Can you identify these quotations?
"Gentlemen, it is magic time."
"You can't shoot actors, they're people!" "Oh yeah? Have you ever eaten with one?"
"Hitler. . . now there was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon! Two coats!"
"I want everything I've ever seen in the movies!" "Max... he 's wearing a dress."
"We find the defendant...incredibly guilty."
"Go, Bialy, baby, go!!!"
By now any theatre/movie/Mel Brooks nut will have recognized these quotations as coming from The Producers, considered by some -- and not just theatre folk -- to be the funniest movie ever made.
The Daily News reported (April 1997) that producer David Geffen was holding talks with author/director Mel Brooks about bringing The Producers to Broadway. One source even said the two were considering titling the new show after the play-within-the-movie, Springtime For Hitler. Geffen spokesperson Terry Press confirmed the talks at the time, but on July 31, she told Playbill On-Line Geffen is no longer involved with the project.
However, in an Oct. 6 New York Magazine interview with Mel Brooks and longtime friend and comedy partner, Carl Reiner, Brooks continued to fuel the Producers rumors:
"We are thinking, we are thinking, we are thinking. There's a good possibility. David Geffen, who is really passionate about seeing it as a Broadway musical, calls me once a week and annoys me, and there's a good possibility that it might be done. I may get The Producers ready for Broadway."
Brooks then added that the original Franz Liebken in the film was supposed to be: Dustin Hoffman. "We lived on 11th Street between Fifth and Sixth, and so did Dustin Hoffman. He came down the block one day and he yelled up, `Mel, Mel!,' and I said, `You know it's not a tenement here; stop yelling from the street up to the window.' He yells, `I'm auditioning for Mike Nichols, for The Graduate...' He flew out to the coast and did a screen test, and he came back a week later and said, "I got it." So I had to get another Liebken. I got Kenny Mars, and he did a great job.'"
The reason The Producers is of special interest to theatregoers is it follows the relationship between Max Bialystock, a Broadway producer fallen on hard times, and Leo Bloom, the meek accountant who helps Max hatch a scheme to make money on Broadway once again.
Since mounting plays is expensive (even in 1968 when the movie was made), and since backers have to be paid off if the show's a hit, Bloom discovers that a crafty producer can make more money with a flop than with a hit -- but he must be absolutely sure the show will fail.
Bialystock & Bloom's search for the worst musical ever made leads them to Franz Liebken's Springtime For Hitler -- subtitled "A Gay Romp With Adolph and Eva at Berchtesgaden" -- whose title tune has been murmured sarcastically at many a Broadway intermission over the years.
The Brooks film starred Zero Mostel as Max, Gene Wilder as Leo, Dick Shawn as LSD and Kenneth Mars as Franz. A CD of songs ("Springtime For Hitler," "Love Power," "Prisoners Of Love") and selections from the film was recently re-released (July 15) by Razor & Tie Records, a division of BMG. William Hickey, who played a barfly, passed away June 29.
--By David Lefkowitz