The Producers (1968 Film) - Plot

Plot

Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) is a washed-up, aging Broadway producer who ekes out a living romancing lascivious wealthy elderly women in exchange for money for his next play. Nebbishy accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) arrives at Bialystock's office to do his books and discovers there is a two thousand dollar overcharge in the accounts of Bialystock's last play, because he raised more money than he needed. Bialystock persuades Bloom to hide the relatively minor fraud; and, while shuffling numbers, Bloom has a revelation—that a producer could make a lot more money with a flop than a hit—a scheme which Bialystock immediately puts into action. They will over-sell shares again, but on a much larger scale and produce a play that will close on opening night. No one audits the books of a play presumed to have lost money, thus avoiding a pay-out and leaving the duo free to flee to Rio de Janeiro with the profits. Leo is afraid such a criminal venture will fail and they will go to prison; but Max eventually convinces him that his drab existence is no better than prison.

After reading many bad plays, the partners find the obvious choice for their scheme: Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden. It is "a love letter to Hitler" written in total sincerity by deranged ex-Nazi Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars), whose name is German for "Frank Lovechild". They persuade him to sign over the stage rights, telling him they want to show the world "the true Hitler, the Hitler with a song in his heart." To guarantee that the show is a flop, they hire Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewett), a director whose plays "close on the first day of rehearsal". The part of Hitler goes to a charismatic but only semi-coherent, flower power hippie named Lorenzo St. DuBois, aka L.S.D. (Dick Shawn), who can barely remember his own name and had mistakenly wandered into their theater during the casting call. After Bialystock sells 25,000 percent of the play to his regular investors (dozens of lustful little old ladies), they are sure they are on their way to Rio.

The result of all of this is a cheerfully upbeat and utterly tasteless musical play purporting to be about the happy home life of a brutal dictator. It opens with a lavish production of the title song, "Springtime For Hitler", which celebrates Nazi Germany crushing Europe ("Springtime for Hitler and Germany/Winter for Poland and France"). Unfortunately for Bialystock and Bloom, their attempt backfires as, after initial dumbfounded disbelief, the audience finds L.S.D.'s beatnik-like portrayal (and misunderstanding of the story) to be hilarious and misinterpret the production as a satire. Springtime For Hitler is declared a smash-hit, which means, of course, the investors will be expecting a larger financial return than can be paid out.

As the stunned partners turn on each other, they are confronted by a gun-wielding Franz Liebkind, who is enraged by L.S.D.'s portrayal of Hitler. He says they have broken the "Siegfried Oath", which they took in a deleted earlier scene. In desperation, the three band together and blow up the theater to end the production. They are injured, arrested, and tried. In spite of Leo's impassioned statement praising Max, the jury finds them "incredibly guilty" and they go to prison. They have apparently not learned their lesson, though, as the film ends with them rehearsing a new Franz Liebkind musical starring their fellow inmates, called "Prisoners of Love". Leo Bloom continues to oversell shares of the play to the other prisoners and even to the warden, while Max, during rehearsal, dances to the song with the prisoners singing it. The song is performed while the credits are shown.

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