Passengers from four vehicles rush to the scene of an accident after a fast-moving car sails off the edge of a mountain road and tumbles down a steep embankment. They include J. Russell Finch (Milton Berle), president of the Pacific Edible Seaweed Company, who is traveling with his wife, Emmeline (Dorothy Provine), and his shrewish mother-in-law, Mrs. Marcus (Ethel Merman); dentist Melville Crump (Sid Caesar) and his wife, Monica (Edie Adams); gag-writers Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett) and Ding Bell (Mickey Rooney); and furniture mover Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters). The victim, Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante), reveals with his dying breath that he has buried $350,000 in stolen money under the "Big W" at Santa Rosita Beach State Park. Unable to determine the identity of the "Big W" or even to decide on a way to divide the cash, the greedy witnesses disperse and head for the park.

Along the way, the Finch party takes on Englishman J. Algernon Hawthorne (Terry-Thomas) and Mrs. Marcus' beatnik son, Sylvester (Dick Shawn), and is forced to tell them of the money. The Crumps charter a dilapidated plane to give themselves a time advantage but are later delayed when they are accidentally locked in a department store basement and forced to set off an explosion to free themselves. Benjy and Ding ask drunken millionaire Tyler Fitzgerald (Jim Backus) to fly them to the site in his private plane, but he accidentally knocks himself unconscious in the cabin, and the two writers are forced to crash-land in an airport restaurant. Lennie, who has demolished a service station in his zeal to reach the park, is forced to take traveling salesman Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers) into his confidence and later swears revenge when Meyer leaves him stranded on the road. Meanwhile, state police captain C. G. Culpeper (Spencer Tracy), who has pursued Grogan for years, is having everyone carefully watched, patiently waiting for them to lead him to the hiding place; the captain, plagued by an unhappy family life and an inadequate pension plan, has decided to steal the money himself.

The group, since joined by two taxi drivers, eventually discover four palm trees growing in the shape of a "W," and they uncover the money. Culpeper moves in to arrest the group and then tries to escape with the suitcase full of money. The men in the group pursue him in the two taxis and end up on the top of a fire escape of a condemned building where, in the confusion, the suitcase opens and scatters money to the crowd of spectators below. The fire escape comes unhinged and the fire department tries to rescue the men with a ladder truck, but the ladder topples when everyone climbs on simultaneously. The men are thrown to the ground, and all end up in the hospital--badly injured and under custody, with bankruptcy and prison sentences awaiting them. Culpeper is wondering if he will ever be able to laugh again when the despised Mrs. Marcus enters the corridor and slips on a banana peel. The downtrodden men burst into uncontrollable laughter.

Oscar
6 Nominations
1 Award
Best Sound Effects

Golden Globes
2 Nomination
0 Awards
William Rose originally conceived this “epic” film, directed by the brilliant Stanley Kramer, about a comedic chase through Scotland. He sent the outline to Kramer who agreed to produce and direct, but shifted the location from Scotland to America. “It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” is simply one of the funniest films ever. Made in 1963, it showcases one of the best casts ever assembled for a movie, and uses all of them incredibly well. The one-liners and sight gags never quit, like when Jimmy Durante literally ‘kicks the bucket’.

Spencer Tracy heads the all star cast as the cop on the trail of these greedy money-mongers and just about every comedian or comic actor alive in 1963 appears in this film, either in a starring role or cameo. And Tracy was no stranger to Stanley Kramer, having been in “Judgment at Nuremberg” and “Inherit the Wind” prior to ‘Mad World’ and even his final film role in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”

The cast is virtually a who’s who of talent: Milton Berle, Sid Caeser, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Ethel Merman, Terry-Thomas, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Buster Keaton, Dorothy Provine, The Three Stooges, Don Knotts, Dick Shawn, Edie Adams, Peter Falk, Carl Reiner, Jerry Lewis ( who reportedly called Kramer and asked why he hadn’t been invited to do the picture)… and the list goes on and on.

Some interesting trivia on “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”: Spencer Tracy didn’t like to rehearse and would read through a scene only once, 5 days before shooting. He told Kramer he never liked to do a scene more than once and consequently never did.

Film and television comedian Ernie Kovacs was originally scheduled to play the character Melville Crump before his untimely death in an automobile accident on January 13, 1962. Kramer subsequently filled the role with comedian Sid Caesar. Kovacs' wife, Edie Adams, remained on board as Caesar's screen wife, in part due to the enormous tax obligations that Ernie left behind.

Judy Garland, Groucho Marx, Stan Laurel, George Burns, Bob Hope, Jackie Mason, Don Rickles, Judy Holliday, and Red Skelton were among the many celebrities offered or considered for roles in the film. Judy Holliday turned down the role due to poor health and died shortly after of breast cancer. Ethel Merman's role was originally written for Groucho Marx (as Finch's father-in-law), who reportedly demanded too much money; so the part was rewritten for her as the mother-in-law. Stan Laurel did not want to be seen in his old age and especially without Oliver Hardy.

Unless you are familiar with the talented cast, one might look at this movie as boring and outrageous. The jokes are definitely time sensitive for the ‘60’s and trademarks of each specific comedian. But do yourself a favor and watch this family friendly film. They don't make movies like this anymore… good clean humor, without sex, swearing, murder or violence.
There have been a few movies made with a similar plot: “Scavenger Hunt” in 1979, “Million Dollar Mystery” in 1987 and more recently “Rat Race” in 2001. The later is the best of the three and the closest to the original plot of ‘Mad World’.

“Rat Race” is directed by Jerry Zucker, and stars many comedians including: Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jon Lovitz, Lanei Chapman, Seth Green, Kathy Najimy, Dave Thomas, Vince Vieluf, John Cleese, Breckin Meyer, Kathy Bates, Wayne Knight, Dean Cain and Amy Smart. The story is about six teams of people given a task of racing 563 miles from a Las Vegas casino to a train station in Silver City, New Mexico, where a storage locker contains two million dollars. The first team to reach the locker wins and gets to keep the money. The film, similar to ‘Mad World’, has many sight gags and one-liners also, but the best character has got to go to Vince Vieluf for his brilliant performance as Blain Cody, the stoner who just pierced his tongue and can hardly be understood throughout the entire film. Priceless. If you want a great, mind-numbing laugh... this is a must see!