With this all-star Cinerama epic, producer/director Stanley Kramer vowed to make "the comedy that would end all comedies." The story begins during a massive traffic jam, caused by reckless driver Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante),… More With this all-star Cinerama epic, producer/director Stanley Kramer vowed to make "the comedy that would end all comedies." The story begins during a massive traffic jam, caused by reckless driver Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante), who, before (literally) kicking the bucket, cryptically tells the assembled drivers that he's buried a fortune in stolen loot, "under the Big W." The various motorists setting out on a mad scramble include a dentist (Sid Caesar) and his wife (Edie Adams); a henpecked husband (Milton Berle) accompanied by his mother-in-law (Ethel Merman) and his beatnik brother-in-law (Dick Shawn); a pair of comedy writers (Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney); and a variety of assorted nuts including a slow-wit (Jonathan Winters), a wheeler-dealer (Phil Silvers), and a pair of covetous cabdrivers (Peter Falk and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson). Monitoring every move that the fortune hunters make is a scrupulously honest police detective (Spencer Tracy). Virtually every lead, supporting, and bit part in the picture is filled by a well-known comic actor: the laughspinning lineup also includes Carl Reiner, Terry-Thomas, Arnold Stang, Buster Keaton, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, and The Three Stooges, who get one of the picture's biggest laughs by standing stock still and uttering not a word. Two prominent comedians are conspicuous by their absence: Groucho Marx refused to appear when Kramer couldn't meet his price, while Stan Laurel declined because he felt he was too old-looking to be funny. Available for years in its 154-minute general release version, the film was restored to its roadshow length of 175 minutes on home video; the search goes on for a missing Buster Keaton routine, reportedly excised on the eve of the picture's premiere. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Consensus: It's long, frantic, and stuffed to the gills with comic actors and set pieces -- and that's exactly its charm.