It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a comedy movie that followed the Hollywood trend in the 1960s of producing "gigantic" and "epic" films as a way to woo audiences into movie theaters. Television had sapped the regular moviegoing audience and box office revenues were dropping, and the major studios experimented with a number of "gimmicks" to attract audiences, including widescreen films. It premiered on November 7, 1963.
Written by Tania and William Rose, not only was It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World filmed in Cinerama (the biggest of the widescreen cinema technologies), it also had an all-star cast, with literally dozens of major comedy stars from all eras of cinema making appearances in the film.
Stars of this film included (alphabetical):
There were also cameo appearances by:
Judy Garland, Groucho Marx, George Burns, and Red Skelton were among the many other celebrities considered for roles, but turned down the offers.
The plot of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World follows the occupants of four vehicles who stop to help a man who has just careened off the highway. With his dying breaths, the man tells the bystanders about $350,000 that he hid in the town of Santa Rosita, less than a day's drive away, under “the big W”. A wild race across the desert follows, as each carload of people tries to be first to find the money and claim it for themselves.
Stanley Kramer claimed he wanted to make the ultimate comedy film. At more than two and a half hours (originally including an intermission) it is certainly one of the longest. Most of the humor is not especially sophisticated, consisting mainly of very noisy slapstick gags. Terry-Thomas's character's rant against the American obsession with bosoms still strikes a chord with non-American audiences. The movie is a showcase for these fabulous comedians because each plays his role in his own comedic style. For example, preserved for all time is classic Phil Silvers, classic Milton Berle, even classic Buster Keaton.
The title was taken from Thomas Middleton's 1605 comedy A Mad World, My Masters . Kramer claimed to have considered adding a fifth "mad" to the title before deciding that it would be redundant.
The film had a wonderful title theme song with music by Ernest Gold and lyrics by Mack David. They also wrote for the film "You satisfy my soul" and "Thirty-one flavors."
The New Avengers episode "The Tale of the Big Why" seems to have borrowed part of its storyline from IAMMMMW - at the end of the episode the characters realise they are looking not for a metaphysical "big why" but a physical "big Y".
In an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, the characters, following a treasure map , find that they have not been looking for an X marked in the sand, but the location where the shadows of two crossed palm trees falls. Of course, this would change throughout the day, but that does not matter in the greater scheme of the plot (see suspension of disbelief).
A 1994 episode of The Simpsons, "Homer the Vigilante," features money supposedly hidden beneath a "big T," along with other elements borrowed from the movie.
Rat Race, a film made in 2001, has a similar basic premise.
"It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" Internet Movie database