Just returned from a screening by Fathom Events of Mel Brooks’ classic comedy The Producers. The Producers was a film I had never seen before despite the fact that I love Gene Wilder, one of the stars of the film.
Of course, The Producers had become a huge hit on Broadway a few years ago with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane assuming the roles made famous by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.
Zero Mostel played theatrical producer Max Bialystock who was struggling to find the success that he once had. He had succumb to romancing older women in hopes of finding “financing” for his plays. When Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) came to look at his books, an inadvertent comment from the accountant gave Max an idea. Find the worst play ever, find huge backing from his cadre of older women, have the play fail and close on opening night and collect the remainder of the money for himself. After some doing, Max convinced Leo to join him in his fraudulent activity.
And they found the perfect play, something no one could possible enjoy… “Springtime for Hitler” written by a former Nazi soldier (Kenneth Mars) as a love letter to Hitler. There was no way their plot could fail.
But strange things happen on Broadway.
The film is hilarious. Everything in the play within a play of Springtime for Hitler is laugh out loud funny. I loved the song “Springtime for Hitler” which I had known as a child from hearing it on the EYG Hall of Famer Dr. Demento show. The tune can’t help but get into your head and the lyrics are downright funny.
The first film directed by Mel Brooks, The Producers led the way to a series of remarkably funny satires and parodies from Brooks.
I could also see how controversial this could have been when released in 1968. Stories go that it took an intervention from Peter Sellers to get the studio to agree to release the film. It is also said that Brooks received many letters from Rabbis complaining about the use of the Nazi symbolism in The Producers. Brooks said that he responded to each letter he received.
The film does get a little too frantic at times, but the satire shone through everything else. Gene Wilder received an Oscar nomination for his role, though he did not win. The film did receive an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
The Producers is a lot of fun and extremely witty and funny. Filled with biting satire, Mel Brooks was able to go after Hitler with humor and got people laughing at him.