In 1963, Stanley Kramer directed and produced the comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The cast included heavy hitters such as Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, and Mickey Rooney. But there’s more to the film than meets the eye! Read on to find out what went on behind the scenes and where the cast ended up after the film.
You won’t believe which It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World star came this close to killing Mel Brooks!
After Jack Benny Died, He Had a Rose a Day Sent to His Wife
Talk about devotion! Jack Benny, who had an uncredited cameo in the movie, was a multi-talented actor, comedian, radio host, and violinist. After he died in 1974, he sent his wife, Sayde Marks, one red rose each day until she died. It was even written down in his will! Marks lived until 1984, so that’s over 3,000 roses!
While Benny did love his wife, he wasn’t exactly faithful. His famous gesture of one hand on the side of his face was to conceal scratch marks from his wife, according to Marks herself. She gave them to him when she caught him speaking with another woman on the telephone.
Paul Picerni The Detective?
Paul Picerni’s career spanned nearly four decades and he appeared in more than 60 movies and 450 television shows. The New York Times wrote, “His best-known film character was the romantic young man in the 1953 horror movie House of Wax, one of the first 3-D productions by a major studio.”
Picerni was offered the role of one of the detectives at Simler Grogan’s crash site. However, he was wildly unavailable so the series costar Nicholas Georgiade was cast in place of Picerni. What do you think? Would you have wanted to see him in that spot?
The Orginal Doctor
There was a final punchline for the movie that was supposed to come in at the end but was written out. The doctor who was supposed to deliver this punchline was none other than Groucho Marx (now we wonder how the punchline went). Although it was written out, Marx was offered a cameo spot.
In the end, he never showed up in the movie. Later, in a letter to a fan, Marx jokingly said that he was to have played the Ethel Merman role. He must have really wanted to do that doctor bit for him not appear for his cameo.
Cliff Norton And King Donovan Cut?
“Born in Chicago, Mr. Norton began his career on radio in 1937,” wrote the New York Times. “After serving in World War II, he worked steadily in Chicago radio, playing in the soap opera Hilltop House and in action thrillers. Mr. Norton’s film credits include It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Frankie and Johnny and Funny Lady.”
Norton and King Donovan respectively played a detective and an airport official who show up at the Rancho Canejo airport. Neither of their parts made it to the final product but surprisingly Norton’s name remained in the opening credits. Which is probably why the New York Times got it wrong.
It Could Have Been Judy Garland
Melville and Monica Crump were originally written for Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in mind. Garland would have for sure gave the film a certain zest to it.
“However, when production on Garland’s TV variety show ran into trouble, she had to turn down the part,” wrote famousfix. “Rooney was eventually given the supporting the supporting role of Ding “Dingy” Bell. Edie Adams, who was originally cast in the role of Emeline, was given the role of Monica. Ernie Kovacs was then cast as Melville but was tragically killed in a car crash before shooting began and was replaced by Sid Caesar.”
Buster Was to Be Smiler
As we’ve seen so far, there were many actors that were tabbed to be another role but because of conflicting schedules or whatever have you, things didn’t turn out as planned. Here is another person who was originally meant to be someone else but things ended up changing.
“The famously stone-faced Buster Keaton was originally set to play Smiler Grogan,” reported famousfix. “When the part was re-assigned to Jimmy Durante, Keaton was given another role as “Jimmy”, a former smuggler who Captain Culpepper forces to help him in his plan to run away with the money.”
When You’re Snubbed You Heckle
Not many actors may resort to this but if they do then you know they really mean it. Don Rickles is a good entertainer in his own right and he wanted to be in this movie. Things didn’t go as Rickles wanted so he resorted to acting out because he didn’t get to act in the film.
“Don Rickles reportedly wanted to be in the movie but was never asked,” wrote famousfix. “He never let Stanley Kramer live it down, either, even heckling him about it from the stage whenever Kramer came to see Rickles’ show.”
One actor was accidentally left on stage and completely bound in thick tape while the rest of the cast went to lunch!
Winters Gets Bound
You would think cast members would have a better presence of mind over concerns about safety when it comes to others on the cast. There are some things you can’t take back but there are ways to retaliate.
