1. Original “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” Concept Art Discovered!

    WELL, here’s something that’s sure to be of interest to you, because why else are you reading this?

    Everyone’s favorite 161, 210, 192, 154, and/or 182 minute comedy from 1963, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was originally called something else entirely! And also had different movie poster art! Or concept art or something. Sure, why not?

    And, of course, we’re all familiar with Jack Davis’ iconic movie poster art from the film. Can we get a shot of that, please? The poster from the film…? Hello…! The poster from the film, please…?

    Okay, obviously I’m going to have to go and snag it off someone else’s website. Excuse me a moment.

    …And I’m back. Here we go:

    There it is; we all remember that, right? Ol’ Jack managed to cram everyone from the film – well, save for Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Abbott and Costello and the Ritz Brothers – into that mob shot there. Unfortunately, because of this oversight – not his fault, either – apparently when he got the assignment, the fax cut off on the third page of the list of the cast, so he didn’t even know they were supposed to be included – because of this mishap, let’s call it, it changed the film entirely.

    At the time, movie poster paper was more expensive than film stock (remember, this was 1963!) and it was deemed too costly to redraw the poster with the missing cast (Adobe Photoshop still three years away!), so it was decided to simply cut Lucy, Jackie, Bud, Lou, and whatever the first names of the Ritz Brothers are – I’m not bothering with Wikipedia, it’s quarter to two in the morning – it was decided to cut their scenes from the film. And burn the negatives, so no record of them ever having been in the film exists. Also, swear the rest of the cast to secrecy under penalty of being forced to play a telephone repairman in an increasingly lousy 1970s sitcom starring a woman about whom my grandmother used to complain “Who the hell told Linda Lavin she could sing?”

    But someone talked, thank you, Marvin, and I have it under good authority that their scenes comprised the funniest additional two hours, fifty-six minutes in the entire film that you’ll never have to sit through at some artsy movie theater in Santa Monica with an audience comprised of a bunch of people on the very fringes of the entertainment industry who all seem to know each other. …Wait, wait…where the hell was I going with this?

    Oh, yeah, the original concept art.  Or movie poster or something. Anyway, so recently, I was going through the personal papers Frank Capra left to the Los Angeles Valley College’s film archives (essentially one slightly crushed banker’s box) for some vague project I told them I’m working on, and managed to sneak out a bunch of stuff to list on eBay (Shhh! But be sure to bid!).

    Anyway, this was stuck to the back of a beefcake shot of Frank “Dr. Research” Baxter from the Bell Laboratory Science Series film “Our Mr. Sun.” I’m guessing it was misfiled, since it was Stanley Kramer who directed “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” though Capra also has that funny “K” sound at the beginning of his last name so that’s probably how it happened.

    Okay, okay, I’m getting to the artwork! Keep your shirt on! Jesus!

    Here it is:

    As you can see, originally, the film was originally going to be titled the decidedly more sedate “It’s a Strange World” and feature a much smaller – if not disparate – cast, if you don’t count the elephant. Wait, wait, can a “cast,” singular, be “disparate”? Okay, let’s say a disparate cast of characters. Does that work?

    Regardless, judging by the artwork (Not Jack Davis, surprisingly; eagle-eyed MAD fans will recognize it as Don Martin’s work), it would have been quite a different film indeed. The Chinaman on stilts, though…? That’s something I think we can all agree that the final version would have benefited from.

    Questions for Discussion:

    1) How many people have I pissed off with this one?

    2) Who might have been a better obscure comedy team to have included rather than the Ritz Brothers?

    3) Oh, now who have I offended by implying the Ritz Brothers are “obscure”? Okay, yeah, I remember you from that screening in Santa Monica. You made sure everyone around you heard you say each line before the characters on screen did.  Lovely.

    4) Can you find at least two people in the concept art/recently discovered movie poster who also appeared as extras on “Jonny Quest”? (No fair checking IMDb!)

    5) Yes, I’m aware that Lou Costello was dead for four years by 1963. Get off my ass. Would it have been any funnier had I written “Bud Abbott & Stan Irwin”? Oh my God, you get that, don’t you?

    Posted by on June 14, 2011, 9:00 AM.

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