Filmsite Movie Review
The Producers (1968)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Preparing to Produce A 'Sure-Fire Flop' - Meeting with Nazi Playwright Franz Liebkind:

To prepare in Max's office (the frosted door revealed their new partnership as BIALYSTOCK & BLOOM, THEATRICAL PRODUCERS), Leo and Max had tasked themselves to read hundreds of plays and manuscripts late into the night. Max was insistent: "We've got to find the worst play ever written," although Leo was beginning to become discouraged and delirious. Max read the opening of Franz Kafka's 1915 novella The Metamorphosis, but then discarded the script because it was "too good":

Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to discover that he had been transformed into a giant cockroach.

But then Max revealed that he had found the one ideal script that had tremendous promise as a flop, and he became excited: "We've struck gold. Not fool's gold, but real gold. The mother lode. The mother lode. The mother of them all." He bellowed out what he had just found:

A disaster! A catastrophe! An outrage! A guaranteed-to-close-in one-night beauty! This is freedom from want forever. This is a house in the country. This is a Rolls Royce and a Bentley. This is wine, women and song and women.

The script was titled Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden - a musical comedy about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun in Berchtesgaden, written by Franz Liebkind. Max added: "It's practically a love letter to Hitler....This play has got to close in the first act."

The next morning, on their way to meet up with the exiled Nazi playwright in a tenement area in the West Village (at 100 West Jane Street), Max and Leo were confronted by the apartment building's self-proclaimed "Concierge" (Madlyn Cates). She leaned her head (with a netted white bonnet) out of her first-floor window and with a Yiddish-accent, she questioned their entrance. She identified who they were looking for as a Kraut bird-lover who kept a number of pigeons (pronounced 'boids') in a large wooden coop on the rooftop:

Who do ya want? No one gets in the building unless I know who they want. I'm the concierge. My husband used to be the concierge, but he's dead. Now I'm the concierge...Oh, the Kraut! He's on the top floor, Apartment 23...But ya won't find him there. He's up on the roof with his birds. He keeps birds. Dirty, disgusting, filthy, lice-ridden birds. You used to be able to sit out on the stoop like a person. Not anymore! No, sir! Birds! Ya get my drift?...I'm not a madame! I'm a concierge!

On the apartment's rooftop smelling like bird-poop, they encountered the insane, goose-stepping, German anthem-singing, deranged ex-Nazi "kraut," WWII helmet-wearing Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars) (Liebkind = 'Love-Child') who was releasing one of his birds with his left hand while holding a picture of Hitler in his right hand. He was the author of a loving tribute to his Fuhrer that Max anxiously wanted to produce on Broadway. Misinterpreting who they were, Franz lept to attention, pledged that he was often persecuted, but was not a Nazi: ("I vas never a member of the Nazi party, I'm not responsible, I only followed orders, Who are you? Vhy do you persecute me? My papers are in order. I love my adopted country"), and sang a short version of "America": ("Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber vaves of grain").

Franz was shocked to learn that Max was a theatrical producer who wanted to produce his loving tribute and "masterpiece" on Broadway. He was amazed and overjoyed that his adoring script dedicated to his adored but misunderstood leader, Springtime For Hitler, had finally been discovered. He turned and exclaimed to his birds: "Oh joy of joys! Oh, dream of dreams! I can't believe it." He called to each one of them by name: "Otto, Bertz, Heintz, Hans, Wolfgang, do you hear? Ve are going to clear the Fuhrer's name," and then at top volume, he began singing the German national anthem: "Deutchland, Deutchland, Uber alles, Uber alles in der velt," and then a short rendition of "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

After retiring to Franz' top-floor apartment for privacy and drinks of schnapps, Franz claimed he had known Hitler personally: "Not many people knew it, but the Fuhrer vas a terrific dancer." Then, the unbalanced Liebkind turned indignant about Allied propaganda, and expressed only scorn for British prime minister Winston Churchill, but spoke glowingly about his Fuhrer:

That's because you were taken in by that verdampter Allied propaganda. Such filthy lies. They told lies. But nobody ever said a bad vord about Winston Churchill, did they? Oh no, 'Vin Vit Vinnie!' Churchill! Vit his cigars. Vit his brandy. And his rotten painting, rotten! Hitler, there was a painter. He could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon! Two coats! (He flashed Churchill's V for Victory gesture)

Churchill! He couldn't even say 'Nazi'. He would say 'Noooo-zeeehz, Nooooooooooooo-zeeehz!' It wasn't Noses! It was Nazis! ...Let me tell this, and you're hearing this straight from the horse. Hitler vas better lookin' than Churchill. He vas a better dresser than Churchill. He had more hair, he told funnier jokes, and he could dance the pants off Churchill.

Max saw his opportunity to urge Liebkind to sign his contract (and give up his stage rights to his own play), and to reassuringly promise him that they would show the world his "true" Hitler:

That's exactly why we want to produce this play. To show the world the true Hitler, the Hitler you loved, the Hitler you knew, the Hitler with a song in his heart.

