Best known for his broad film farces and comic parodies. In the late ’60s and early to mid ’70s he was one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, creating such movies as The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein.
Mel Brooks is one of the few people to have won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy. Actually, he’s won three Grammy Awards, one for “The 2000 Year Old Man” and two for “The Producers” on Broadway; three Tonys, all for “The Producers”; three Emmys, all for acting, in “Mad About You”; and an Oscar for the screenplay of “The Producers.”
Notice that none of those awards are for directing? A gifted humorist and Renaissance Man, as one can see from the variety of awards, Brooks can count acting, composing, lyric-writing, producing, directing and writing as professions he gets paid for. He admits that writing is his favorite, and it is hard to imagine Mel Brooks directing anything that he didn’t write. He has, however, worked as a producer on several quite serious films including “Elephant Man“, “84 Charing Cross Road”, and “Frances”.
Mel Brooks was born in 1926 in Brooklyn. He spent some time fighting the real Hitler in World War II, where, as the stories go, he was quite the cut-up, one time singing “Toot Toot Tootsie Good Bye” into a bullhorn for German troops in the distance.
After the war, he was one of the famed staff writers of Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows”, arguably the most popular television series ever. He went on to create, with Buck Henry, “Get Smart”, the sitcom spoof of James Bond, and is involved with the upcoming movie version.
His debut film, “The Producers”, (1968) a parody of Broadway musicals, starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, set the pattern for Brooks: Blazing Saddles, parodying westerns; Young Frankenstein, the old horror movies; Silent Movie, moviemaking in general; High Anxiety, Hitchcockian movies; and, Spaceballs, parodying Star Wars.
Though “Spaceballs” (1987) and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993) were commercially successful, there is no question that Mel Brooks’s best films were in the ’70s. That is, until the 2005 release of the film version of his highly acclaimed Broadway version of his very first film, “The Producers”. This one, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, who directed and choreographed the musical, stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. It received 12 Tony Awards as a musical and is even more successful financially than the musical within the play, “Springtime for Hitler”. Is it as good as the original film? The answer to that, perhaps, depends more on your age than anything else. It wouldn’t hurt to rent both.
Though this film is truly wall-to-wall side-splitting, roll out of your chair hilarious, the scene between Peter Boyle as the Monster and Gene Hackman as a blind hermit, sharing soup and a smoke, stands out for the most laughs per second. Every scene with Marty Feldman, as Igor, is brilliant. The scene when Igor explains that he got the wrong brain, belonging to Abby Normal,” and the jokes about his hump, are always favorites.
There is one word spoken in this silent film. To complete the paradox of it, the speaker is none other than renowned mime Marcel Marceau. That alone is one of the most brilliant comedic ideas ever. But, when you find out what the word is, it adds yet another luscious twist to the scene.
The audacity of B.S. is summed up in the classic Beans Around the Campfire scene. Madeline Kahn, one of Mel’s regular troupe of actors, (all of whom were brilliant comics), is so captivating as Lili Von Schtupp, you just cant pick a scene. They’re all brilliant.
Mel Brooks’s directing credits include…
|1970||The Twelve Chairs|
|1981||History of the World, Part I|
|1993||Robin Hood: Men in Tights|
|1995||Dracula: Dead and Loving It|