AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Producers
Alternate Title: Springtime for Hitler
Director: Mel Brooks (Dir)
Release Date:   1967
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Philadelphia, PA: Nov 1967; Washington, D.C. opening: late Nov 1967; New York opening: 18 Mar 1968
Production Date:   22 May--15 Jul 1967
Duration (in mins):   88
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Cast:   Zero Mostel (Max Bialystock)  
    Gene Wilder (Leo Bloom)  
    Dick Shawn (Lorenzo St. Du Bois)  
    Kenneth Mars (Franz Liebkind)  
    Estelle Winwood ("Hold me, touch me" old lady)  
    Christopher Hewett (Roger De Bris)  
    Andreas Voutsinas (Carmen Giya)  
    Lee Meredith (Ulla)  
    Renee Taylor (Eva Braun)  
    Michael Davis (Production tenor)  
    John Zoller ("New York Times" critic)  
    Madlyn Cates (Woman at window)  
    Frank Campanella (Bartender)  
    Arthur Rubin    
    Zale Kessler    
    Bernie Allen    
    Rusty Blitz    
    Anthony Gardell (Auditioning Hitlers)  
    Mary Love    
    Amelie Barleon    
    Nell Harrison    
    Elsie Kirk (Old ladies)  
    Barney Martin (German officer in play)  
    Diana Eden (Showgirl)  
    Tucker Smith    
    David Evans (Lead dancers)  
    Josip Elic (Violinist)  
    William Hickey (Drunk in theater bar)  

Summary: Max Bialystock, a seedy, disreputable, has-been Broadway producer, ekes out a living by charming love-starved elderly ladies into investing in his disastrous productions. One day, a timorous and neurotic accountant, Leo Bloom, arrives at Max's office to check the books on his latest theatrical fiasco. Max pressures Leo to analyze his ledger books in less than a minute, prompting Leo to panic and rub a blue baby blanket on his face, admitting that he has a minor compulsion surrounding the blanket. When Leo finds a $2,000 difference in the books and naively mentions that a producer could make a lot of money by finding a sure-fire failure, over-financing it, and pocketing the remainder of the investors' money after the show closes, Max becomes excited. He cons the reluctant Leo into becoming his partner in producing the worst play in theatrical history, fantasizing that they will run away with the stolen money to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After rejecting hundreds of manuscripts, they finally find the ideal script in Springtime for Hitler, a musical comedy about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun romping in Berchtesgaden. The play is written by Franz Liebkind, an unregenerate Nazi who keeps pigeons and staunchly maintains that Hitler was "a swell guy with a song in his heart." After oversubscribing by 25,000 percent, Max and Leo insure disaster by hiring Roger De Bris, a flamboyant, homosexual man generally regarded as the world's worst director, to stage their play, and Lorenzo “LSD” St. Du Bois, a spaced-out hippie, to play “Adolf Hitler.” Max also hires Ulla, a beautiful Swedish woman, to be their receptionist. On opening night, they add a final touch to their scheme by wrapping a one-hundred dollar bribe around the ticket of a New York Times drama critic. However, the play and production are so unremittingly awful that the audience interprets it as satire and roars with approval. Stunned to discover they are stuck with a box-office success, Max, Leo, and Liebkind frantically try to close their show, even to the point of blowing up the theater. Apprehended and sent to jail after a trial in which they are found "incredibly guilty," they soon revert to their former tactics by producing a prison show called Prisoners of Love and selling shares, well over one-hundred percent, to their fellow inmates and the warden. 

Production Company: Crossbow Productions  
  Sidney Glazier  
  Springtime Productions  
Production Text: A Sidney Glazier Production
Distribution Company: Embassy Pictures Corp.  
Director: Mel Brooks (Dir)
  Michael Hertzberg (Asst dir)
  Martin Danzig (Asst dir)
Producer: Joseph E. Levine (Pres)
  Sidney Glazier (Prod)
  Jack Grossberg (Assoc prod)
Writer: Mel Brooks (Scr)
Photography: Joseph Coffey (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Charles Rosen (Art dir)
Film Editor: Ralph Rosenblum (Film ed)
Set Decoration: James Dalton (Set dec)
Costumes: Gene Coffin (Cost)
Music: John Morris (Mus comp & cond)
  Felix Giglio (Mus supv)
Sound: Alan Heim (Sd)
Dance: Alan Johnson (Choreog)
Make Up: Irving Buchman (Makeup)
Production Misc: Robert Porter (Prod supv)
  Louis A. Stroller (Unit mgr)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Love Power," music and lyrics by Norman Blagman and Herb Hartig; sung by Dick Shawn; "Springtime for Hitler," music and lyrics by Mel Brooks; sung by Michael Davis; "Prisoners of Love," music and lyrics by Mel Brooks; sung by Zero Mostel; "The Producers," words and music by John Morris and Mort Goode.
Composer: Norman Blagman
  Mel Brooks
  Mort Goode
  Herb Hartig
  John Morris
Source Text:

Physical Properties: col: PathéColor

Genre: Comedy
Sub-Genre: with songs
Subjects (Major): Accountants
  Actors and actresses
  Eva Braun
  Adolf Hitler
  New York City--Broadway
  Theatrical backers
  Theatrical directors
  Theatrical producers

Note: In an 11 Feb 2001 interview with LAT, Brooks stated that the character “Max Bialystock” was based on his former employer, a Broadway producer who swindled money from “little old ladies” to finance stage productions. Brooks wrote the script between 1964 and 1966, but had a hard time selling it, due, in part, to its original title, Springtime for Hitler. However, according to production notes in AMPAS library files, when he pitched the idea to producer Sidney Glazier in May 1966, Glazier instantly liked it and agreed that Brooks should direct.
       Principal photography began 22 May 1967. The bulk of filming took place at the Production Center, also known as The Hy Brown Studios, located on New York City’s West Side. Other New York locales included: Lincoln Center, a townhouse on the East Side, the 60 Centre Street Courthouse, Columbus Circle, Central Park, and the Empire State Building. The Playhouse Theatre on 48th Street, where Brooks staged the film’s musical numbers, was sold during production and scheduled for demolition, making Springtime for Hitler the Playhouse’s final production. Shooting was completed 15 Jul 1967, according to a 17 Jul 1967 HR news item and an 18 Jul 1967 Embassy Pictures Corp. press release.
       The production cost roughly $1.1 million, with $500,000 funded by the distributor, Embassy Pictures Corp., as noted in a 3 Sep 1967 NYT article. According to the 17 Jul 1967 HR, Universal Marion Corp., a diversified industrial corporation, “provided half the financing.”
       A Thanksgiving 1967 theatrical release was planned, according to the 18 Jul 1967 Embassy press release. According to an 8 Mar 1968 LAT article by Charles Champlin, the film premiered in Philadelphia, PA, although Champlin did not cite a date. After viewing the film at Washington, D.C.’s Playhouse Theatre on 30 Nov 1967, the 6 Dec 1967 Var review stated that The Producers was “caught in a Washington, D.C. theatre” but had yet to be “tradeshown.” A 14 Mar 1968 Film Daily news brief announced that the film would open at New York’s Fine Arts Theatre on 18 Mar 1968. According to an advertisement in the 28 Mar 1968 HR, The Producers set a house record at the Fine Arts’ 459-seat theater, taking in $34,562 in its first week. The advertisement also noted that the film was currently playing in Los Angeles, CA, at the Granada Theatre.
       A 22 Nov 1978 HR article stated that Avco Embassy Pictures Corp. would re-release the film Mar 1978, expecting a higher box-office due to Brooks’s rise in popularity since the original release.
       Brooks won an Academy Award for “Writing (Story and Screenplay--written directly for the screen),“ and a Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for “Best Original Screenplay.” Gene Wilder was nominated for an Academy Award for “Actor in a Supporting Role.” The Golden Globes nominated Zero Mostel for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical,” and Mel Brooks for “Best Screenplay – Motion Picture.”
       The Producers marked Mel Brooks’s feature film debut as a writer-director and Gene Wilder’s first starring role, as stated in the 3 Sep 1967 NYT article. Wilder’s only previous film appearance was in Bonnie and Clyde (1967, see entry).
       In a 27 Jul 1981 “Just for Variety” column in DV, Army Archerd reported that Brooks planned to produce a musical version of The Producers. The Broadway musical, with music and lyrics by Brooks, and book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan, opened 19 Apr 2001 at New York’s St. James Theatre to positive reviews, and continued its run at the St. James until 22 Apr 2007. In 2005, Universal released a film version of the musical play, also entitled The Producers (see entry). The 2005 film was directed by Susan Stroman, who also directed the Broadway production, and featured Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprising their stage roles as “Max Bialystock” and “Leo Bloom,” respectively.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Cue   23 Mar 1968.   
Daily Variety   27 Jul 1981.   
Film Daily   14 Mar 1968.   
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jul 1967.   
Hollywood Reporter   28 Mar 1968.   
Hollywood Reporter   22 Nov 1978   p. 1, 12.
Los Angeles Times   8 Mar 1968   Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times   11 Feb 2001   Calendar, p. 8.
New York Times   3 Sep 1967.   
New Yorker   23 Mar 1968.   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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