Here are the top 5 reasons to watch (in descending order, beginning with #5):
Thus begins another “Reasons to Watch” series. I am encouraging everyone to watch It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, which is a movie containing almost every comedian who ever existed and was still alive at the time of filming. It’s a chaotic, funny movie.
And I begin this time with Dick Shawn. I love this guy, and always have. Here you have, as is often the case in Hollywood, a 40 year old man acting like a teenager, though I’m sure he is intended to be in his 20’s. He’s 40 though. I know that sounds like a negative, but who better to parody the young than somebody who isn’t??
Shawn was a stand-up comic who started performing in the late 50’s. Sadly I never saw his act, but it had to have been good, given what he was able to do with other people’s words, and the fact that he did it for 30 years.
The first time I saw Dick Shawn was in this movie, but I was like 8 and I didn’t know who he was. The second time I saw him was in the original “The Producers” with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder (love love love that movie) in which he portrays the hippie who plays Hitler in their “Springtime for Hitler” musical. Absolutely hilarious. This time 44 playing 20 something. Again, being old enough to parody the young. So great.
In the 1980’s he was on the series “St. Elsewhere” and he played a psychiatrist who was trying to quit smoking. That wasn’t a plot line, it was a character attribute. He was moody and always held a pencil in his hand like a cigarette.
In 1987 during a stand up routine about a nuclear holocaust Shawn had a massive heart attack and died on stage. He just collapsed. And people thought it was part of the show. Then stagehands rushed out and asked the audience to leave and they just sat there because they still thought it was part of the show. What a strange experience that must have been.
Reason #4 is Mickey Rooney. Did I ever tell you the story about the time Mickey Rooney went to my church? One day I went to church and Mickey Rooney was there. The end. Gripping, I know.
In It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Mickey plays a younger guy named Dingy Bell who is traveling with a friend to Las Vegas and happens upon an older gentleman who’s just wrecked his car. This is, in fact, what starts the events that comprise the plot of the film (that sounded lofty). But I won’t tell you more than that.
Rooney was 42 during the making of this film, and had been in movies all but 6 of those years; he is still turning them out at the age of 92. There’s nobody else alive who started out in silents and is still working today. I think “boundless energy” is a good phrase to describe him. Also “short”, but that’s neither here nor there.
I really am in awe of this man and I watch his movies whenever I get the chance. The first Mickey Rooney movie I ever saw was “Pete’s Dragon”. I sure did love that movie when I was 9. Then I watched it again when I grew up and, though the individual performances were pretty good, the movie wasn’t. But I still have visions of Rooney running around the tavern singing about seeing a dragon. The Andy Hardy series is lots of fun, as are most of his other movies, and I loved him in Night at the Museum.
Reason #3 is Jonathan Winters because he’s just a brilliant comedian. He is most famous for his adlibbing and improvisation and was a major influence on Robin Williams. He plays a tow-truck driver and makes a lot of funny reactionary faces.
When I was 5 I thought he was a fictional character on Scooby Doo. This is because I knew cartoons weren’t real and both Jonathan Winters and Phyllis Diller (who is conspicuously absent from this film) were on an episode of Scooby Doo, so clearly they weren’t real people. I found out the truth a year or two later, so it’s okay now.
I’m afraid there’s not a lot I can say about him to convince you of his worthiness as Reason #3, so you’re just going to have to trust me that his performance will enhance your life. I mean I could write out his biography (started doing comedy because he needed a watch and the prize was a watch and he won and then he was a dj and then he moved into television and was a part of the first ever color television broadcast- which nobody saw in color because nobody had color tv’s- and then he started doing movies and he was on Johnny Carson a lot and most recently did the voice for Papa Smurf in the Smurfs movie), but that may not mean that he would be good in this particular film, but he is.
Reason #2 is Norman Fell, Peter Falk, Joe E. Brown, Jim Backus, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Edie Adams, Buddy Hackett, Edward Everett Horton, Don Knotts, Ethel Merman, William Demarest, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Sterling Holloway, Phil Silvers, Carl Reiner, Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Durante, Leo Gorcey, Andy Devine, Zasu Pitts, Doodles Weaver, and the Three Stooges.
As I have said the cast is incredible and the way they relate to each other onscreen is amazing. Many of the people listed only appear onscreen for a minute or two, but they certainly shine.
Reason #- 1I left two people out my post so far to build suspense. I know the suspense was so thick you could cut it with a knife and I could feel the anxiousness of all of my millions of followers as I played with their emotions like a little kitten with a ball of yarn. I’m not sorry.The two people that were left out above were Spencer Tracy (!) and Buster Keaton. I very much enjoyed Tracy’s performance in this. It was fun to watch his bemused expressions as he witnessed the craziness before him throughout the picture. But you know I love Buster, so the #1 reason is:
Buster is in this film for maybe 30 seconds. It’s the best 30 seconds of the film. Maybe you wouldn’t agree, maybe you don’t love Buster as much as I do, and that’s okay. All I can say is, “More for me.”
The thing that kills me about Buster’s performance in this is that, even though he’s 67 years old, he still has all the same movements while he’s running that he did when he was 25. If you watch any of his silents, he will be running at some point and you can see what I’m talking about. He’s wonderful.
So, watch It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World for Buster Keaton. And if Spencer Tracy, Dick Shawn, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, Norman Fell, Peter Falk, Joe E. Brown, Jim Backus, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Edie Adams, Buddy Hackett, Edward Everett Horton, Don Knotts, Ethel Merman, William Demarest, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Sterling Holloway, Phil Silvers, Carl Reiner, Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Durante, Leo Gorcey, Andy Devine, Zasu Pitts, Doodles Weaver, and the Three Stooges and Buster Keaton aren’t good enough reasons, you may need to check if you have a soul.