As they departed from Franz' apartment with the signed contract, Leo attempted to conceal a red-and-black Nazi armband that Franz had given both of them to wear. Max agreed: "OK, take it off," and also removed his own. Both armbands were thrown into a garbage can, followed by Leo and Max spitting into it. Leaving Leo stranded on the street, Max took a taxi-cab to The Blue Gypsy to wine and dine another elderly female - "a lady of some means." He described how they had now entered "PHASE 2" - the raising of funds to make himself rich after the play flopped: "In the days to come, you will see very little of me, for Max Bialystock is launching himself into little old lady-land."

In a montage, Max met with and seduced a series of little old ladies for their investment support (with more checks made out to "CASH"). In the next sequence in Max's office, Bloom handed him investor contracts to sign, while mentioning how some of the cuckolded investors were fraudulently offered 50% of the profits, and one was incredulously given 100%. Max was worried that he had over-subscribed his play to his wealthy, elderly female investors:

Max: How much percentage of a play can there be altogether?
Leo: Max, you can only sell 100% of anything.
Max: And how much of 'Springtime for Hitler' have we sold?
Leo: Twenty-five thousand percent.
Max: (aghast) 25,000 %. (Max asked to borrow Leo's blue blanket)

Max was assured and comforted only by looking into his safe bulging with bundles of cash: "Hello, boys! If you only knew what I went through for you." He impulsively decided to buy himself a "toy" - "I worked very, very hard and I think I deserve a toy."

Other Characters Hired to Help Prepare for The Play - Sexy Receptionist Ulla, Gay Director De Bris, and His Assistant Carmen Ghia:

In the very next scene, the camera tracked up the shapely legs to the face of a buxom blonde, va-va-voom Swedish-speaking, sexpot receptionist-secretary Ulla (Lee Meredith). The stereotypical dumb blonde's "work" consisted mostly of reclining on his desk, and twisting, hip-swinging, undulating go-go dancing to music in front of Max. Max claimed: "I met her in the public library." Other tasks included answering the telephone, lighting Max's enormous black cigars, ordering transportation, or typing with one finger. Leo cautioned about excessive spending:

Leo: Maybe we should go a little easier on the spending. I mean these offices and all.
Max: Why? Take it when you can get it. Flaunt it, baby, flaunt it!
Leo: But if something should, God forbid, go wrong, at least we could give back some of the money. I mean, it would look better in court.

To guarantee a "total disaster," Max had arranged a 2:00 pm appointment to hire "the worst director that ever lived." They were to speak to a truly terrible director known for plays that closed on the first day of rehearsal. They were chauffeured by a mustached Rudolfo in a white Rolls-Royce limousine to a chic townhouse, where they were greeted at the front door by the prospective director's private secretary - a dark-bearded assistant/lover named Carmen Ghia (Andreas Voutsinas). He resembled a Satanist, wearing a black turtleneck and tight black pants, and sporting a monocle. In a wide foyer with classical Greek, white-marble, nude male statues, the two were instructed to remove their shoes to avoid soiling the white carpets, and then taken in a cramped elevator to an upper floor.

Carmen Ghia then led them into a feminine boudoir decorated in King Louis XVI style to sit on a love-seat, as the pompous, flamboyant, cross-dressing (transvestite), effeminate gay director Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewett) popped his head above an ornate dressing screen.

[Note: Volkswagen issued a Karmann Ghia model automobile, designed by an Italian firm, from 1956-1974. The name De Bris was an apparent joke related to the name for the Jewish rite of male circumcision (der bris), performed by a mohel or a ritual circumciser, in addition to a baby naming. The name also could have a more obvious reference to "debris" - or trash waste.]

He emerged wearing a black, Victorian 'Lady Windermere's Fan' full-skirted gown, with a see-through lace bodice and sleeves, and a set of earrings. [Note: The dress referenced homosexual playwright Oscar Wilde's first hit play, an upper-class comedy titled Lady Windermere's Fan (1892).] De Bris had read the script and regarded it as: "Remarkable. Remarkable. A stunning piece of work....I think, for one, that it is a very important's drenched with historical goodies." He mentioned how he was ignorant of the fact that "The Third Reich" referred to Germany.

De Bris then explained to Bloom, whom he obviously took a fancy to, the reason for dressing in women's clothing - he was about to compete for the Best Costume Prize at the Choreographer's Ball that evening. He modeled the dress for them as he swished back and forth, as if he was participating in a fashion show. He asked for Leo's brutally-honest opinion of his costume:

De Bris: I'm supposed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, but I think I look more like Tugboat Annie....What do you think, Mr. Bloom?
Leo: Where do you keep your wallet?

