The Producers (1967) | Old Classics… Newly Reviewed

Tackling what Turner Classic Movies says is a classic comedy with 1967’s The Producers.

The Producers has been remade as a hugely successful Broadway hit, and then done as a new movie, starring the Broadway cast. But is the original still worthy?
Well, do you like laughing?

Producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) romances old ladies in order to fund his rarely-performing-well productions. Into his offices comes meek and timid accountant, Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), who announces that a flop could actually make Bialystock more money than a hit. And a wild scheme is born, with Bialystock dragging Bloom along.

In order for the plan to succeed, they have to find the worst script, the worst director, and the worst star. Which they do. The script is “Springtime for Hitler” written by Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars) who’s clearly a former/current Nazi and crazy to boot, the director is cross-dressing Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewett) who usually directs amazing flops, and the star is Lorenzo St. DuBois, aka L.S.D. (Dick Shawn). And the decision is made to make the play as a musical. It can’t miss!

Crazy scriptwriter, awful director, and truly stoned and beyond bad lead actor all lined up, it’s time to get the money. Bialystock and Bloom get all the funding they need and more besides – using Bialystock’s well-hones and successful technique of romancing every old lady in all of New York City – because it only matters that they’ve oversold ownership of the production if it succeeds, which they’re sure it won’t.

Of course, the best laid plans and all of that ensue, as does hilarity all the way through. Mostel is perfect as the smary, desperate, but ultimately rather decent Bialystock, and Wilder is a revelation in what was only his second movie (though he’d done a lot of theater prior) and his first with Mel Brooks. That Wilder and Brooks went on to work together many times seems like a no-brainer after watching this movie.

Unlike The Goodbye Girl which also uses gay stereotypes for part of its humor, The Producers manages to still give the characters three full dimensions, and everyone’s made fun of equally. Its humor is far less offensive (unless you’re a Nazi and then you’re probably not going to laugh) and the sum of its parts add up to an enjoyable movie watching experience. And, as is common for a Mel Brooks production, the songs are both hilarious and infinitely hummable.

Brooks is an interesting writer/director in many ways, not the least of which being the way his comedies age. Many times they seem to be coming out too late (Spaceballs) or watching them about a decade after release is painful (Silent Movie), but go a little longer and they’re back to comedic genius. Whether that means he predicts trends or trends just come around again I don’t know, but his movies remain almost all worth re-watching, some, like this one, many times.
Invest in The Producers – you’ll get repaid in laughs.

5 stars out of 5

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