THE WHEREABOUTS OF 'THE BIG W'
IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD whirls around a car chase to find $350,000 buried in a park in
Santa Rosita under the 'Big W'. A check of the maps shows Santa Rosita obviously is a fictitious
place - or is it? Both I and a good friend in Australia would like to find out where the 'Big W'
park really is ... San Diego, maybe?
This is a question that seems to pop up whenever IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD is revived on film or reissued on tape. Happily, the answers are easy to find in the supplemental documentary material on the MAD WORLD laserdisc, which, besides interviewing practically every surviving member of the movie's enormous cast, also explains the enormous production in fascinating detail.
Santa Rosita doesn't exist, although Spencer Tracy's map places it just south of San Diego. The Santa Rosita we see in the movie is an amalgam of several locations. The beachside highway, where Jonathan Winters swings across four traffic lanes hanging onto a taxi door, is very recognizable as the California Incline on Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica. The boat house where Tracy fails to escape with Buster Keaton is in Malibu. Several city streets used for car chases are in Long Beach. The town square with the hook 'n ladder fire truck is largely a complicated special effect with more than a dozen elements - all demonstrated on the disc supplement.
Finally, the park which is the home of the 'Big W' is revealed to have been filmed at Portuguese Point, a private park on the Rancho Palos Verdes coastline, southwest of Los Angeles. There is a distinctive chapel there also used often as a filming location, for instance, the wedding scene that concludes INNERSPACE.
Of the four palm trees that were planted to form the 'W' only one remained when the laserdisc documentary was edited. New visitors to the park, we are told, often say they feel as if 'they've been there before', even if they can't remember the MAD WORLD connection.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson