The letter was just one of many to come to Stanley Kramer's desk that morning. In ten closely typed pages a screenwriter named William Rose had noodled an idea for a comedy and, as though to accent the humour involved, had sent it to the least likely of all producers, the man whose distinguished forte in motion picture making had always been serious films with something important to say.
The idea concerned a chase and it seemed to Kramer that there might be a basis for something he had long secretly envisioned -- a movie "comedy to end all comedies," a pursuit fashioned of such monumental proportions that speed, excitement, suspense and laughter would be its hallmarks from start to finish. It would embrace a galexy of comedic luminaries whose antics would storm up a veritable hurricane of unbridled fun and epic entertainment.....
Rose, a transplanted native of Missouri who lived in Brighton, England, and who had written Genevieve and a number of other amusing British screen revels, was invited to a meeting with Kramer in Hollywood for a discussion of the letter. For a scant ten minutes the two batted around ideas for the development of the story, then the producer rose from his desk, extended his hand and said:
"You've got a deal."
"Now what do I do?" Rose asked the agent who accompanied him.
"You shake the man's hand," said the agent.
Rose went back to Brighton and that summer met with Kramer in the South of France to complete work on his outline. Another year passed before the writer returned to Hollywood with a 375-page first-draft script on which his wife, Tania, had collaborated. It had the title Something a Little Less Serious, a title not in keeping with the dramatic calibre of films with which Stanley had become synonymous. But this title soon gave way to One Damn Thing After Another and then the writer had another idea. He came up with It's a Mad World. Stanley Kramer then wanted two mads, Rose doubled it and the story got its final title, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World. At one point somebody suggested adding a fifth mad but this idea was voted down.
Meanwhile as Rose polished the final version of his script and chopped it down to 340 pages, Kramer set his staff to work on pre-production planning. The story covered a lot of real estate. Kicking off from an easternmost point of the Colorado Desert in Southern California it crossed 200 miles of the burning ground, jumped the San Bernardino mountain range, and travelled the long coastal plain from Ventura to San Diego.
Veteran production manager Clem Beauchamp sent location manager William Mull to scour the Southland for proper shooting sites; art director Rudolph Sternad began to prepare 1,700 drawings, blueprints and models of the exterior and interior settings required; special effects expert Danny Lee started sorting out machinery and devices for his arcane activities; ace stuntman Carey Loftin began enrollment of a team of 33 film daredevils who would risk their necks for no reward but money; first assistant director Ivan Volkman began preparing the schedules that would detail when and where every foot of film would be shot; commitments were made with construction, transportation, electrical, make-up, wardrobe, property, grip and painting crews and a mobile commissary; and Ernest Laszlo, one of the great camera artists of the industry, was engaged as cinematographer. Helicopters and a variety of planes, to photograph and be photographed, were acquired. This monster project of a movie was now starting to spin!!
Sid Caeasr and Dick Shawn with some of the crew