Dorothy Provine: In Her Day, Also Famous

Towards the end of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) there is a scene where all the characters have shown up in Santa Rosita Park, and are running around with shovels trying to find buried treasure. And a couple of characters sit and watch them scurry by, asking “Who’s He?” “Who’s she?”

Modern audiences are apt to ask the same question concerning Dorothy Provine (1935-2010), who plays Milton Berle’s wife in the movie. In a film populated with famous comedy stars, she’d always been something of a head scratcher to me. Why this unknown in a film full of famous people? Well, the answer is that in 1963, Provine was far from unknown, in fact she was on kind of a hot streak. True, at that point, she’d only been associated with one “classic comedy”; she was the title character in Lou Costello’s last movie, The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959).

But really at that point Provine was a constant presence on television. She guest starred on countless episodic tv shows (mostly westerns), and starred in two tv series: The Alaskans (1959-1960) and especially The Roaring Twenties (1960-1962), in which she starred as a flapper named Pinky Pinkham, even releasing a record album of period songs she sang as the character.

Ironically most of Provine’s “classic comedies” followed Mad World: Good Neighbor Sam (1964),  The Great Race (1965), That Darn Cat (1965), Who’s Minding the Mint? (1967), and Never a Dull Moment (1968), along with the light spy entertainments One Spy Too Many (1966), and Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (1966), and lots more tv.

In 1968, after a busy decade in show business, Provine retired to marry English-American director Robert Day, best known for several 60s-era Tarzan films. Originally from Deadwood, South Dakota, she spent her last two decades living in Washington State. Ironically, today she is best known for appearing in a movie full of otherwise famous people. In 1963, she was one herself.

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