Director: Mel Brooks
Writer(s): Mel Brooks
Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and Dick Shawn
Awards: 1969 Oscar for Best Writing, Story & Screenplay; 1969 WGA Award for Best Written American Original Screenplay
Theatrical producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) was once the toast of Broadway. Now he lives in his seedy office, cadging cash contributions from wealthy old ladies in exchange for sexual favors. Even worse, he’s reduced to wearing a cardboard belt. Max’s new accountant, Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), the soul of honesty, suggests that Max produce a hit to try to recoup his losses, but Max knows that it’s too late for that. Offhandedly, Leo muses that, if Max found investors for a flop, he could legally keep all the extra money. Suddenly, Max’s eyes light up — and in that moment, Leo Bloom is gloriously corruptible. Together, Max and Leo conspire to select the worst play, the worst playwright, the worst director, and the worst actor to collaborate on their guaranteed flop. That play is Springtime for Hitler, “a delightful romp…with Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun.” At the end of several weeks, Max has sold 25,000 percent of the show; and, as a finishing touch, Max bribes the opening-night critics for a favorable review, knowing full well that such a gesture is the kiss of death. The curtains part, and Springtime for Hitler opens with perhaps the most tasteless production number in the history of films.