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


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

Critics Consensus

It's long, frantic, and stuffed to the gills with comic actors and set pieces -- and that's exactly its charm.



Total Count: 35


Audience Score

User Ratings: 22,291
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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Photos

Movie Info

With this all-star Cinerama epic, producer/director Stanley Kramer vowed to make "the comedy that would end all comedies." The story begins during a massive traffic jam, caused by reckless driver Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante), who, before (literally) kicking the bucket, cryptically tells the assembled drivers that he's buried a fortune in stolen loot, "under the Big W." The various motorists setting out on a mad scramble include a dentist (Sid Caesar) and his wife (Edie Adams); a henpecked husband (Milton Berle) accompanied by his mother-in-law (Ethel Merman) and his beatnik brother-in-law (Dick Shawn); a pair of comedy writers (Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney); and a variety of assorted nuts including a slow-wit (Jonathan Winters), a wheeler-dealer (Phil Silvers), and a pair of covetous cabdrivers (Peter Falk and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson). Monitoring every move that the fortune hunters make is a scrupulously honest police detective (Spencer Tracy). Virtually every lead, supporting, and bit part in the picture is filled by a well-known comic actor: the laughspinning lineup also includes Carl Reiner, Terry-Thomas, Arnold Stang, Buster Keaton, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, and The Three Stooges, who get one of the picture's biggest laughs by standing stock still and uttering not a word. Two prominent comedians are conspicuous by their absence: Groucho Marx refused to appear when Kramer couldn't meet his price, while Stan Laurel declined because he felt he was too old-looking to be funny. Available for years in its 154-minute general release version, the film was restored to its roadshow length of 175 minutes on home video; the search goes on for a missing Buster Keaton routine, reportedly excised on the eve of the picture's premiere. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Spencer Tracy
as Capt. C.G. Culpepper
Milton Berle
as J. Russell Finch
Sid Caesar
as Melville Crump
Buddy Hackett
as Benjy Benjamin
Ethel Merman
as Mrs. Marcus
Mickey Rooney
as Ding Bell
Dick Shawn
as Sylvester Marcus
Phil Silvers
as Otto Meyer
as J. Algernon Hawthorne
Jonathan Winters
as Lennie Pike
Edie Adams
as Monica Crump
Dorothy Provine
as Emmeline Finch
Jim Backus
as Tyler Fitzgerald
Ben Blue
as Airplane Pilot
Alan Carney
as Police Sergeant
Barrie Chase
as Mrs. Haliburton
William Demarest
as Chief of Police
Paul Ford
as Col. Wilberforce
Peter Falk
as Cab Driver
Buster Keaton
as Jimmy the Crook
Leo Gorcey
as Cab Driver
Don Knotts
as Nervous Man
Carl Reiner
as Tower Control
Joe E. Brown
as Union Official
Andy Devine
as Sheriff Mason
Charles Lane
as Airport Manager
Howard Da Silva
as Airport Officer
Charles McGraw
as Lieutenant
Zasu Pitts
as Switchboard Operator
Madlyn Rhue
as Police Secretary
Jesse White
as Radio Tower Operator
Stan Freberg
as Deputy Sheriff
Ben Lessy
as George the Steward
Bobo Lewis
as Pilot's Wife
Nick Stuart
as Truck Driver
Sammee Tong
as Laundryman
Jimmy Durante
as Smiler Grogan
Selma Diamond
as Culpeper's Wife
Allen Jenkins
as Police Officer
Louise Glenn
as Billie Sue
Harry Lauter
as Radio Operator
Tom Kennedy
as Traffic Cop
Eddie Ryder
as Tower Radioman
Don C. Harvey
as Helicopter Observer
Jack Benny
as Man on Road
Jerry Lewis
as Mad Driver
Norman Fell
as Detective
Chick Chandler
as Detective Outside Laundromat
Paul Birch
as Patrolman
Cliff Norton
as Reporter
Roy Roberts
as Policeman Outside Garage
Larry Fine
as Fireman
Moe Howard
as Fireman
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Critic Reviews for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (10)

