CC Cinema: The Cars Of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

(first posted 11/2/2012)       Since we’re talking Imperials here today on CC, I’d be remiss in not pointing out one was featured, albeit briefly, in the classic 1963 film It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

This fun, madcap film would be great even without all the Curbside Classics onscreen. But the fanciest and rarest four-wheeled star (only 554 built), was J. Russell Finch’s (Milton Berle) light blue ’62 Crown convertible with pearl white leather interior.

The ’62 was a finless, somewhat toned-down version of the ’61, which topped the 1959 Cadillac for sheer automotive outlandishness. Free-standing headlights? Giant fins in 1961, when cars like the ’61 Continental and Electra 225 were setting the pace for elegance and good taste in this brave new decade? What was Chrysler thinking? Buyers apparently asked that very same question, as only 429 of these drop-top party barges were built. That said, I love ’em.

As befitting an upwardly-mobile edible seaweed executive from Fresno, Finch, his wife Emmeline (Dorothy Provine) and his insufferable mother-in-law (Mrs. Marcus, played by Ethel Merman) traveled in white-leather-upholstered splendor–$5770 worth.

The last time we see the Imperial is when they arrive at the air field. Unfortunately for them, Melville Crump (Sid Caesar) and his wife Monica (Edie Adams) have rented the sole available aircraft–an ancient biplane.

Sadly, we lose the Imperial’s imperial presence early on, due to a mishap at said air field, the first stop the characters make after deciding to go get the “350 Gs” put under the “big W” by Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante). You’ll see shortly. But first, let’s look at some of the other cars of this classic film.

It all starts with Grogan driving like a madman in his ’57 Fairlane [ED: Thanks to jpcavanaugh for reminding me!] and crashing. But Fords, although seen in the movie, are not nearly as well represented as Chrysler Corporation products.

Mopar fans will love the variety of ’62 models, such as Mrs. Marcus’s son’s Dart 440 convertible…

Culpepper’s plain-wrapper Dart sedan…

And Melville Crump, DDS’s Belvedere wagon. Here we can also see the VW cabriolet driven by Dingy Bell (Mickey Rooney) and Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett).

As you might have guessed, the Imperial is my favorite, but my second pick would be the Belvedere wagon. I always thought the ’62 Plymouths looked so much nicer than the ’62 Dodges.

Here’s Pike’s (Jonathan Winters) moving van. These were still probably pretty common in ’63, but I’ve never seen one in the metal. And I go to a lot of car shows!

Later on, Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers) joins the fray, though his ’46-’48 Ford Super Deluxe doesn’t last too long either.

After losing his V8 Ford, he tries to flag down a ride. The driver of the Rampside doesn’t stop. Lucky him, given what a shyster Meyer is…

Fortunately for Meyer, he finds a sympathetic driver in Don Knotts, in a short but memorable cameo.

In short order, he tricks Knotts into making a phone call and promptly steals his ’56 Sunliner. Looks rather nice in robin’s egg blue, doesn’t it?

And for you 4×4 fanciers, later on Finch is picked up by Lt. Col. Algernon Hawthorne (Terry-Thomas), driving a green Jeep Station Wagon. Sadly, it crashes some time later, tipping on its side. I bet if they’d tipped back on its wheels, it would have started right up, though!

I’m sure jpcavanaugh remembers the cab chase towards the end of the film. Boy, these were everywhere in Santa Rosita!

As much of the time is spent on the road, there is ample time for car spotting, such as this 1960 Buick ambulance. But what about the Imperial?

Well, it got hit by Pike and his plus-sized F-600. Pretty seriously, too! Yes, the poor Imperial got really crunched. Too bad, as these were considerably rare cars, even when new. At least it is immortalized for all time in this classic film! For lots more info on the movie, and speculation on what happened to this particular Crown, check out the MMMMW page here at the Online Imperial Club.

And for you CCers who have never watched this zany, amusing film, I highly recommend it!

[ED: All screenshots are courtesy of It’s a great place to spend a couple of hours. You can even search by a particular car’s make, model and year! To view the whole list of cars in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, click here. Movie Trailer courtesy Youtube.]