20. The Producers (1968)
When Mel Brooks was first starting out in show business (long before he was writing for Sid Caesar), he worked for (as he puts it) a portly down-on-his-luck producer who had for investors, several little old ladies with whom the unnamed producer had relations with. Brooks used this first boss of his as a prototype for the main character of the first feature film he wrote and directed. In 1968, Brooks released his first (and his best) film about a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer who schemes, with a timid accountant, to produce the biggest flop Broadway has ever seen (to get the tax write-off). What they find, in the large pile of scripts, is one of the most offensive dramatic pieces: Springtime For Hitler, a Romp with Adolf and Eva through Berchtesgaden. The play was written by a former soldier who worked personally for Adolf Hitler. With Brooksian style comedy, the plot unfolds with barbs thrown at Nazis, gays and even hippies. The cast is among some of Brooks' best with Gene Wilder as the timid accountant Leo Bloom, Kenneth Mars as the crazed Nazi playwright, Dick Shawn as a hippie auditioning to play Hitler and Christopher "Mr. Belvedere" Hewett as the flamboyant theatre director. But this movie really belongs to one person and that is its lead actor: the hilarious and bombastic Zero Mostel. The multi-Tony Award winner takes to this role with such fervor and such masterful comic timing. Just a mere expression on his face is fantastic. Brooks' screenplay is so brilliant and it won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. It is a charming, delightful and full-on side-splitting ride into Brooks' world of theatre and fun.
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