The 'Mad, Mad World' Cast: 1963's All-Star Game Of Comedy

By Karen Harris
Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney panic at the controls of an aircraft in a still from director Stanley Kramer's film 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World'. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In the history of comedy films, few have boasted as much star power as It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World's cast. Spencer Tracy, though not himself known for comedy, leads a who's-who of comic talent that includes Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers Terry-Thomas and Jonathan Winters. And that's just the headliners! The supporting actors included Jim Backus, Jimmy Durante, and Peter Falk. These are all stars of a certain age, who rose to fame in the '50s or earlier -- for some of them, being in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World's cast was a last hurrah. (Falk and Backus were exceptions; they would play their most memorable characters after 1963, on Columbo and Gilligan's Island.)

The set up to the story, directed by Stanley Kramer, was rather simple…a reckless driver, played by Jimmy Durante, causes a car accident and traffic jam on a busy freeway. As an odd assemblage of drivers approach Durante’s character, who lies dying in the street, he utters his final words. He mysteriously states that there is a fortune buried in Santa Rosita Park under the Big W. This touches off a mad, frenzied, greed-driven race to find the treasure. The plot is built to accommodate a plethora of stars and supporting actors, as well as plenty of cameos by the likes of Jack Benny, Stan Freberg and Buster Keaton -- as well as Norman Fell and Don Knotts (yes, Mr. Roper and Mr. Furley in the same film!). 

The zany style of comedy seen in the movie might seem dated, but as a snapshot of a generation of Hollywood's best, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a must-watch for viewers of any age. Here's a look at these legends of the golden age.