Captain Charles Culpeper (Culp to his friends) is the main antagonist in the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, although he begins as the protagonist. He works for the Santa Rosita Police Department, and has dedicated a large part of his career to capturing the gangster Smiler Grogan and $350,000 in stolen money. When his unhappy life begins to weigh him down in one day however, he goes rogue and attempts to steal the money for himself.
He was portrayed by legendary film actor Spencer Tracy.
At the start of the film, Smiler Grogan is killed in a car accident off the California freeway, surrounded by a small group of passing motorists. Hearing that Grogan is dead, Culpeper gives up hope of finding the loot. Then he realizes correctly that Grogan might have told the witnesses the location, and orders the police to secretly spy on all of the characters, who begin racing to Santa Rosita to find the money hidden under "a big W" (this turns out to be several palm trees leaning in the shape of a W). The group of treasure hunters continues to grow, and commit many acts of theft and destruction in their efforts to reach the park first. Meanwhile, Culpeper continues to receive calls from his vindictive wife Ginger about his depressed daughter Billie Sue. After frustratedly juggling their calls, both his wife and daughter blame him for all their problems. Culpeper's unhappiness is added to when his friend Chief Aloysius tells him his pension is being denied. At this point, Culpeper decides to cut his losses and take the money for himself, then start a new life in Mexico.
Eventually, all the treasure hunters arrive in Santa Rosita, and Culpepper orders the policemen away and let him deal with them personally. After they dig up the loot, he reveals himself to them. The treasure hunters shamefully hand over the loot to him, believing he has come to arrest them. He pretends to be sympathetic and suggests they turn themselves in, promising a jury will look kindly on them. He then begins driving towards the border. Unfortunately, the treasure hunters spot his car and realize he has tricked them. A chase ensues.
Meanwhile, Aloysius blackmails the mayor into giving Culpeper his pension, only to hear a call from police officers that they have seen Culpeper being chased by a group of people in two cars. Realizing what the captain has done, Aloysius sadly orders his arrest. The chase forces Culpeper to leave his car, and flee into a derelict building. His pursuers follow him onto a fire escape, but their combined weight causes it to begin falling. When a firetruck comes to rescue them, they only endanger themselves further by climbing onto the ladder at once. The ladder careens wildly, sending all of them crashing to the ground in different places. Captain Culpeper is the last to fall, falling first into a tree, then sliding down a power line through the upper story window of a pet-shop, and crashing to the floor below where he is surrounded by dogs. The entire cast, including Culpeper, end up in the prison hospital wearing body casts.
The others angrily berate him for his treachery. Culpepper grimly informs them "My wife is divorcing me, my Mother In Law is suing me for damages, my daughter is applying to the courts to have her name changed, my pension has been revoked, and the only way that you ten idiots will very likely get off lightly, is because the judge will have me up there to throw the book at." He expresses a wish that sometime in the distant future he will be able to laugh again.
His wish is unexpectedly answered when Mrs. Marcus, mother of two of the hunters, arrives with the other women to shout at the men, only to slip on a banana peel on the floor. Culpeper joins with the men in a laugh as Mrs. Marcus is carried out screaming.