“During the filming of the infamous “gas station’ destruction, Jonathan Winters was accidentally left on stage and completely bound in thick tape,” wrote FamousFix. “Hours later, when the cast returned from lunch, they found that he had not even been able to free his arms from the chair. In retaliation, Winters gave a three-hour lecture to Arnold Stang and Marvin Kaplan on forced potty training.”
This incident was bad, but it was tame compared to what Sid Caesar almost did to Mel Brooks.
Ed Wynn For Fire Chief
So many people either wanted a role or were offered a role in this film. The cast and others must have known how special this film was going to be so they wanted in and to be apart of something different. Ed Wynn was one of these people who was asked to be in the film. He was offered a cameo appearance in which he would have played the fire chief that shows up at the end of the film. That makes sense because Wynn had starred in the Texaco Fire Chief radio program. The part eventually was given to Disney regular Sterling Holloway instead.
The Show Still Went On
Tragedy happens to everyone during their lifetimes. It is one of the occurrences of life that is impossible to avoid. Knowing that to be a truth, the real testament is how a person bounces back after tragedy. Do you roll over and let the tragedy defeat you or do you get up ten toes down and keep trekking? “Edie Adams almost didn’t accept the role of Monica because her husband Ernie Kovacs was killed in an auto accident a few months earlier,” wrote famousfix. Adams decided not to let it get to her and continue to embark forward.
Sid Caesar Was a Pill Addict
Sid Caesar, one of the greatest comedians of all time, was a wild alcoholic and prescription drug addict. He said that he came close to killing Mel Brooks during one of his benders.
Once he described drinking eight pills down with a quart of scotch every day. He was also verbally abusive to his wife, but he claims he never hit her during his drinking years. It wasn’t until long after playing Melville Crump did Caesar get his act together, going sober for the last 37 years of his life. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has more juicy gossip, though…
Too Impressed To Work
The phrase “that’s a tough act to follow” is as true as they come. You never want to perform something after an amazing performance was put on before you. It just isn’t fair to you unless you have something better to showcase. The whole cast felt they had a tough act to follow at one point.
“When the cast first assembled for a meeting with the director, they were shown the stunts and second unit footage that had already been shot,” wrote famousfix. “One of the performers was so impressed they asked “Why do you need us?'”
Dick Shawn Died on Stage
Dick Shawn, who was popular in the 1960s for minor cameo roles in films, including Mad World, died on stage during a stand-up comedy routine at UC San Diego. People thought it was part of the act, and left him lying on stage for five minutes before calling for help.
A stagehand even came on stage and checked his pulse, before the audience knew what had happened. He was 57, and his son Adam was in the audience. He was also famous for playing Hitler in The Producers. Want more juicy gossip? Gamble on the next actor shocking you!
Phil Silvers Was Just Like His Most Famous Character: A Gambling Addict
Phil Silvers played Otto Meyer in Mad World, but he was most famous for playing Sgt. Bilko on television, before Steve Martin played the same character in a 1990s film.
Bilko was a gambler, and it is rumored that so was Silvers! Apparently, Silvers was always in debt but had a wad of cash on hand just in case the gambling itch struck him. Tragedy struck Silvers after he won a Tony for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum when he had a seizure that ended his career. Wait till you read what the next actor enjoyed off screen…
Terry-Thomas Loved “Jolly Eager Girls”
Terry-Thomas played J. Algernon Hawthorne in the film, but in real life, he was quite the philanderer. Famous for popularizing the English-accented “I say” in the film, he was about to marry his girlfriend Lorrae Desmond, whom he was in a relationship with for seven years, before immediately falling in love with Belinda Cunningham, who was 26 years younger than he. Later, Terry-Thomas developed Parkinson’s disease, which ended his career prematurely. He died in 1990 at the age of 78.
While Terry-Thomas got Parkinson’s later in life, our next actor had a serious disease his entire life, which fueled his on-screen roles.
Spencer Tracy Had an Open Marriage
Spencer Tracy was a married man when he played Captain Culpepper in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. His wife, Louise, knew about multiple affairs throughout his career, including Katherine Hepburn, Loretta Young, and Joan Crawford. “Occasionally he’s gone out with some of the girls he’s worked with. I haven’t minded, because he always told me about it,” Louise was quoted as saying.
