|My autographed photo of Jonathan Winters|
As I've written here before, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is one of my favorite movies (seeing it in Cleveland when it first came out in 1963 was a big event for my family) and much of my enjoyment of it comes from the performance of Jonathan Winters.
His character, the peanut-brained furniture mover named Lennie Pike, probably elicits more laughs than any of the other principles in the movie, which is no small achievement since his co-stars included Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Milton Berle and Phil Silvers. Winters' character not only stars in one of the movie's most memorable and hilarious comic sequences (the destruction of the gas station in the desert) but he also discovers the Big W that everyone is looking for.
I still feel really bad for Pike when he tries to flag down the car driven by Terry-Thomas and, at Ethel Merman's urging, they ignore his plea for help and speed right by him, leaving him alone and stranded in the middle of nowhere. The sad look on his face is heart-rending.
Then I felt bad for Pike shortly thereafter, when Phil Silvers also double-crosses Pike and leaves him stranded on the highway again with only a battered little girl's bike for transportation. That's why it's so satisfying seeing him chase Phil Silvers around with a pick later in the movie.
here to hear the theme) and enjoying the cartoon sequence that ran during the credits. It featured a caricature of Winters marching down the street with a bunch of items, such as a clock, that had sprouted legs.
He was also terrific in The Twilight Zone episode ("A Game of Pool") where he played the pool shark who came back from the afterlife to compete against the Jack Klugman character. Winters' character eventually loses, but he has the last laugh.
Anyway, I was disappointed to see little coverage of Winters' death in the paper or on TV. That's what happens to many celebrities when they pass away decades after their heyday.
At least Jonathan Winters will live forever in the hearts and minds of his devoted fans, every time they watch It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
In fact, I think it's about time I watched it again – for probably the 100th time.
****One of Jonathan Winters' fans has kindly assembled a montage of some of his sequences from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Watch and smile.