An ordinary turn in the road on the California highway is a point of pilgrimage for hardcore fans of a 1960s comedy film, who have named it Smiler’s Point.
The 1963 critical and box office smash hit It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World opens with a sequence in which a reckless driver plummets over a cliff on the highway in the California desert. With his dying breaths the driver, Smiler Grogan (who famously kicks the bucket in the most literal sense possible), tells the witnesses of the crash of a buried treasure near the Mexican border, setting in motion an epic race for the loot. The film is one of the most influential comedies of all time, kick-starting the trend for epic comedy films with large all-star ensemble casts, and it has been remade several times, including in 2001 as Rat Race.
Starring Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, and Ethel Merman, and featuring cameos from Buster Keaton, the Three Stooges, and Jerry Lewis, the film was a huge box office success. It won an Academy Award in 1963, was chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 greatest comedy films in 2000, and was restored in an extended version by the Criterion Collection in 2014.
The film continues to inspire a large cult fan base, many of whom seek out and document original locations from the film, with one of the most popular being this site, dubbed Smiler’s Point.
Travellers to Smiler’s Point are advised to drive carefully, and to only park their vehicles in designated areas. Please note, there are no footpaths to Smiler’s Point, and the best way to view it is to drive by slowly. Travellers are also advised to quote the oft-repeated line “He sailed right out there!” as a tribute to the fallen Smiler Grogan as they drive by!
Know Before You Go
California State Route 74, south of Palm Desert. Smiler's Point is best viewed driving North towards Palm Desert. Immediately before reaching Smiler's Point you will see a small dirt layby at the side of the road, and immediately after Smiler's Point the road will pass through a section of the mountain that has been cut away.