Tracy’s lovers were often jealous of one another. Hepburn herself was jealous of Ingrid Bergman, who apparently was outside of a hotel with a shotgun where she thought Tracy and Bergman were staying. Though, Tracy may be no match for our next actor…
Milton Berle Was Well-Endowed
Even though Milton Berle died in 2002, the legend of his nether regions lives on. While he was rumored to be with many famous stars during his time, including Marilyn Monroe, it’s the rumors of what was under the belt that continue to get headlines. A speaker at his funeral stated, “On May 1 and May 2, his penis will be buried.”
Berle would have laughed. He was a comedian, after all. Debbie Reynolds said he also threw wild parties with pantless waiters. Try keeping that from Snapchat today! Even with all that gossip, you’ll never believe the next actor’s secrets…
Buddy Hackett Had a “Special” Arrangement with a Casino
Buddy Hackett had a prominent role in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, but did you know that he had a special contract in Las Vegas? It was rumored that he had an “oral clause” in his contract with the Tropicana Casino and Hotel. Before and after the show, he could choose a casino showgirl of his choice to keep him company for “gratification.”
Gross! That’s the same actor who voiced Scuttle in The Little Mermaid. Not very family friendly if you ask us! Don’t worry, there are more behind-the-scenes facts about the cast ahead…
Ethel Merman Knew J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret
Ethel Merman, the famous songstress, had the role of Mrs. Marcus in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. She was famous for marrying actor Ernest Borgnine for less than two months. She was also friends with J. Edgar Hoover, the storied FBI Director, during her career.
But, Hoover had a secret; he was rumored to be gay! Ethel Merman knew him since 1938, and kept what she knew under wraps until 1978, when she said, ” Everybody knew about J. Edgar Hoover, but he was the best chief the FBI ever had.” Want more inside details on the cast? Check out our next actor…
Mickey Rooney Slept with Elizabeth Taylor When She Was 14
Mickey Rooney, who played Ding Bell in the movie, met Elizabeth Taylor when she was 12. He was married with a baby on the way when his then-wife caught Rooney in the act with young Taylor, 14 at the time. His wife filed for divorce.
Mickey wasn’t exactly successful in marriage. He was married eight times during his long life. He certainly got around; he was also linked to actresses Judy Garland and Lana Turner. He died at 93, after starring in hundreds of films and television shows. Think silent film stars are gossipless? No way. Read on to learn more…
Buster Keaton May Have Been Given His Nickname by Houdini
While it remains unconfirmed, Buster Keaton, silent film star and Jimmy the Crook in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, may have been given the name “Buster” by Harry Houdini. Keaton’s early family life includes traveling around with various vaudeville acts, in which Houdini would’ve been one of the big-name acts. One newspaper clipping states that “the name Buster was conferred upon him by the members of the company with which his parents were then touring.
The name has clung to him, and he finds it an admirable one under which to exploit his work in vaudeville.” The Houdini Museum can neither confirm nor deny the story. While most of the actors we’ve listed have been dead for a long time, this next actor is still alive and telling tales!
Carl Reiner Was a Lifelong Family Man
No rumors of infidelity are attached to comedian Carl Reiner’s name. He had a passionate love for his wife, Estelle. They were an item for 65 years until her death in 2008, and Reiner still talks about her. How adorable!
Yes, Carl Reiner, who cameoed as a tower controller in It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, is still alive at 95. He still makes the network night show rounds, recently appeared on Conan, and has written five memoirs. The legendary actor still has a lot to say!
Jonathan Winters Was Severely Bipolar
Jonathan Winters played Lenny Pike in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and was famous for playing eccentric characters. He was crazy off the screen, too, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was so inflicted that he needed hospitalization. He learned to deal with the turmoil his infliction was causing him, saying, “I need that pain — whatever it is — to call upon it from time to time, no matter how bad it [is].”
Keep reading to see how one cast member made history with his hobby off the screen! You won’t believe it until you read it.
