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.
Studio: United Artists
Screenplay: William Rose, Tania Rose