A Mad, Mad Press Junket

Fifty years ago, producer-director Stanley Kramer released what he called a "comedy catharsis" in the movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). A group of people stop to help an accident victim on the side of a California highway. The dying man is a fugitive from the law who tells them where his stolen money is hidden. Should they tell the police or grab the loot for themselves?

What follows is a laugh out loud comedy with many of your favorite entertainers of the 20th century, including Spencer Tracy, Ethel Merman, Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Terry-Thomas and Milton Berle.

Ms. Merman, Winters, Berle and Terry-Thomas gathered with their director to promote the film in many different cities.

At one press junket, Berle was rubbing his head and complaining about a bump that he received while shooting a scene with Ms. Merman wherein the actress hits him with her purse. What did she have in that bag?
"Miss Merman confessed that, unbeknownst to her, the wardrobe mistress had stuffed an extra set of costume jewelry into the hand-bag that day. 'Costume jewelry,' Mr. Berle pouted, 'real jewelry I wouldn't have minded so much.'"
Ethel Merman and the infamous purse
Terry-Thomas is asked the difference between English and American humor. It's an annoying question which he explains, politely, is a non-issue.
"...you people insist [the English are] usually associated with this kind of a joke: One fellow says to another, 'I hear you buried your wife,' and the second chap says, 'Yes, we had to. She died, you know.' Well, it seems to me that would be just as funny anywhere."
Terry-Thomas' face of greed

There are more sober moments such as Winters' gratitude to Kramer for giving him his first role in a movie- a life-long dream of the comedian. Or the moment when the director is asked about a completely other film which did not do well at the box office.
"...I never blame the public if they don't come. I blame myself....[T]he public didn't fail me, I failed the public somewhere, somehow."

This is how you make a better picture the next time. If it's always the other person's fault, you're less likely to improve where you can. Great advice from a  great director.

Read the rest of the press junket here: A Mad, Mad Interview, November 1963.



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