Eddie “Rochester” Anderson Owned a Horse in the Kentucky Derby
Being an African-American actor in Hollywood was never easy, but Eddie “Rochester” Anderson made due. He parlayed his success on screen to a lucrative horse-raising hobby, that led one of his horses to run in the Kentucky Derby in 1943. He was the first African-American owner in the derby, though couldn’t watch because of segregation in Kentucky.
After his horse, Burnt Cork, finally won a race, he dressed as a colonel next time he was on the studio lot and wanted to be called “Colonel Rochester.” See the next slide to learn about one star’s long tryst with a Hollywood legend.
Barrie Chase Had a Long Love Affair with Fred Astaire
Old Hollywood certainly loved the young starlets! Fred Astaire, 58, meets Barrie Chase and immediately falls in love with the 21-year-old. It’s only a 37 year age difference!
She goes on to dance with Astaire in Daddy Long Legs and Silk Stockings, where she won over crowds with her abilities. While she dazzles on screen in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, she retired from show business in 1978 to focus on her family and still hides from the spotlight to this day. Who else from the film had a wild side? The next actor might surprise you!
Lovable Don Knotts Was Quite the Ladies Man
Don Knotts, famous for his role on The Andy Griffith Show, made just a cameo in the film. But, off-screen the twice-divorced actor was constantly dating. “He was really quite a ladies’ man, especially between marriages,” his daughter said after his death.
On set, Don Knotts was dating Lynn Paul, the assistant to Griffith’s manager. Rumor has it that his first marriage ended in divorce when he confessed to the affair. That’s quite different than the on-screen lovable father figure we’re used to! Even after his death, this next actor caused quite the family drama…
Peter Falk Had Huge Family Drama with His Daughter
Peter Falk, famous for playing Columbo, left most of his $5 million estate to his last wife Shera. His adopted daughters, Catherine and Jackie, received six-figure payouts, but a clause in Falk’s will said that if Catherine contested any of it, she got nothing.
That’s because she didn’t get along with Shera, and Peter forbid her from his home! She could only see her father once a month at a neutral location, without Shera. Catherine even tried to get conservatorship over her father’s estate! Think that’s crazy? The next actor’s story will surprise you!
Joe E. Brown Was a Gigantic Baseball Fan
Joe E. Brown, who made a small cameo in Mad World, is most famous for his final line in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (“Nobody’s perfect!”). But, off screen, he was a massive baseball fanatic. He owned part of the minor league Kansas City Blues in the 1930s, and owned bats from Babe Ruth’s record-breaking home run season, as well as Lou Gehrig’s last glove.
All of his sports memorabilia, tragically, was destroyed in a fire in 1961 at his home in Hollywood. There’s one last star with off-screen stories to be told. You won’t recognize his face, but you’ll definitely know his voice …
The Voice of Pooh Made a Cameo in the Movie
Sterling Holloway, who played the Santa Rosa Fire Department Captain in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, also voiced Pooh in the classic Disney cartoons. Never married and never having children, Sterling Holloway was always rumored to have been gay.
His career stretched from the silent era through the 1980s, with many voices in Disney cartoons like Alice in Wonderland as the Cheshire Cat, as well as many stints on the stage in New York. He only has one adopted son, Richard. “Sterling just had a unique voice,” said Rick Dempsey, who ran Disney’s voice department for years.
A Frilly Upgrade
Barrie Chase was a professional dancer at the time when she took the role of Slyvester’s deadpan girlfriend. She found out after the fact that it was a bikini role but felt she was too overweight (10 pounds to be exact) to do a bikini scene comfortably. What she did was request a black bikini with frills!
She thought that the black would make her appear slimmer and the shaking frills would distract viewers from her extra weight. Pretty smart and quick thinking for Miss Chase. She found a way to be more comfortable.
It’s A Ford Game
If you paid close attention you would have noticed something about every one of the cast members who had a car. Everybody owned a Ford! This was because Chrysler sponsored the film so that they could show off their 1963 lineup. Pretty much all of the heroes drove Chryslers.
They even went as far as to change a character’s lines because it was originally written with a Cadilac in mind (“We’re the ones in the Imperial and we’re running last?) but had to be switched because of the Chrysler sponsorship. They didn’t want to mess up the sponsorship.
