The cast is great, the script is swell, but this we're tellin' you, sirs It's just no go, you've got no show without The Producers!
The Producers is a 1968 comedy film directed by Mel Brooks; it stars Zero Mostel as failed Broadway producer Max Bialystock and Gene Wilder as fearful accountant Leo Bloom. The film, now considered a comedy classic, launched Brooks' long film career; several decades later, he adapted it into a Broadway musical starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick (as Bialystock and Bloom, respectively) which won twelve Tony Awards (the most Tonys a Broadway production has ever received). The Broadway adaptation was itself adapted into a film in 2005 (featuring Lane and Broderick in the primary roles), but this adaptation wasn't as well-received as the original film or the Broadway production.In all versions, the story depicts Bialystock and Bloom meeting for the first time and quickly falling into a get-rich-quick scheme: they'll oversell shares in a Broadway production by a wide margin, then deliberately produce a horrific flop which closes in one night, leaving them free to flee the country with massive profits without the IRS investigating the books.The two schemers choose as their Broadway bomb Springtime for Hitler, a "love letter" to the German dictator written by unrepentant Nazi Franz Liebkind. In the original film, their chosen director is Roger De Bris, who is wholly untalented and flamboyantly gay, while Hitler is played by Lorenzo St. DuBois ("LSD"), a charismatic but seriously brain-damaged hippie. In the musical, Liebkind is chosen for the role of Hitler, but breaks his leg at the last minute and is replaced by DuBois (De Bris in the musical). Bialystock and Bloom's plan culminates in a production which the opening night audience finds funny (they think it's satire), and since the play is announced to be a smash success, things only go downhill for the protagonists from there.
Provides Examples Of:
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Bloom is referred to as a "schmuck" for refusing to sleep with Ulla unless they are married.
In the 2005 film, Will Ferrell's character breaks one leg, then later breaks the other. Mustafa, who Will played in Austin Powers 2, had the same misfortune.
A (sadly deleted) scene from the 2005 film, fortunately on the DVD, features Max and Leo singing a duet that turns into a trio when a random stranger joins in. The actor playing said stranger is Ernie Sabella, which means that Timon, Pumbaa, and Simba were briefly reunited for a song.
Adorkable: Apparently there is some division about whether Gene Wilder (who played the intelligent Bernard but the eccentrically awesome Willy Wonka and gunslinging Jim) or Matthew Broderick (who played the huggable David but the eternally cool Ferris and the con man Harold) deserve the trophy for Leo's adorkableness. Some consider Wilder's portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein to be the decisive stroke.
Ambiguously Jewish: Bloom and Bialystock, which tells you how much they're willing to do just to get the play produced. Both of them spit on the Nazi armbands when they throw them away.
Amusing Injuries / Bandage Mummy: In the original movie, what the protagonists end up suffering at the end; Franz is the mummy, still wearing his Nazi helmet.
Ascended Extra: In the original movie, Ulla was in roughly two scenes and had only a few lines which were nothing more than a few single words. In the musical and the movie-version of the musical, she's a major character.
Ulla's Swedish. They're all actual Swedish words, but it's completely grammatically incorrect, and 'god dag min vännen' actually means something like 'good day my the friend', whereas 'god dag min vän' would mean the intended 'good day my friend'.
Ulla benefits from it, of course, although it's only because she's attractive—no actual sex occurs.
Max: There is always a role for the producer's girlfriend!
This scene also lampshades his previous The Casanova experiences.
Max: Just once I'd like to see a woman on that couch that's under 85.
Cloudcuckoolander: Franz Liebkind. Even aside from his blatant Nazism, he's more than a little strange. We first see him on the roof hanging out with his birds, who are apparently his friends... who he talks to. Then he attends the opening night performance of "Springtime for Hitler" wearing his Nazi helmet and what's more, he goes up on stage in the middle of the show to berate the audience for laughing at his beloved Fuhrer.
Courtroom Antics: Leo tries to appeal to the judge's compassion and sympathy, "no harm done", the old ladies concur with an applause and Max shows a deep remorse. An uplifting music acompanies the scene, it looked like a convincing defense, right?... cut to the exterior of the jail where the duo is imprisoned.
Dawson Casting: Lorenzo St. DuBois seems to be a 50 year old hippie, not recent college graduate. (Of course, that could be the point.)
The original film was so offbeat and provocative it almost didn't get released - until Peter Sellers saw an early cut at a private gathering and pressured Avco-Embassy to support it, taking out an ad in Variety. (Ironically, Brooks had initially wanted Sellers for a role in the film but he turned it down.)
In a looser sense, this is the entire plot of the film—Bialystock and Bloom are meddling with their product, albeit to make it fail rather than succeed.
