Saturday, October 18, 2008

Edie Adams

Edie Adams died this week, as you may have heard. As a lovely young comic actress she was part of the ensemble in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” a movie that I loved as a kid and watched many, many times. With her death, only a couple of cast members are still living.

“Mad, Mad World,” from 1963, was supposed to be the comedy to crown all comedies, bringing together legendary greats like Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Terry-Thomas, Dick Shawn and Jonathan Winters, with small roles for Jack Benny, Don Knotts, Jerry Lewis, Jim Backus, The Three Stooges and Jimmy Durante. Spencer Tracy led the cast, which included a fabulously blustery Ethel Merman. Edie Adams and Dorothy Provine were the only other significant female participants. (It could have been called “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World,” except that the female characters were the only ones who displayed any common sense. It was very “Flintstones” in that way.)

The funny thing about this movie, though, is that it isn’t all that funny. By today’s comic standards it’s actually a little bit tedious. Maybe our comic styles have changed, or maybe the movie just needed a better editor. When I rented it a couple of years ago, it seemed really LONG. But it has some legendary moments -- I still quote some of the lines -- and it's unrivaled for its cast of classic comedians.

So I was sorry to hear about Edie. That leaves us with only Mickey Rooney (who’s still working!), Sid Caesar, Jerry Lewis and Dorothy Provine. And one somewhat overlong movie that everybody should see.

(Photo: Chelsea, Oct. 2008)


  1. I never saw this mad world movie, but then there are so many movies I have never seen. I'll have to check this one out. My taste is often way behind the times, so perhaps I will get this dated humor.

    I'm sending warm greetings with someone you're meeting up with this week.

  2. Wow. I forgot all about Edie Adams. May she rest in peace!

    1963 was a great year for films if you're interested in women's studies. That was just historical seconds before the explosion of the women's movement ("women's lib"). The "gals" are all still strapped into those pointy bras and medieval girdles, smoking cigarettes and drinking martinis like there's no tomorrow.

    At that point, there was no tomorrow. America was the great gas guzzlin' hero of the world, still. Trouble was right around the corner, though.

    Steve if you smoked a pack of cigarettes and drank 5 martinis, I bet you'd think the film was funny, or if you were 8 years old.

  3. I think Mickey Rooney technically died about 8 years ago . . . what you see now is an animated figure. ;-)

  4. As a postscript to this post, I was reading The New Yorker this morning and came across this line: "Pratfalls are best performed by an ugly man or a beautiful woman." That sums up this movie to a tee.

  5. I liked the movie a lot. I was a kid when it came out.

    I mostly remember Eddy as the Muriel Cigar lady and as the spouse of Ernie Kovaks.

  6. Now Kovacs, there IS a comic genius. The Nairobi Trio video is on YouTube. For women in movies old school style, see also Veronica Geng's hysterical essay (with visuals) Ten Movies that Take Women Seriously.

  7. Edie was a greatly under-rated actress and singer. And being married to Ernie Kovacs added to her legend.

  8. I love Mad......World, and find allusions to it, even by people who don't know about it. An example of this is the "W" of palm trees outside of every In 'n Out burger stand.

    I think another of this genre was "A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum". This used to play almost every weekend as the Saturday Afternoon Movie of the Week in my childhood and was one of the plays that my High School put together.

  9. She was also in Li'l Abner, I believe!

    Lovely photo; I love the dry pavement and the still-wet leaves with their individual haloes.

  10. Hmmmm...a movie I haven't seen! Though I am a bit particular about my comedy.

    Steve- send me an email at, so we can see if we can grab a drink this week while I'm in NY! :)

  11. i remember it! at least i think i do - something about treasure buried under palm trees shaped like a W?

    i'd not have remembered/known it was spencer tracey though... or, in fact, so full of stars.

    i love this photo too

  12. Yes, Lettuce, it was all about a race to retrieve treasure under "The Big W," and at the end of the movie we realize what the big W is.

    Kellyann, I had no idea that In n' Out Burgers had reproduced "The Big W"!