A Different Syndication Version
This might be something that the cast may not have been too fond of but roughly 31 minutes of the footage was squashed from the movie after the premiere showing. It went from three hours and 12 minutes to two hours and 41 minutes. Those minutes that were cut could have been good screen time for some of the actors and actresses.
The majority of the footage was restored for the VHS and DVD release. DVD releases also featured some extra footage from the 3.5-hour original cut. At least the footage was never put to waste.
Kramer And The Cast Shifted Gears
We talked briefly about Stanely Kramer earlier, the director but let’s talk more about this director. Kramer was really known for dramas that addressed social issues like Judgment at Nuremberg, On the Beach and Inherit the Wind. The film was a great slapstick comedy but it also was a very competent social satire to greed!
A few of the actors were also more known for being stand-up comedians or sitcom stars, not so much pratfall comics. It would appear that many changed up their natural ways in order to make this successful and it worked.
Fanning Over Co-Worker
For co-stars, is it okay for one to be a huge fan of the other? Of course, it’s okay, just so long as they aren’t too starstruck to remember their lines or always ask for a picture together or autographs to bring back home to their family. Supposedly, Peter Falk had been overjoyed to be working with Eddie Anderson.
He had been a long time fan and once he found out they were going to be working together he couldn’t wait for it. The only case where this might be a problem is if an actor has a crush on an actress but she doesn’t feel the same and things become awkward.
What Could Have Been?
What you’re about to find out is information that could have shifted things if it came to fruition. In the ’70s, producer and director Stanely Kramer thought about reunited many of the original cast members for a movie titled Sheiks of Araby. A sequel titled It’s a Funny, Funny World was also proposed.
There was a multitude of actors that were considered in the early stages (or filmed scenes that were ultimately cut) that we will discuss coming up. Wouldn’t it have been great if this really came about? Continue going through so that you can see who was all considered for these films. You won’t believe it.
That’s Too Much Money!
Red Skelton was best known for his radio and TV stints between 1937 and 1971. His most famous showing was when he hosted the TV show The Red Skelton Show. Jackie Gleason was an actor, musician and comedian who grew up in Brooklyn. These two were wanted as the main players.
Skelton had to pass it up because of his TV commitments but he eventually said yes to doing a cameo. Stanely Kramer turned him down, however, because he was asking for too much money. Always know your worth but don’t get too greedy!
Benny Or Tracy
“Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air,” said Jack Benny. Benny was a comedian, violinist, radio, television and film actor and a vaudevillian. He was a multi-purpose man with a plan. He was even seen as the lead entertainer of the 20th century. That is a big title to hold and one that should come with a lot of respect.
Benny was first tabbed to do Captain Culpepper but after Spencer Tracy got the part, Benny would wind up having an uncredited cameo. So the question is, who would have been better?
Try To Keep Up With This
Above you see Three Stooges actor, Joe Besser. Arnold Stang had a service station attendant and that role was originally offered to Besser. At the time, Besser was playing the role of Jilson the maintenance man on The Joey Bishop Show so he was forced to turn down the role of the attendant after Danny and Bishop Thomas didn’t let him out of his contract. The role of the attendant was then offered to Jackie Mason and finally to Marvin Kaplan. Did you get all of that? It was a bit confusing but they got it done.
JFK Was In Attendance
Here is a little-known fact about the former president that we’re sure is spike your interest.
“On 17 November 1963, the day before the movie opened for the public in New York, there was a much-publicized gala charity premiere benefit at the Cinerama Theater for the Kennedy Child Study Center in New York and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Institute of Washington,” wrote famousfix. “In addition to the stars in attendance, most of President Kennedy’s family was there, including his mother, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and brothers Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas five days later.”
Jerry Lewis Made a Comedic Holocaust Film
Jerry Lewis also had an uncredited cameo in the movie, but his successful career has spanned decades beyond it. In 1972, Lewis made The Day the Clown Died, which remains unreleased to this day.
Why? It’s a comedic film about a clown in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. It was so poorly received by studio executives that the film was buried in the film vaults. Lewis even tried to destroy every copy of the film in existence. Keep going, there are even more stories to be told about the actors from It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.