Sunday, May 19, 2013

TCM Classic Film Festival - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)


Cinerama Dome's Honeycomb Ceiling

On Sunday April 28th, 2013, I attended a special screening of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles. Even though this film is played regularly on TCM and I have had many chances to see it, this was my first time I had watched the movie. It had never really interested me and I have heard many classic film fans say they didn't understand it or enjoy it. I really wanted to go anyways because I wanted to see the Q&A with the actors and watch the film in 70mm at the Cinerama Dome.

I didn't realize beforehand the importance of this event. The Cinerama Dome was built in 1963 for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. It was built in 16 weeks and the cast of the film got to help break the ground for construction. 2013 is the 50th anniversary of both the film and the theatre. It was mentioned that the film premiered the same month JFK was assassinated and screened for 2 years straight at the Cinerama Dome. It was credited for helping heal a hurting nation with the medicine of laughter. It was really special to be at the Cinerama Dome for the film and to see the guests on stage.  I had to leave during the intermission which made me very sad. 

I wanted to stay for the whole thing given the significance of it all and the fact that I hadn't seen the film before and enjoyed what I had seen. 

Before the screening, TCM's Tom Brown introduced the special guests to the stage. They included actor Marvin Kaplan, the director Stanley Kramer's widow Karen Sharpe Kramer, actress Barrie Chase and actor Mickey Rooney. Carl Reiner was scheduled to appear but couldn't make it. Also actor Jonathan Winters was supposed to be there but he passed away shortly before the screening. They left an open chair for him which I thought was nice and showed a tribute on the screen before the film started.


Press Photo
I won't go through the entire interview but I'll share some highlights.

Director/Producer Stanley Kramer had been known for doing dramas so filming a 4 hour comedy was a new venture for him. Karen Sharpe Kramer shared an anecdote about this. A well-known critic who adored Stanley Kramer told him he could never do a comedy. Kramer took that as a challenge and set out to make "the biggest, extravaganza comedy of all time."

Tom Brown pointed out that every top-name comedian at the time was in that movie. Mickey Rooney went on to gush about comedians being wonderful people and had nothing but nice things to say about Stanley Kramer whom he had admired.

After Barrie Chase had seen the first screening of the film, actor Dick Shawn (who plays her boyfriend and Ethel Merman's son in the film) said to Chase that he was knocking himself out in his scene with her but no one will notice him because they'll all be staring at Chase's legs. Barrie Chase still has fantastic gams 50 years later!

Marvin Kaplan shared some anecdotes about the famous gas station scene with Jonathan Winters, Arnold Stang and himself. Kaplan was a replacement for Jackie Mason who was the original choice for the part and Kaplan had been up for the part that was eventually played by Doodles Weaver. Kaplan was sent the script which he said read like a Manhattan phone book. He was worried about being thrown through glass windows and drive heavy machinery. Kaplan was reassured by the fact that Arnold Stang, whom he called one of the biggest cowards in the world, had to do everything he had to do. Both Stang and Kaplan were hoping ex-Marine Jonathan Winters would get hurt so they would have to add stuntmen to protect them all. Winters hurt his back during rehearsal so they had added stuntmen. He notes that finding a stuntman for Arnold Stang was tricky considering he was very scrawny and had no chin . They gave Stang some shoulder padding so he would look a bit bigger.


Marvin Kaplan said that his real job in the movie was not an actor but being a babysitter to Jonathan Winters. They were filming in 107 degree heat and the only place that was cool was an air-conditioned trailer. Kaplan and Winters would play improv games with each other in the trailer to pass the time.

The film was edited down from 5 hours to a little under 4 hours with intermission.

John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy were all supposed to go to the premiere and the grand opening of both the film and the Cinerama Dome but ended up having to go to Dallas. And we all know what happened there. Ted Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy came in their place.

Karen Sharpe Kramer shared her favorite parts of the movie: Ernest Gold's score, the stunts and the illustrated credits by Saul Bass. She says that those credits were copied after the movie. I think she is forgetting a few films from before 1963 that have illustrated credits. The one that comes to mind for me is If a Man Answers (1962).

Stanley Kramer discovered Jonathan Winters when he saw him on the Jack Paar show. Kramer offered Winters a part in the film. Winters had never been in a movie before and told Kramer that he was certifiably insane and had been institutionalized. Kramer replied that every actor he had ever worked with was certifiably insane so Winters would do just fine.

Marvin Kaplan said he worked with two geniuses in his time: Charlie Chaplin and Jonathan Winters.

Tom Brown had a huge crush on Barrie Chase and expressed that fact during the interview. I thought that was very sweet! Chase said the film hadn't done much for her career but people share their love of the film which she appreciates.

The interview ended with Mickey Rooney wanting to say thank you to any soldiers in the audience and a roaring applause from the audience. This was a great experience and I only regret that Jonathan Winters couldn't have been there and that I had left so early. I'm really glad I went and I think everyone else in the audience felt the same way.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks alot for posting it up. Mad Mad Mad Mad world is my favourite movie and bucket list is my seeing at the Cinerama Dome. I did see it at the Castro Theatre in SF a few years back.

    Alas, circumstances didn't allow me to make the trip. I'm pleased someone did and documented it-

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want to see that movie thans for the info nice post, i am yuwie from indonesia, do you have information about good russian movie, please tell me. Thank you lets see my blog curiousyuwie.blogspot.com nice to meet you :)

    ReplyDelete

Leave me a comment! If it is a long one, make sure you save a draft of it elsewhere just in case Google gobbles it up and spits it out.

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook     Google+