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the producers

THE PRODUCERS (1968)

The original Mel Brooks cinematic production—before the Broadway hit and the future cinematic release (2005) "The Producers" features the unforgettable duo of bogus theatrical producer Max Biyalistok and his whiny accountant partner, Leo Bloom.  When Max comes up with an ingenious plan to produce the worst play ever: raise more money than needed to put on the WORST Broadway show ever written, he employs Leo Bloom's help with the paperwork to cover the whole thing up.  As the two set about executing their plan, in walks the unforgettable Swedish beauty, Ula, and of course, the most ridiculous musical screenplay every written: "Springtime for Hitler."  With a title like that, no one could possibly approve of such a ludicrous vision…or could they?

The cast includes: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Dick Shawn, Lee Meredith, Christopher Hewett, Andreas Voustinas, Estelle Winwood, Renee Taylor, and Bill Hickey.

Director Mel Brooks' "The Producers" is a wild, unconventional, and hilarious comedy.

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The basic story involves a struggling, has-been Broadway producer, Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel), who gets an idea from an honest accountant with a blanket compulsion, Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), on how to make a fortune on a flop Broadway show, when Bloom comes to check Max's books, and finds some evidence of fraud. Max and Bloom are soon on the road to laughs, riches, and serious prison time.

Max takes Leo Bloom's theory that one could make more money from a flop than from a hit, and runs with it, convincing Bloom to be his partner in dishonesty. Max sells 25,000 percent of a play, "Springtime For Hitler," a play Max thinks would make the perfect Broadway flop, being totally politically incorrect and socially offensive. If a play closes on the first night, no one will notice that they oversold shares to the profits. However, "the best laid plans of mice and men, often go stray." The combination of the bad script, the wild interpretation of the script by the director and main actors chosen turns a stinker of a script into a huge hit.

The vastly talented, zany Mel Brooks wrote and directed this classic comedy, that won the Oscar for Best Screenplay. This "ingenious spoof of Broadway Theater" looks at the process of putting a play together, as experienced by a fraudulent, con-artist producer, and his gullible partner, and contains many of Brooks' trademarks, including many Jewish references and jokes, many instances of making fund of the Nazis, musical numbers, and great facial reactions, with witty dialogue.

The late Zero Mostel is great as Max Bialystock. Plump, with sparse hair combed oddly around his head, Mostel is a hoot as he plays romantic games with old women, such as "Hold me, Touch me" old lady (Estelle Woodward - 85 yrs. at the time), to get them to invest in his play.

Gene Wilder, slender and meek, is the perfect comic foil for Mostel. He makes a delightful transition from frightened, honest guy to inspired, law breaking accountant, under Mostel's outlandish mentorship.

My favorite scene with Mostel and Wilder has to be the sequence of scenes at the beginning when Wilder is at Mostel's office for the first time to look at Max's books. Wilder becomes slowly unglued, winding up in a hysterical state, in reaction to Mostel's hostility. These classic comedic moments between these two actors fully exposes their combined comedic talent, and a great example of Brook's genius in writing comedic material.

Kenneth Mars is humorously at his best as the deranged German author, Franz Liebkind, who wrote the love letter to Hitler, in the form of a screenplay called "Springtime For Hitler."

The late Christopher Hewett as the gay, creative musical director, Roger De Bris, showcases his comedic talent in one of his few film roles. Hewett was a very successful stage actor in both the UK and New York. He also had a successful gig on TV, "Mr. Belvedere."

Dick Shawn, as (Lorenzo Saint DuBois "L.S.D."), did a great job as the hip Hitler, playing it perfectly, that really shows his comedic talent, as he and the cast of the play make this supposedly Broadway flop into a hilarious success, due to the comedic portrayal of Hitler and his buddies as hippy buffoons, which deeply offends Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars), resulting in more unplanned hilarity. How they kept a straight face through it all, testifies to their self-control as actors.

Really funny scenes take place during the performance of the play, "Springtime for Hitler." While obviously not as shocking as it was nearly 30 years ago, an opening dance number totally shocks the audience in the theater, where dancers, when viewed from above, form a swastika, are still wild and funny today. Mel Brooks himself has a brief line, and is one of the dancing Hitlers.

Other Favorite scenes include: Max's fund raising efforts with little old ladies, the meeting with the German author, Frans, meeting with the eccentric director, Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewitt) and the audition scenes.

If you enjoyed THE PRODUCERS you may like WHAT'S UP DOC?, BOWFINGER, BLAZING SADDLES, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, WAKING NED DEVINE, and/or YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.