The Producers is a 1968 Mel Brooks (and his directorial debut) classic comedy film (number 11 on 100 Years, 100 Laughs), starring Zero Mostel as a crooked theatre producer called Max Bialystock who sleeps with elderly women for funding, and Gene Wilder as Leopold Bloom, a naive accountant. Bialystock asks Bloom to do a bit of creative accounting to hide $2000 which he embezzled. Bloom is initially reluctant as he is neurotic, but then comes up with the purely academic exercise that Bialystock can make more money by deliberately producing a flop than a hit.. So they produce Springtime for Hitler.
When it was released, The Producers was very controversial and gained mixed reviews, with some calling it complete garbage while others thought it was genius. Estelle Winwood, who played one of the old ladies that Bialystock slept with, was one of the opponents the film, she said;
“Oh, that dreadful picture. I can’t bear to watch it, even on a small television. I must have needed the money – living in Hollywood weakens one’s motives. It reminds me of the saying that nobody ever went broke underestimating the American public’s taste.”
I am in the middle. I loved Gene Wilder’s (Oscar nominated) performance as the neurotic Leo, I found Mostel’s character to be detestable, which was the point I think. No joke made me fall over laughing, but it was reasonably funny all the way through and it went for a reasonable hour and a half, which seemed quite quick.
Apparently Zero Mostel had a huge ego on his films, including this one where he clashed with Mel Brooks, however he remained friends with Gene Wilder until Mostel’s death.
The Producers was remade in 2005 starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman. This version flopped, however it was nominated for Golden Globes.