The Funniest Movies of 1960-1970:
IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963) Stanley Kramer’s over-the-top chase movie, with top bananas of comedy, including Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Jimmy Durante, and Jonathan Winters, all outpaced by Mr. Cool himself, Spencer Tracy.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963) Jerry Lewis usually went overboard when he directed Jerry Lewis, but here he uses a laid-back approach to tell the story of a simpleton who becomes a sophisticate when he partakes of a magic potion. In a dual role, Jerry is laughable and/or loveable, without employing his customary frantic appeal to the audience. Stella Stevens is diverting; Kathleen Freeman is droll.
TOM JONES (1963) Henry Fielding’s great novel of 18th-century England brought to rumbustious life by director Tony Richardson and a stellar cast, headed by Albert Finney as a young man with his eye on the Main Chance. Susannah York supplies the beauty, Edith Evans and Hugh Griffith the sly sense of period and place.
DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) Working with Terry Southern’s mordant script, director Stanley Kubrick met the nuclear jitters with madcap laughter, subtitling his black comedy How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Archetypal casting includes the astonishing Peter Sellers in a triple role (the American President, a British major, and a mad scientist) and Sterling Hayden as the maniacal Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper. George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn and Slim Pickens furnish admirable, if outlandish, support.
A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964) The second of Blake Edwards’s “Pink Panther” films, with Peter Sellers as the hapless Inspector Clouseau trying to unframe an innocent blonde (Elke Sommer). With Herbert Lom as Clouseau’s furious boss, Burt Kwouk as his valet and martial arts trainer, and George Sanders as a wicked old roué.
MARRIAGE, ITALIAN STYLE (1964) Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren display their unique onscreen chemistry in this charming farce about an elusive womanizer and the lady who wants him to marry her. Widely imitated, but never duplicated.
THE GRADUATE (1967) A period comedy of bad manners, starring Dustin Hoffman in his breakout role as Benjamin, a youth struggling to find himself in a materialistic world. A family friend utters one word of advice: “Plastics.” Other than that, he’s on his own, attempting to romance an innocent girl (Katharine Ross) but instead getting seduced by her sly mother (Anne Bancroft). The spirited songs (“Mrs. Robinson” et al.) are by Simon and Garfunkel. Mike Nichols deservedly won an Oscar for direction.
BEDAZZLED (1967) Updating Faust, co-writer Peter Cooke casts himself as a genteel British devil, with Dudley Moore as the Tempted One. Eleanor Bron is the object of Moore’s adoration. With Barry Humphries and Raquel Welch as two of the Seven Deadly Sins. The mirthworks are under the apt direction of Stanley Donen. A newer version appeared in 2000. Stick with the original.
THE PRODUCERS (1968) The basis for Broadway’s biggest hit musical. Two grotesques (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) produce a ghastly show, Springtime for Hitler, hoping it’ll bomb. In the resultant confusion, they plan to steal the backers’ money and get out of town. Behold! The thing turns out to be a smash, and the con men are hoist by their own petard. Mel Brooks’s directorial debut.
THE ODD COUPLE (1968) You know the story. Major slob Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) allows neat freak Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) to move into his apartment. All too soon the divorced men are at each other’s throats. Neil Simon skillfully adapted his sparkling Broadway comedy for a notable cast and director Gene Saks.