Fake Nationality: Franz Liebkind and Ulla, in all the versions. (Even though Uma Thurman has distant Swedish ancestry, she makes Ulla sound about as Swedish as, well, Hitler.)
First Name Basis: In Leo Bloom's "Whom Has He Hurt" speech, he says that Max Bialystock was the first to ever call him "Leo", which he finds refreshing after being called "Bloom" even when he was in kindergarten.
Hilarious Outtakes: Good lord. The reel on the DVD is a quarter of an hour long and will reduce you to tears. Apparently when Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are in the same room together they induce chronic corpsing in each other.
Also 'The King of Broadway,' where Max both laments his lost glory and vows to be on top again.
Ironic Echo: When playing a sex game with "Hold Me, Touch Me", Max pretended to be a naughty chauffeur named "Rudolfo". Later, when Max is rich again, his chauffeur is named Rudolfo.
Irony: In 2011, a Dutch musical adaptation was made, running only in the largest theatres in the Netherlands. In spite of good reviews, it bombed at the box office and closed after a week. How meta is that? In another meta-example the film was banned in Germany due to the No Swastikas law and derivatives.
Max: Bloom, I'm drowning. Other men sail through life, Bialystock has struck a reef. Bloom, I'm going under. I'm condemned by a society that demands success when all I can offer is failure. Bloom, I'm reaching out to you. Don't send me to prison... (screams directly in Leo's ear)HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLP!
Max in "Betrayed!" as he is in jail awaiting trial for fraud as Leo and Ulla are in Rio. He laments his situation, even having "Alvin's" flashback before realizing that's not his past. Max then remembers what him to this state in the rest of the song, remembering the bits of song and dialogue. (Big props to Nathan Lane for this one.)
Bloom without his blue blanket.
Lighterand Softer: The 2001 musical and 2005 film based on it compared to the original 1968 dark comic film:
Given how Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick treat Max and Leo they've done a wonderful job to make it work.
Roger De Bris and his entire team, but he gets top props through his portrayal of Hitler.
Instead of Franz, Max and Leo trying to blow up the theater (the original 1968 film), Max and Leo get into a fight over the books, and Franz wants to get them both for breaking the "Sigfried Oath" with a pistol. Franz gets his legs broken, Max gets arrested and Leo is in a panic.
"Prisoners of Love" also gets worked in at Sing Sing and we see it hit Broadway after Max, Leo and Franz are pardoned in The Musical. We are also treated to the Reprise, "Leo and Max," which also has the page quote.
Eva Braun(holding a flower): Er liebt mir, er liebt mir nicht, er liebt mir, er liebt mir nicht. (To Hitler) Du liebst mir nicht! Adolf Hitler: Hey, man... I lieb' ya, I lieb' ya, baby, I lieb' ya. Now lieb' me alone!
Loads and Loads of Roles: In the 2005 film, Jim Borstelmann plays four roles; Scott the choreographer, Donald Dinsmore ("The Little Wooden Boy"), one of the little old ladies and a Bavarian peasant during the Springtime For Hitler number.
Not What It Looks Like: In the 2005 version, after "Springtime For Hitler" is a success, Bloom and Max fight over the bank account books. Roger and Carmen walk in when Bloom and Max have hit the floor, with one on top of the other, and are saying "Give it to me!" Roger remarks, "Now, that's what I call celebrating!"
Older Than They Look: "Hold Me, Touch Me" was played by Estelle Winwood, who lied about her age (she was 85 during filming) to get herself cast, and was surprisingly agile during the physical comedy. Considering the woman died at age 101, she was one hearty dame.
Parallel Porn Titles: At one point Max escorts a stunned, thumb-sucking Leo from a theater showing "War and Piece".
Perpetual Tourist: Discussed. The most recent version also has Leo Bloom (temporarily) end up somewhere vaguely South American.
Powder Trail: "Ahah! Zis is an example of smartness. I have said zat zis is ze kvick fuse, und zis is ze kvick fuse! ...Ze kvick fuse!?!"
Pragmatic Adaptation: The role of LSD doesn't translate well in the 21st century, and that, coupled with a society more open about homosexuality, allowed Roger De Bris to get a larger (and funnier) role in the play. One critic pointed out that the LSD character could still have worked in the remake, since the story is now set in 1958 and the character in retrospect seems more like a Fifties beatnik than a New Age Retro Hippie.
Max: L- like it? I want you to know my dear that even though we're sitting down, we're giving you a standing ovation.
Reaction Shot: Used to great effect during the premiere of "Springtime for Hitler". The audience is at first shocked and disgusted, while Liebkind, Max and Leo are delighted for different reasons. And then Roger De Bris comes into play with his goofy Hitler and the faces of everyone begin to show an opposite reaction.
