'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' spins again
Posted July 10, 2012
For one night, it was a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World again.
A half-century after the original release of the madcap comedy, members of the cast came together for a reunion Monday night at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, emceed by Billy Crystal.
On the stage were Carl Reiner, 90, Mickey Rooney, 91, and Jonathan Winters, 86 — all part of the academy's The Last 70 MM Film Festival.
The Stanley Kramer-directed comedy featured some of the greatest names in comedy, including Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, Spencer Tracy, Ethel Merman, and cameos from Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, Buster Keaton and many others.
"This truly was a comedy all-star team," Crystal said backstage at the event. "All of my favorites were in this one movie. That's why it's one of my all-time favorites. These guys were giants to me."
Crystal talked about the film's original release in 1963, when he was a 15-year-old high school student in Long Island. His father, record executive Jack Crystal, had died in October, and Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was released the following month.
"It came at a tough time for me," Crystal said. "My dad was a comedy maven who made me and my brothers funny people. This was the first movie I saw after my father died that broke the sadness."
At the time, Crystal and best friend Joel Robins (now a retired wine industry executive) even organized a trip with his high school to see the movie.
"It was a big deal. We got a free day off of school. We organized it all," Crystal said. "So I called my friend Joel, who just happened to be in California. And I said, '50 years later, we're going to watch the movie again.' "
The film centers on a group of strangers who turn cutthroat in pursuit of $350,000 buried in a secret location.
The super-wide 70mm format was the film trend at the time. Academy program director Randy Haberkamp said the height of the film's projected image had to be cut so it would fit on the academy screen "just as audiences saw it in 1963 at its premiere engagement."
Though the film format is rarely used now, the story's theme remains even more relevant.
"It's all about greed," cast member Marvin Kaplan said. "And now greed is a national pastime."
But at the academy event, it was all about camaraderie and goodwill. "This movie never stops bringing out the biggest names," Rooney said after embracing his co-stars backstage. "It's well worth bringing back. What a wonderful night."
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