25, 2013, no word had come up on the revival of the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World restoration.

The current official release from MGM is the 161-minute general release version, taken from its coverted 35 mm elements. Because of this, it is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, as opposed to the full 2.75:1 in anamorphic 70 mm form. Two versions of the film have been released on DVD. The first, from 2001, is a double-sided disc containing an hour of missing scenes on the second side, along with the original documentary Something a Little Less Serious, and trailers. In 2003, the film was released on DVD as a movie-only edition, with disc art on the disc as opposed to being dual-sided. It should be noted that the 2001 release had a blue spine and is now hard to find, while the 2003 release had a yellow spine and is relatively easy to find in stores. Interestingly, the colors in the animated credits sequence are incorrect (too red) in the current DVD version. The older Special Edition Laserdisc version is surprisingly more accurate, with the green background in the opening, and the subtle color changes occurring later on. The Special Edition team (consisting of volunteer Mad World experts from around the country) had MGM/UA pull a 70mm print for the correct colors.

It has been rumored that Kramer's original cut lasted more than five hours. This has been verified by Kramer's widow, Karen Sharpe Kramer, who was involved in locating the original 192-minute premiere version for release on VHS.

The film was broadcast in high definition for the first time on April 1, 2010 on MGM HD. This version contained the full overture and exit music, but no intermission music (it only used the music leading into the intermission). The film was shown on TCM on July 6, 2010 with the full overture, intermission music, and exit music.

On October 25, 2013, it was announced that The Criterion Collection have collaborated with Robert A. Harris, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and United Artists to supervise the reconstruction and restoration of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, that's meant to be closer to the original 197-minute version as envisioned by Stanley Kramer. It'll be released in a 5-disc "Dual Format" Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack on January 21, 2014.[18][19]

Home media[edit]

The film was first released on VHS and LaserDisc by CBS/FOX Video in 1985 at the 154-minute running time, and subsequently on CED disc. In 1990, MGM/UA Home Video released a widescreen restored 174-minute video version of the film on VHS and LaserDisc incorporating 20 minutes of the deleted footage that was available at that time, and including a documentary about the making of the film. The same company again released the movie on VHS five years later in stereo, letterbox, with a running time of 182 minutes (which includes the 20 minutes of extra footage, the opening, intermission and exit music sequences), bonus trailer, but without the documentary. In 2001, MGM Home Entertainment released the film on two-sided DVD with the Something a Little Less Serious documentary, deleted scenes, and trailers included as extras. In 2003, MGM Home Entertainment released another DVD of the film, a one-sided disc containing no extras. On July 5, 2011, a Blu-ray Disc was released as a Walmart exclusive with a feature running time of 159 minutes (and presented the film in its correct aspect ratio of 2.75:1 along with the correct multi-colored title sequence). The special features include the Something a Little Less Serious documentary, extended scenes, theatrical trailer and reissue trailer. Much like the MGM HD broadcast, it features the Overture and Exit Music but no Intermission. The Blu-ray was later available to all retailers on February 7, 2012.

On the Home Theater Forum, it was heavily rumored[20] that The Criterion Collection would be releasing a deluxe Blu-ray and DVD version of Mad World, after one of Criterion's trademark teaser clue images showed a hand drawn image of four globes, each with a "mad" face. Criterion announces new titles once per month, thus the official announcement was rumored to be August 15, 2013. No such announcement came; the September announcement of new titles did not reveal a forthcoming release, either. Eventually, an official announcement was made on October 16, 2013, for a January 2014 release.[21]

This new release will contain two versions of the film digitally remastered—the 159 minute general release version, as well as a restored and reconstructed "Roadshow" version running 197 minutes, shown for the first time in over 50 years.

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. 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 Battle of the Bulge and Khartoum. Super Panavision films released in Cinerama include 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ice Station Zebra.

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.


It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World had its world premiere at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California on November 7, 1963, on the Dome's own opening night. The East Coast premiere was on November 17, 1963, at the Warner Cinerama Theatre in Times Square, New York City.[22] The day before, the film was shown in a special charity preview to benefit the Kennedy Child Study Center and the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Institute.[23] JFK sent his brother Bobby to the East Coast premiere instead of attending with his wife Jacqueline and would be assassinated less than a week later in Dallas.[24]


Distinguished by the largest number of stars to appear in a film comedy, Mad World opened to acclaim from many critics[25] 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[26] and $60,000,000 worldwide,[2] on a budget of $9.4 million.[26] 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) and The Secret of Santa Vittoria (also scored by Gold and also co-written by William Rose).

The movie was re-released in 1970 and earned an additional $2 million in rentals.[27]

The film holds a 79% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[28]

Awards and honors[edit]

The film won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing and received Oscar nominations for its cinematography, film editing, sound recording (Gordon E. Sawyer), music score and title song,[29] and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Picture (Comedy) and for Jonathan Winters' performance as Best Actor.

American Film Institute recognition


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]



  1. ^ a b Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 146
  2. ^ a b Box Office Information for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The Numbers. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  3. ^ Variety film review; November 6, 1963, page 6.
  4. ^ Albert J. Quagliata (2012). "An Ernie Kovacs FAQ (Question #13)". Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  5. ^ Robert Davidson. "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Cast Members". The Three Stooges Online Filmography. Retrieved March 10, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Behind the Mad-ness — It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". Urban Cinephile. July 1, 2004. Retrieved September 2, 2009. 
  7. ^ Stanley Kramer Collection
  8. ^ Jet. Johnson, p. 66. May 18, 1978. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  9. ^ Pacific Coast Air Museum
  10. ^ "City of Carson, Report to Mayor and City Council, Special Orders of the Day". December 6, 2011. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  11. ^ "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Location Hunt". May 12, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  12. ^ Earl Kress. "It's The Big 'W', I Tell Ya!". Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  13. ^[dead link]
  14. ^ "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World production log". December 19, 1962. Retrieved March 9, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Modern photos of locations in 1963 movie 'It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'". Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Something a Little Less Serious: A Tribute to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1991)". Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  17. ^ "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Restoration". Home Theater Forum. June 2, 2002. Retrieved May 19, 2013. 
  18. ^ "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as 197-Min Cut". Movie-Censorship. October 25, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2013. 
  19. ^ "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) - The Criterion Collection". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved October 25, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Criterion to releaseIt's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World". Home Theater Forum. Jun 26, 2013. Retrieved Oct 4, 2013. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "It's A Long Long Long Long List". Retrieved June 28, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Trivia & Fun Facts about It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". Retrieved October 17, 2011. 
  24. ^ "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, MAD World!". Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  25. ^ Don Mersereau (November 11, 1963). "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, United Artists (Review)". Boxoffice Magazine. Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b Box Office Information for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  27. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, January 6, 1971 p 11
  28. ^ Film reviews for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  29. ^ "The 36th Academy Awards (1964) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 23, 2011. 
  30. ^ Michals, Bob (December 29, 1979). "Entertainment Tough To Find In 'Scavenger Hunt' Movie". Palm Beach Post. 
  31. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 12, 1987). "FILM: 'MILLION DOLLARY MYSTERY'". The New York Times. 
  32. ^ Silverman, Stephen (August 27, 2001). "The Joker is Wild: Mad at 'Rat Race'". People. 
  33. ^ George, Vijay (May 13, 2011). "Exploring genres". The Hindu. 

External links[edit]