Going through a list of potential candidates for the worst play ever written, Bialystock comes across a synopsis for Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. ("Nah, it's too good.") A Karmann Ghia is a model of Volkswagen. Leopold Bloom is the protagonist of James Joyce's novel Ulysses. At one point Max refers to Leo as "Prince Myshkin"; this is the protagonist of Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot.
Leo's line "When's it going to be Bloom's day?" is another reference to Ulysses; in fact, according to Word Of God, that particular scene takes place on Bloom's Day. Tom and Mel were very surprised at how many people got the joke.
When Jason Alexander took over as Bialystock he adlibbed in "Betrayed." Bialystock calls out Intermission and is scripted to sit down for a moment before continuing the show. Instead Jason pulls out a playbill, flipping through it and said to the audience, "He's good, but he's no Lane." (Nathan Lane of course being the original player of Bialystock for the musical.)
Nathan Lane's understudy did something similar during the original run of the play. During "intermission," he turned to an imaginary companion and said, "I like the other guy better."
In the 2005 movie, during "I Want To Be A Producer", Leo descends a flight of stairs lit with his name. The lettering and border are identical to the Spaceballs logo.
The Siegfried Oath is named for Conrad Siegfried, the Big Bad of Get Smart, a TV show Brooks co-created with Buck Henry in the 1960s.
Bloom reminds Bialystock that actors are not animals, which Bialystock angrily disputes. Zero Mostel was critically acclaimed for his transformation sequence, without benefit of makeup, into a rhinoceros in the play of the same name. In an inversion of this trope, Wilder would join Mostel in an ill-fated comedic movie adaptation of Rhinoceros.
So Bad, It's Good: In-Universe, the reason Springtime For Hitler becomes a surprise hit. The musical adds Roger's camp and over-the-top portrayal of Hitler to sell it as satire instead of the straight musical Franz wanted.
Stop Helping Me!: Max to Leo at the trial (whose "defense" of Max begins with a list of all of Max's faults) in the both movies; Max then says again to the off-key chorus of old ladies at the trial in the musical remake.
Stupid Crooks: In the original, after Max and Leo pull their Springtime for Hitler, they decide to blow up the theater with a little help from Franz. However, they're not sure if they used the short fuse or the long fuse for their bomb detonator, and their way of testing to find out which one they used is to light the fuse they already primed for the bomb. And then they discuss how the fuse they lit is behaving like the short fuse, which wouldn't have given them enough time to leave the building. And just before that: "Don't shoot! It's the dynamite! If you shoot it, it will get mad at us and blow us all up!"
In the original film, Franz starts warbling "America the Beautiful" when denying he was a Nazi.
In the musical:
Franz: I was never a member of the Nazi Party! I only followed orders! I had nothing to do with the war! I didn't even know there was a war on! We lived at the back, near Switzerland. All we heard was yodelling... yodel le he hoo! Hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo, Yodelay, Yodelay, Yodelay''
(sung) I was just a paper hanger, no one more obscurer
got a phone call from the Reichstag, told me I was Furher
Germany was blue, oh, what oh what to do?
Hitched up my pants and conquered France, now Deutchland's smiling through!
(beat, spoken sadly) But it wasn't always so easy...
(spoken as music plays) It was 1932. Hindenberg was working the Big Room and I? Well, I was playing the lounge. And then, I got my big break! Somebody burned down the Reichstag! And would you believe it? They named me Chancellor! CHANCELLOR!
Throw It In: Gene Wilder's "Whom Has He Hurt" speech was completely improvised.
Villainous Breakdown: "Betrayed" is a song that tells of Max's, after he gets the postcard from Leo (who on Ulla's urging took her and the cash to Rio). It has a medley that begins with "I used to be the King, but now I am the fool" as he recalls the plan and sings parts of the songs involved in each step.
Weirdness Magnet: Max considers himself one. It seems Leo only makes the situation worse.
Max: They come here, they all come here. How do they find me.
Leo: Have you lost your mind? Actors are not animals. They're human beings.
Max: They are? Have you ever eaten with one?
Wholesome Crossdresser: Roger DeBris. When we first meet him, he's supposed to be in costume as the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Depending on the version, he claims that he thinks he looks more like either "Tugboat Annie" or "the Chrysler Building."
Zany Scheme: Once Max gets pointed out by Leo that he made a profit of $2,000 due to Funny Boy closing on opening night, Max gets his idea (per the musical):
Step 1: We find the worst play ever written.
Step 2: We hire the worst director in town.
Step 3: We raise two million dollars.
Max: One for me, one for you. There's a lot of little old ladies out there!
Step 4: We hire the worst actors in New York and open on Broadway and before you can say
Step 5: We close on Broadway, take our two million, and go to Rio.
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