Fifty years ago, the world was introduced to two icons, both of which would quickly become household names: the film, “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World” and the Cinerama Dome. The first film ever shown in the Dome as well as the first premiere, “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World” features the top comedians of the time including Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Dick Shawn, Jonathan Winters, Peter Falk, Terry Thomas, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers and Jim Backus to name just a few. They all came together in one film to make an unforgettable experience that is still regarded as one of the funniest movies ever made even now 50 years after its initial release.
Not actually shot in Cinerama (a three film strip wide process shot with three 35mm cameras and shown on a huge curved screen with three projectors) but rather shot in Ultra Panavision 70mm and rectified to be projected in Cinerama, the film was an instant hit, becoming the third highest grossing film of 1963 and running for an incredible 66 weeks at the Dome. Now with the 50th anniversary of both the film and the theater, it stands to reason that a joint celebration would be planned.
Last weekend, the Dome celebrated the dual anniversaries with a special screening of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” in the theater with special dignitaries and guests. These included original cast members Mickey Rooney, who played Ding Bell, Marvin Kaplan who played gas station attendant Irwin who was attacked by Jonathan Winters in the famous gas station destruction scene, and Barrie Chase, who played Sylvester’s (Dick Shawn) stone faced dancer girlfriend. Comedian and Mad World fan Jeff Garlin moderated a question and answer session before the film when guests heard some of the best behind-the-scenes stories and jokes from the set.
Director Stanley Kramer’s wife, Karen Sharpe-Kramer, was in attendance with some props from the film including the dummies that are thrown from the ladder in the penultimate scene in the film and the hubcap from Jimmy Durante’s car that “just went sailing out there” and crashed in a ditch, starting the action of the film. Proclamations were handed down from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office marking Oct. 27, 2013 as “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World Day” in Los Angeles, and a new permanent exhibit was installed in the foyer of the Dome commemorating the original premiere of the film in 1963.
The day was full of fun and information for anyone interested in the film itself, and to see it on the big screen (in fact, a much bigger screen than can be found in most movie theaters at 86 feet wide) was really a treat. Seeing a film in the manner it was originally intended always makes it better.