The Producers

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The cast is great, the script is swell, but this we're tellin' you, sirs
It's just no go, you've got no show without The Producers!

The Producers is a 1968 comedy film directed by Mel Brooks; it stars Zero Mostel as failed Broadway producer Max Bialystock and Gene Wilder as fearful accountant Leo Bloom. The film, now considered a comedy classic, launched Brooks' long film career; several decades later, he adapted it into a Broadway musical starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick (as Bialystock and Bloom, respectively) which won twelve Tony Awards (the most Tonys a Broadway production has ever received). The Broadway adaptation was itself adapted into a film in 2005 (featuring Lane and Broderick in the primary roles), but this adaptation wasn't as well-received as the original film or the Broadway production.

In all versions, the story depicts Bialystock and Bloom meeting for the first time and quickly falling into a get-rich-quick scheme: they'll oversell shares in a Broadway production by a wide margin, then deliberately produce a horrific flop which closes in one night, leaving them free to flee the country with massive profits without the IRS investigating the books.

The two schemers choose as their Broadway bomb Springtime for Hitler, a "love letter" to the German dictator written by unrepentant Nazi Franz Liebkind. In the original film, their chosen director is Roger De Bris, who is wholly untalented and flamboyantly gay, while Hitler is played by Lorenzo St. DuBois ("LSD"), a charismatic but seriously brain-damaged hippie. In the musical, Liebkind is chosen for the role of Hitler, but breaks his leg at the last minute and is replaced by De Bris. Bialystock and Bloom's plan culminates in a production which the opening night audience finds funny, and since the play is announced to be a smash success, things only go downhill for the protagonists from there.

The Producers is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in The Producers include:
  • Adorkable: Apparently there is some division about whether Gene Wilder (who played the intelligent Bernard but the eccentrically awesome Willy Wonka and gun-slinging Jim) or Matthew Broderick (who played the huggable David but the eternally cool Ferris and the con man Harold) deserve the trophy for Leo's adorkableness. Some consider Wilder's portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein to be the decisive stroke.
  • Alliteration: "This crazy Kraut is crackers! He crashed in here and crassly tried to kill us!"
  • All Part of the Show: Liebkind's storming onto the stage in an effort to end the production.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Bloom and Bialystock, which tells you how much they're willing to do just to get the play produced. Both of them spit on the Nazi armbands when they throw them away.
  • Amusing Injuries/Bandage Mummy: In the original movie, what the protagonists end up suffering at the end; Franz is the mummy, still wearing his Nazi helmet.
  • Ascended Extra: In the original movie, Ulla was in roughly two scenes and had only a few lines which were nothing more than a few single words. In the musical and the movie-version of the musical, she's a major character.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Ulla's Swedish. They're all actual Swedish words, but it's completely grammatically incorrect, and 'god dag min vännen' actually means something like 'good day my the friend', whereas 'god dag min vän' would mean the intended 'good day my friend'. 
  • Batman Gambit: Bialystock and Bloom's entire "creative accounting" scheme.
  • Berserk Button:

"My blanket! My blue blanket! Gimme back my blue blanket! AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

  • Bilingual Bonus: Ulla answers the phone with, "God dag på dig!" (Swedish for good day to you).
  • Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: Averted intentionally, as a...
  • Bribe Backfire: Actually done on purpose.
  • Bungled Suicide: Toward the end Franz Liebkind attempts to shoot himself, but the gun fails to go off. ("Boy, ven things go wrong...")
    • In the Czech dub, it was "There were always problems with the munitions..." Historical Bonus?
  • Busby Berkeley Number: Springtime For Hitler's opening, complete with the dancers forming a swastika.
  • The Cameo: In the 2005 film, Mel Brooks appears at the very end telling the audience to "get out!"
    • Both film versions have Brooks' voice dubbed into the "Springtime for Hitler" number (the 2005 movie uses the same line recorded for the 1968 version).

"Don't be stupid/Be a smarty/Come and join/The Nazi Party!"

  • Camp Gay: De Bris, his assistant Carman Ghia, and (in the musical movie) the other members of the stage team living with them, save for one just-as-over-the-top Butch Lesbian.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Roger de Bris.

Roger: Messieurs Bialystock and Bloom, I presume? Ha! Forgive the pun! 
Leo: (aside to Max) What pun? 
Max: (aside to Leo) Shut up! He thinks he's witty!