De Bris was flattered when Max chimed in to offer a compliment: "It's gorgeous. You couldn't have picked a better color. It brings out your eyes. Let's face it, Roger, that dress is you." Carmen Gia thought Roger was only "half-dressed" without his wig. De Bris reached for a cigarette and held it out for Bloom to light, as Max encouraged the nervous Bloom to cater to De Bris: "Quick, light his cigarette. He likes you." Carmen appeared slightly jealous that De Bris held onto Bloom's hand to steady the lighted match: ("Oh I see, we're getting acquainted").

The director of musicals - often featuring showgirls - offered his interpretation of how he would stage Max's musical - with showgirls in a revue dressed as Storm Troopers with leather boots:

But now at last, a chance to do straight drama! Roger De Bris presents history. Of course, I think we should add a little music. And that whole third act has got to go. They're losing the war. It's too depressing. We shall have to put something in there. (standing up and gripped by his vision) Aaahghhh! I see it! I see it! A line of beautiful girls, dressed as Storm Troopers, black patent leather boots, S-M. (Carmen: "I love it") All marching together. Two-three-kick-turn! Turn-turn, kick-turn! It will work!

Max was supportive: "That is genius! Genius! I speak for Mr. Bloom and myself when I say you're the only man in the world who can do justice to 'Springtime for Hitler'." De Bris briefly considered accepting Max's recruitment for their production ("This is a very big decision. It might affect the course of my entire life! I shall have to think about it") - and then quickly agreed: "I'll do it." Max and Leo kissed his outstretched hand. De Bris hurriedly ordered Carmen: "Get on the phone. Send out a casting call. Call every agent in town. I want to see everybody. Everybody."

Variety Magazine ran an ad:

Open call for the role of
No previous experience required
PLAYTIME THEATRE 254 West 54th Street

Casting Calls For Hitler and Auditions For the Production:

In a Broadway theatre, extensive auditions were being held for the role of Hitler in Max's and Leo's over-financed play Springtime for Hitler. Dozens of Hitler wanna-bees (in various shapes and sizes with short squared-off mustaches and Fuhrer-haircuts) had arrived on stage to audition for the part. Max was intent on hiring the least-likely Hitler in order to insure his flop succeeded.

De Bris took charge and ordered: "Will the dancing Hitlers please wait in the wings. We are only seeing singing Hitlers." A series of 'Singing Hitler' candidates were called one-by-one to step forward and audition, including:

  • Arthur Packard (Arthur Rubin) - a balding tenor from the Albuquerque Opera Company for two seasons, who sang "A Wandering Minstrel"
  • Jason Green (Zale Kessler) - a uniformed bass singer who had been touring for 16 years with the USO, who sang 'The German Band"
  • and two others

After casting call director Carmen pronounced that the auditions were a failure, suddenly a deranged, middle-aged, long-haired hippie actor named Lorenzo St. Du Bois "L.S.D." (Dick Shawn) wandered across the stage behind him with a bouquet of white daisies in his hand. He was wearing striped pants, a black sweater, a wide leather belt, and knee-high shag leather boots, and was adorned with an Andy Warhol-styled Campbell's soup can necklace. His stoned appearance and hip-lingo were outrageous, but typical of the late 1960s 'hippie or flower power movement.' He mentioned how he was out "on probation" from Sing-Sing, and was actually there to audition for another production titled "Boomerang."

Adorned with finger cymbals, he called upon his all-female trio of musicians (with a sax, keyboard, and a guitar) to provide back-up music for a pathetic flower child love song titled "Love Power." As he sang and danced, he waved his bouquet of daisies:

LSD: (singing) Love power. I'm talkin' about love power. The power of a sweet flower is gonna rule the earth. And there'll be a great rebirth. Love is a flower that is fine. When I'm walkin' with my darlin' and we're holdin' hands, and life is fine, 'cause she understands. Walkin' down the sunny street, Givin' pretty flowers to the people that we meet. And I give a flower to the big fat cop. He takes his club and he beats me up. I give a flower to the garbage man. He stuffs my girl in the garbage can. And I give it to the landlord when the rent comes 'round. He throws it in the toilet and he flush it down. It goes into the sewer, with the yuck runnin' through 'er. And it runs into the river that we drink. Hey, world, YOU STINK! Ugh! Ugh! Man, it's later than you think! Girl, you got just one more chance. Come on baby while I dance!...

LSD: (speaking) Love, love power. I'm talkin' 'bout love power. The power of a little flower. You don't think 'bout no little flowers! Oh no, all you think about is guns. If everybody in the world today had a flower instead of a gun, there would be no wars. There would be one big smell-in. Just the flowers! (He ripped his daisy flowers in half) Hey, man, my flower. My flower. What'd you do to my flower, man? You hurt it, like everything else. Everything else - flowers.

After his audition, LSD sat down onstage and started to peel a banana and suck his thumb. Max cried out: "That's our Hitler." The spaced-out, adult, counter-cultural flower child acquired the title role.

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