It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) - Rotten Tomatoes

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World1963

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)



Critic Consensus: It's long, frantic, and stuffed to the gills with comic actors and set pieces -- and that's exactly its charm.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Photos

Movie Info

With this all-star Cinerama epic, producer/director Stanley Kramer vowed to make "the comedy that would end all comedies." The story begins during a massive traffic jam, caused by reckless driver Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante), who, before (literally) kicking the bucket, cryptically tells the assembled drivers that he's buried a fortune in stolen loot, "under the Big W." The various motorists setting out on a mad scramble include a dentist (Sid Caesar) and his wife (Edie Adams); a henpecked husband (Milton Berle) accompanied by his mother-in-law (Ethel Merman) and his beatnik brother-in-law (Dick Shawn); a pair of comedy writers (Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney); and a variety of assorted nuts including a slow-wit (Jonathan Winters), a wheeler-dealer (Phil Silvers), and a pair of covetous cabdrivers (Peter Falk and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson). Monitoring every move that the fortune hunters make is a scrupulously honest police detective (Spencer Tracy). Virtually every lead, supporting, and bit part in the picture is filled by a well-known comic actor: the laughspinning lineup also includes Carl Reiner, Terry-Thomas, Arnold Stang, Buster Keaton, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, and The Three Stooges, who get one of the picture's biggest laughs by standing stock still and uttering not a word. Two prominent comedians are conspicuous by their absence: Groucho Marx refused to appear when Kramer couldn't meet his price, while Stan Laurel declined because he felt he was too old-looking to be funny. Available for years in its 154-minute general release version, the film was restored to its roadshow length of 175 minutes on home video; the search goes on for a missing Buster Keaton routine, reportedly excised on the eve of the picture's premiere. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Spencer Tracy
as Capt. C.G. Culpepper
Milton Berle
as J. Russell Finch
Sid Caesar
as Melville Crump
Buddy Hackett
as Benjy Benjamin
Ethel Merman
as Mrs. Marcus
Mickey Rooney
as Ding Bell
Dick Shawn
as Sylvester Marcus
Phil Silvers
as Otto Meyer
as J. Algernon Hawthorne
Jonathan Winters
as Lennie Pike
Edie Adams
as Monica Crump
Dorothy Provine
as Emmeline Finch
Jim Backus
as Tyler Fitzgerald
Ben Blue
as Airplane Pilot
Alan Carney
as Police Sergeant
Barrie Chase
as Mrs. Haliburton
William Demarest
as Chief of Police
Paul Ford
as Col. Wilberforce
Peter Falk
as Cab Driver
Buster Keaton
as Jimmy the Crook
Leo Gorcey
as Cab Driver
Don Knotts
as Nervous Man
Carl Reiner
as Tower Control
Joe E. Brown
as Union Official
Andy Devine
as Sheriff Mason
Charles Lane
as Airport Manager
Howard Da Silva
as Airport Officer
Charles McGraw
as Lieutenant
Zasu Pitts
as Switchboard Operator
Madlyn Rhue
as Police Secretary
Jesse White
as Radio Tower Operator
Stan Freberg
as Deputy Sheriff
Ben Lessy
as George the Steward
Bobo Lewis
as Pilot's Wife
Nick Stuart
as Truck Driver
Sammee Tong
as Laundryman
Selma Diamond
as Culpeper's Wife
Jimmy Durante
as Smiler Grogan
Allen Jenkins
as Police Officer
Harry Lauter
as Radio Operator
Louise Glenn
as Billie Sue
Tom Kennedy
as Traffic Cop
Eddie Ryder
as Tower Radioman
Don C. Harvey
as Helicopter Observer
Jack Benny
as Man on Road
Norman Fell
as Detective
Jerry Lewis
as Mad Driver
Chick Chandler
as Detective Outside Laundromat
Paul Birch
as Patrolman
Cliff Norton
as Reporter
Roy Roberts
as Policeman Outside Garage
Larry Fine
as Fireman
Moe Howard
as Fireman
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Critic Reviews for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (5)

Stanley Kramer strikes out again with this elephantine 1963 attempt at uproarious comedy.

November 7, 2007 | Full Review…

The comic competition is so keen that it is impossible to single out any one participant as outstanding.

November 7, 2007 | Full Review…

Kramer's 'comedy to end all comedy' stretches its material to snapping point but offers happy hours of star-spotting.

February 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

So many excellent actors and stunt men do so much in this film that it is beyond my space allowance to begin to credit them.

May 9, 2005 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

Despite the spectacular nature of the stunts in the first half, by the time the intermission and entr'acte come around, the visuals get even more complexly outrageous.

August 24, 2020 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…

Three-and-a-half hours of tiresome proof that Stanley Kramer should stick to dramas and leave comedies to his competitors.

October 14, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

The movie version of one of those little clown cars that a hundred clowns get in and out of, it descends into pure over-the-top silliness with so many talents vying for the glory-hogging center stage, but nonetheless a landmark simply for the presence of so many talents. What's the best part of gumbo? Of beef stew? Its the combo that makes for sensation.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


The best American comedy ever made. A true epic of humor, with full of great comedians and unforgettable scenes.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer


This is the perfect example of an epic comedy, one that spans time, venues, and types of comedy. Other films of this genre include The Blues Brothers and Blazing Saddles, though unlike those this is far more tame. This was in the days of family humor, and epics were per usual with movie going crowds. Still, the characters are larger than life, using a lot of physical comedy, and the exclusively sixties plot device of misunderstandings. The best aspect of having watched so many films is the fact that so many big names came together to do this film, and naming them off as you see them is extremely entertaining. The entire film concerns a milieu of improbable characters who find a dying crook who tells them where he has buried hidden money stolen and untraceable. The band of misfits at first all decide to distribute the wealth accordingly, but after a series of fights they all strike out on their own, some chartering planes, others hitchhiking, all to the amusement of the watching police department in Santa Rosita. This surveillance team is headed by recently retiring and angst ridden Chief Culpepper, played by Spencer Tracy. The two larger than life characters are played by Ethel Merman, a busybody mother-in-law with the loudest yell I've ever heard, and Jonathan Winters, who single handedly destroys an entire gas station through sheer force. Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett are the comic foils, oftentimes saying boneheaded phrases, and crashing into things. There's even a very brief yet memorable cameo by Don Knotts, who interacts with Phil Silvers, famous for portraying Sgt. Bilko. There are some great effects, and though it's long for a comedy the full fledged character development and longwinded comedy work with this vehicle. It's zany fun, it's certainly a mad world.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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