Best Casting EVER!

Today I sing the praises of a rarely-honored class of working person: The Casting Director. Matching the right performer to a given part takes luck and insight and, often enough, inspiration. Throughout Show Biz history we have seen marvelous, CLASSIC work by casting directors:

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice

Hattie McDaniel as Mammy in Gone With The Wind

Speaking of GWTW… This is Brilliant Casting

Then there is the unexpected: Taking A Chance On a “Cutsie” Television SitCom Actress…

So many more examples flood into my mind: Robert Preston in The Music Man… Putting Laurel with Hardy… Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday… All prime examples of casting work.

But for me, the winner of the all-time best piece of casting goes to either the unnamed genius of a Casting Director of, or Stanley Kramer, the producer of, 1963’s all-star comedy extravaganza: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Why? No mere photograph will suffice. First a foreshadowing:

OUCH! Not only do my ears ache, but every bone in my body aches just to know the name of the unsung genius who listened to Ethel Merman singing and posed the question, “Can you imagine THAT coming out of… your MOTHER-IN-LAW?”

IMAGINE NO MORE! Here we go!…

In one fell swoop, whomever ’twas who cast Merman in this rôle nailed exactly how billions of married men feel. Listen to that husband! When brutalized by the World’s Worst Backseat Driver, he feebly mutters, “You’re right. You’re right.” Sigh…

Years later La Merman took a crack at killing Disco:

But for me, because of MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, Merman is always and forever the quintessential termagant, shrew, harridan, virago, harpy… unrepentant battle-axe. Filled with certitude concerning the ineptitude of the man her daughter brought home and married.
This is the one performance that made men all over the world heave a sigh of relief and say, about their life, “Things could be worse.”
And once again, cinema communicates around the world…

While original “Road Show” release of this film ran three and a half hours, the film underwent ruthless cutting by theater managers, all to get in more showings. The standard theatrical version ran two hours forty minutes. Home video releases added some footage over the years. Not long ago CRITERION put together the most complete version extant clocking in at three hours and seventeen minutes – including some recreations with location stills accompanied by the original audio.

Is it a wacky comedy? Or is it a scathing look at American capitalism? Who cares! I just love that horrid Mother-In-Law!

If you can’t handle over three hours of visual and verbal abuse at one shot, try one of the trailers:


Some More Inspired Casting!
Know Who They Are and The Rôles?

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