Audience Reviews for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

  • May 20, 2013
    The movie version of one of those little clown cars that a hundred clowns get in and out of, it descends into pure over-the-top silliness with so many talents vying for the glory-hogging center stage, but nonetheless a landmark simply for the presence of so many talents. What's the best part of gumbo? Of beef stew? Its the combo that makes for sensation.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 05, 2012
    The best American comedy ever made. A true epic of humor, with full of great comedians and unforgettable scenes.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 08, 2012
    Every time I think of this film, I keep thinking of that song "Mad World"; not the slow, depressing Michael Andrews and Gary Jules version that they did for "Donnie Darko" and everything else, the better, original, 1981 version by Tears for Fears that's well-played, yet still tonally uneven, because the lyrics were still mediocrely uneven and sad, if you could hear them over the aforementioned overly lively instrumental. I think that version fits this film a little bit better, even though this film is, as put best by its better original title, "Something a Little Less Serious", because it is still also rather noisy and messy. Man, this really is a mad, mad, mad, mad film; it's all over the place. Hey, I suppose that's what happens when you're nuts enough to do an epic comedy, as we eventually saw with "10,000 BC", the only epic comedy that's funnier than this film, partially because I find it hilarious that it's too short to be that much of an epic, though not short enough. Speaking of laughable anachronisms, does anyone else like how I keep referencing stuff that came out years after this film, even though I should be looking at it from its level, like a more credible critic? Hey, I think I am reading it on its level by being anachronistic, because humor like that is just crazy enough for this film, and, well, as put best by the consensus, that's exactly its charm. Still, make no mistake, the fact of the matter is that this messy production truly is a mad, mad, mad, mad film. Amidst an era of slow comedies, even a film this frenetic and lengthy can't escape the occasional slow spot that especially leaves its length to glare, yet more often than not, it's the aforecited freneticism you have to worry about when it comes to comfortable story flow. Now, maybe I was going a little overboard earlier, when I said that this film is all over the place, because this film isn't a terribly explosive mess, yet make no bones about it, this film remains messy, bloating with excess material and repetition as it sloppily unravels, spilling out joke after joke, not all of which hit. At 160 minutes, or in the case of the original cut, wherever it went, three-and-a-half hours of unrelenting comedy, there are bound to be more than one sinkers, and while few, if any really crash and burn, there are still quite a few jokes that fall glaringly flat, whether it be because they're delivered obnoxiously (Eh, may she rest in peace and all, but shut up, Ethel Merman), or go on for too long, or go staged weakly, or simply just don't hit, and the moments in which that happen really do knock you out of the film for a second. Still, at the end of the day, the central problem with the film is that it's simply just so blasted long, and gratuitously so. Not that this is down to the level of Steven Spielberg's mediocre "1941", yet this is an earlier example of a film along those lines, in that it is also a bloated epic comedy that's simply not quite sweeping enough to consistently engage the audience or deliver as many good jokes as it wants to. Still, if any film is going to be an example of a bloated epic comedy that's done relatively well, I suppose this is the closest thing to the end-all-be-all. This film is still in no way a genuinely fine piece of cinema, yet for what it is, this film can bloat all it wants, because it's hard to be repelled once you fall in, partially because there are some aspects in which the film's broadness works to an actually engaging effect. As sprawling as the film is, and often messily so, on the good couple of occasions in which it does settle down, or at least grow more comfortable in its broadness, the product becomes rewarding. Director Stanley Kramer may not be entirely consistent in his storytelling comfort, yet he really gives the film a sense of scope and adventure to soften the blow of the repetition and augment the entertainment value, and does so with the help of Ernest Laszlo's, at time, sweeping cinematography and Ernest Gold's lively score. Wow, Kramer must have really liked the first name Ernest, which is understandable, because earnest is a good way to describe this film, as there is much charm within its ambitions, which may not go delivered upon thoroughly enough for the film to really stand firm, yet remain respectable, partially because its ambitions of amusement go delivered fairly thoroughly upon, more often than not. Much of the humor isn't actually all that terribly original, yet it's still so very well-structured, with extreme Mel Brooks-like absurdity, married with a kind of down-to-earth tone that's surprisingly quite comfortably even and effective, resulting in many back-to-back chuckles, broken up by some hearty laughs, and that streak is much more consistent than the number of fall-flats. For this, credit not only goes out to Will and Tania Rose, but to the slew of classic comic talents that, as put best by the consensus, fill this film to the gills, and understandably so, because when you've a cast like this, you're gonna want to use it. From Milton Berle, Terry-Thomas, Dick Shawn and Buddy Hackett to the sea of worthwhile cameos, this film is packed with comedy classics who really show how they got be such legends, as each and every member of the colorful and mammoth cast is distinctive, memorable and bubbling with sparkling charisma that's all so very charming without the typically sharp comedic material, which makes that charm all the sharper. Again, there's too much bloating to the film for it to surface all that high, yet when it does lock you in, which is quite often, it's hard to shake loose, as if you would want to, because, at the end of the way, with all of its flaws and hold-backs, this is a good old fashion, entertaining piece of "something a little less serious", hence the name they probably should have stuck with. At the end of the mad, mad, mad, mad day, outside of the occasional slow spot, the film lives up to the freneticism in its title, boasting quite a few overbearing moments, made worse by a few fall-flat jokes and the general gratuitous enlongation that leaves the film to sloppy to really hit home, yet more often than not, the film satisfied, manipulating its scope for a genuine sense of adventure to liven up the mostly razor-sharp script, though not as thoroughly as the memorable, colorful and sprawling cast of classic blazing charismas, with the comic presence and thorough charm needed to help in making "Something a Little Less Serio-I mean "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (Should have stuck with the original title) a thoroughly entertaining comedy sweeper that's ultimately worth the long sit. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    Don't hesitate to see this movie just because it's extremely long, it's worth it. This movie is really hilarious, and it's got a great story. It has action and excitement, and an intermission! This movie is enjoyable, I really liked it, and I highly recommend it.
    Aj V Super Reviewer

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