"Adolf": Hey, you're German!
General: We're all Germans!
"Adolf": That's right! That means we can't invade Germany! I mean, I got all my friends here!

  • Casanova: Bialystock, impressive string of successes, albeit all with women even older than he is.
  • Casting Couch: Ulla benefits from it, of course, although it's only because she's attractive--no actual sex occurs.

Max: There is always a role for the producer's girlfriend!

    • This scene also lampshades his previous Casanova experiences.

Max: Just once I'd like to see a woman on that couch that's under 85.

"Not many people know zis, but ze Fuhrer vas descended from a long line of English qveens."

Max: How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?!

  • Hair-Trigger Temper: In a sense: Leo Bloom has numerous triggers but they cause him to fall non-violently to pieces. He gets better as the movie progresses.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Good lord. The reel on the DVD is a quarter of an hour long and will reduce you to tears. Apparently, when Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are in the same room together, they induce chronic Corpsing in each other.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: "I Wanna Be a Producer".
  • "I Am" Song: "I Wanna Be a Producer".
    • "Heil Myself" counts as well, especially with De Bris's Judy Garland monologue.
  • Ironic Echo: When playing a sex game with "Hold Me, Touch Me", Max pretended to be a naughty chauffeur named "Rudolfo". Later, when Max is rich again, his chauffeur is named Rudolfo.
  • Irony: In 2011, a Dutch musical adaptation was made, running only in the largest theaters in the Netherlands. In spite of good reviews, it bombed at the box office and closed after a week. How meta is that?
  • "I Want" Song: "I Wanna Be a Producer".
    • Also "The King of Broadway", where Max both laments his lost glory and vows to be on top again. 
  • Large Ham: Zero Mostel, full stop.

Max: Bloom, I'm drowning. Other men sail through life, Bialystock has struck a reef. Bloom, I'm going under. I'm condemned by a society that demands success when all I can offer is failure. Bloom, I'm reaching out to you. Don't send me to prison... (screams directly in Leo's ear) HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLP!

    • And Bloom without his blue blanket.
    • Roger De Bris and his entire team, but he gets top props through his portrayal of Hitler
    • Nathan Lane, during the eleven o'clock number "Betrayed", which even lapses into a sentimental white-picket fence childhood that Bialystock never actually had.

Bialystock: Wait a minute, my name's not 'Alvin'... Someone else's life is flashing before my eyes. What the hell is that about? I'm not a hillbilly, I grew up in the Bronx! Leo's taken everything... even my past!

  • Loads and Loads of Roles: In the 2005 film, Jim Borstelman plays four roles; Scott the choreographer, Donald Dinsmore ("The Little Wooden Boy"), one of the little old ladies and a Bavarian peasant during the Springtime for Hitler number.
  • Madness Mantra:

Leo: No way out. No way out. No way out. No way out. No way out. No way out. No way out.

  • Medium Awareness: One song in the play has Bialystock summarizing the events of the play up until that point, including an Intermission.
    • The play - Ulla: "Why Bloom go so far stage right?"
    • The second movie - "Why Bloom go so far camera right?"
    • At the start of the play's second act, Ulla says she painted the office white during the intermission. Unfortunately, the joke couldn't translate to film so there she simply skips lunch.
  • The Musical: The play, since the film really wasn't. Also, the 2005 remake.
  • Nice Hat: Bialystock forbids Bloom to wear his spare black fedora because "that's a Broadway producer's hat, and you don't get to wear the Broadway producer's hat until you're a Broadway producer!"
  • Norse by Norsewest: Ulla.
  • Officer O'Hara: Two of 'em.
  • Older Than They Look: "Hold Me, Touch Me" was played by Estelle Winwood, who lied about her age (she was 85 during filming) to get herself cast, and was surprisingly agile during the physical comedy. Considering the woman died at age 101, she was one hearty dame.
  • One-Scene Wonder: In the original film, William Hickey as the drunken bar patron.
  • Overly Long Gag: Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss...sss!
    • Estelle Winwood as "Hold Me, Touch Me".
  • Perpetual Tourist: Discussed. The most recent version also has Leo Bloom (temporarily) end up somewhere vaguely South American.
  • Pokémon-Speak: Hold me, touch me!
  • Powder Trail: "Ahah! Zis is an example of smartness. I have said zat zis is ze kvick fuse, und zis is ze kvick fuse! ...Ze kvick fuse!?!"
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The role of LSD doesn't translate well in the 21st century, and that, coupled with a society more open about homosexuality, allowed Roger De Bris to get a larger (and funnier) role in the play.
    • One critic pointed out that the LSD character could still have worked in the remake, since the story is now set in 1958 and the character in retrospect seems more like a Fifties beatnik than a New Age Retro Hippie.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Ulla.
  • Punny Name: Roger De Bris and Carmen Ghia.
  • Queer People Are Funny
  • Raging Stiffie:

Ula:You like it?
Max: L- like it? I want you to know my dear that even though we're sitting down, we're giving you a standing ovation.

  • Refuge in Audacity: Both Springtime for Hitler and the original movie itself, especially considering when it was made. the movie was based on a joke Brooks liked to tell where he wanted to make a musical called Springtime for Hitler. People would stare at him, and then burst into laughter.
  • Security Blanket: Leo keeps a bit of his baby blanket on him in his jacket pocket.
  • Sexy Secretary: Ulla. And how.
    • "Oooh wah weee wah wah wow wowie!"
  • Shout-Out: Going through a list of potential candidates for the worst play ever written, Bialystock comes across a synopsis for Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. ("Nah, it's too good.") A Karmann Ghia is a model of Volkswagen. Leopold Bloom is the protagonist of James Joyce's novel Ulysses. At one point, Max refers to Leo as "Prince Myshkin"; this is the protagonist of Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot.
    • Leo's line "When's it going to be Bloom's day?" is another reference to Ulysses; in fact, according to Word of God, that particular scene takes place on Bloom's Day. Tom and Mel were very surprised at how many people got the joke.
    • When Jason Alexander took over as Bialystock he ad-libbed in "Betrayed". Bialystock calls out Intermission and is scripted to sit down for a moment before continuing the show. Instead Jason pulls out a playbill, flipping through it and said to the audience, "He's good, but he's no Lane." (Nathan Lane, of course, being the original player of Bialystock for the musical.)
    • Nathan Lane's understudy did something similar during the original run of the play. During "intermission", he turned to an imaginary companion and said, "I like the other guy better."
    • In the 2005 movie, during "I Wanna Be a Producer", Leo descends a flight of stairs lit with his name. The lettering and border are identical to the Spaceballs logo.
    • The "Yiddish" which translates as "Who do you have to fuck to get a break in this town?" comes from a speech given by Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator.
  • The Sixties: Lorenzo StDubois in the original version.
  • A beautifully-subverted Slow Clap.
  • Snake Talk: Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss...sss!
  • Stupid Crooks: In the original, after Max and Leo pull their Springtime for Hitler, they decide to blow up the theater with a little help from Franz. However, they're not sure if they used the short fuse or the long fuse for their bomb detonator, and their way of testing to find out which one they used is to light the fuse they already primed for the bomb. And then they discuss how the fuse they lit is behaving like the short fuse, which wouldn't have given them enough time to leave the building...
    • And just before that: "Don't shoot! It's the dynamite! If you shoot it, it will get mad at us and blow us all up!"
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In the original film, Franz starts warbling "America the Beautiful" when denying he was a Nazi.
    • In the musical: 

Franz: I was never a member of the Nazi Party! I only followed orders! I had nothing to do with the war! I didn't even know there was a war on! We lived at the back, near Switzerland. All we heard was yodeling... yodel le he hoo! Hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo, Yodelay, Yodelay, Yodelay

Leo: Actors aren't animals; they're human beings!
Max: They are, huh? You ever eat with one?

Stagehand: Hey! What can I do for you?
Franz: You will please be unconscious. (*tap*)

Max: They come here, they all come here. How do they find me.

Franz: Hitler... there was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in ONE afternoon! TWO coats!

  • What Is This Feeling?: It's called "happiness", Leo.
    • Or an erection.
    • It's either that or Malaria.
    • There's pills for everything these days, so don't worry.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Roger DeBris. When we first meet him, he's supposed to be in costume as the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Depending on the version, he claims that he thinks he looks more like either "Tugboat Annie" or "the Chrysler Building".
  • World of Ham
  • Zany Scheme

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