Friday, April 27, 2012

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" with Everyone (1963)

This is one of those movies from when I was 8 years old that has lingered on the edge of my consciousness for years. It was written by William and Tania Rose, and directed by Stanley Kramer. The movie is a bit longer than I’d remembered, and of course it’s dated. There are a couple of scenes where I was expecting someone to pull out a cell phone, but then I regained my senses.

Briefly, the plot of the movie is simple. Several cars, traveling a winding road along the coast in Southern California, witness a car speeding. The car, driven by Jimmy Durante, goes over the cliff, ejecting Mr. Durante as it does. The drivers of the other cars,  played by the likes of Mickey Rooney, Ethel Merman, Sid Caesar, and Carl Reiner scramble down the cliff to render whatever assistance they can to the mortally injured Durante.
Just as he is drawing his last breath he relates the existence of $350,000 dollars (actually he says “G’s”) which are buried under the big “W” just South of San Diego in Mexico. After he dies two men arrive on the scene to investigate the accident. The inference is that they are the police. The two men seem overly concerned about what information the dying man passed on to the witnesses. For reasons of their own, the witnesses all deny knowing anything. They then seem anxious to resume their individual journeys, each going their own way.
But, before too long, it becomes apparent that they are all on a separate quest to recover the 350,000 “G’s” buried under the “big W”. Alliances form, and are broken, as each vie to be the first to win the race which they believe will make them rich.
Surprises abound in this comedy classic, which features almost everyone in Hollywood.  Spencer Tracy, Ethel Merman, Phil Silvers, the Three Stooges, Jack Benny, Don Knotts, Edward Everett Horton, William Demarest, Andy Devine, and even Eddie “Rochester” Andersen all make appearances in this wild tribute to the mad cap comedies of the 1930’s. If you have never seen this film, it is worth the time simply to see all of these legends on the screen together. Even Jerry Lewis makes an uncredited appearance as a cab driver in this delightful farce.  

The drumming for all of the music in this film is by Earl Palmer, the steady beat behind; and sometimes around; almost everything you have ever listened to. Mr. Palmer was a studio drummer for the likes of everyone you can imagine, such as  The Monkees, Fats Domino, Neil Young,  Frank Sinatra, and too many others to mention here. His career as a professional drummer lasted over 6 decades.  This review is for him, and by the way, Eddie Ray says "hello." I'll be reading up about, and have more to write about  this incredibly talented musician in the weeks to come.

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