Benjy Benjamin: Look! We’ve figured it seventeen different ways, and every time we figured it, it was no good, because no matter how we figured it, somebody don’t like the way we figured it! So now, there’s only one way to figure it. And that is, every man, including the old bag, for himself!
Ding Bell: So good luck, and may the best man win!
Benjy Benjamin: [to Mrs. Marcus] Right! Except you, lady. May you just drop dead!
This film has been a longstanding favourite of mine and even watching it after multiple viewings it is still just as funny! The ever expanding ensemble cast is fantastic, and although sometimes it gets a bit much or it starts to become slightly tiresome, it moves on quickly where it again becomes entertaining!
The story all begins when Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante) ďrives off a highway and, before he dies, tells five motorists who stopped to help that he was on the way to get $350,000 buried ‘under a big W’ in Santa Rosita. The film tells the stories of these people as they race to collect the money. First of all is the dentist Melville Crump (Sid Caesar) and his wife Monica (Edie Adams) who actually reach Santa Rosita first but then have a little trouble in a hardware store…Also racing for the money are two friends Benjy (Buddy Hackett) and Dingy (Mickey Rooney). They run into a bit of trouble but manage to get an airplane, although it is not smooth flying at all…
The ones who perhaps encountered the greatest problems were Russell Finch (Milton Berle), his wife Emmeline (Dorothy Provine) and her mother (Ethel Merman). After an incident with their car, they got a lift from an Englishman called Algernon Hawthorne (Terry Thomas), but after much arguing between them all they separate, and Emmeline’s brother Sylvester (Dick Shawn) gets involved as he lives in Santa Rosita. Finally, there’s the removal man Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters) who always gets the bad luck. He tried to get help from a man called Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers) but he was no help and went chasing after the money himself!
All these people end up at the park at the same time looking for the money, and they are joined by Captain Culpeper (Spencer Tracy) of the Santa Rosita police. The police have been monitoring all the people chasing the money (causing some funny moments) and Captain Culpeper goes to the park alone. The story does not end there though as there’s another mad dash through town and up (and down….) a high building!
This film is chock full of comedy and laughs from start to finish. It could be seen as being a little too much and a bit over the top (especially if comedy isn’t your thing) but I think everyone would find a lot of it enjoyable. Not everything is hilarious and makes you laugh every time, but it is definitely amusing throughout, with some very funny moments and is highly enjoyable! As in most ensemble casts, there are people you would maybe rather not see as much of and people you want to see more of, and this film is no exception. Aside from Mrs Marcus (Emmeline’s mother), the women don’t have a big a part as the men which is quite annoying. They have the potential to be really good characters, but the focus seemed to primarily be on their husbands which was a shame. Some of the characters/scenarios also get a little tiring after a while, but it does depend on personal taste. And saying all that, I have watched this film countless times and still enjoy it, even though I know everything that happens, which shows it is overwhelmingly a good film!
There are some amazing moments in this film which I love. Firstly, when the people gather to try and organise the splitting of the money is my most memorable moment. I remember I was watching the film and my mum and dad were walking behind the sofa and that scene actually made them want to continue watching it, which is why it stays in my mind! Splitting money between 4 cars with 8 people was made to look very hard indeed…I also enjoyed a bit with Russell and Algernon Hawthorne (even though I tired of them a little) when they argued over the pros and cons of America/Britain. You can’t beat a bit of Anglo-American rivalry! When Benjy and Dingy were trying to land the plane was another of my favourite parts of the film, the dialogue and acting from them, and also the people in the tower trying to help them was perfection!
Comedy stars of the 1960s are everywhere in the film, with cameo appearances and smaller parts, special mention to Peter Falk as the cab driver! Most of the cameos I wasn’t aware of until I looked up the film and saw who they were playing, so they really added nothing to the film for me! But it just makes this film even more remarkable as it is basically a who’s who of comedy in that era. Even if you don’t watch the film (which you should do…) look up who’s in it and you will be surprised at all the people credited!
Overall, this is a hugely enjoyable film which, despite it’s flaws, will provide many opportunites for laughter! There is so much going on that the length of the film isn’t ever a problem. Though there are occasional moments when it drags, it soon picks up again and the final chase through town and the final scenes are a satisfying way to end the film. I would recommend this to anyone who likes comedy or just wants a laugh! Also, anyone who’s still not convinced, I guarantee you will enjoy at least a bit of the film so watch it if you can!