Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Back in the Saddle Again
On a lighter note, Mel Brooks is "Back in the Saddle," taking questions after a screening of Blazing Saddles at the Radio City Music Hall on September 1. Clearly, this is his favorite movie, as he claims to have seen it at least 2000 times, but gives his 11-year-old grandson kudos for pulling up quotes at the perfect time, such as "somebody has gotta go back and get a shit load of dimes," at the supermarket check-out line.
It's one of those movies you simply don't forget, recalling scenes at odd times and having to stifle a guffaw, as it is too much trouble to try to explain. You have to see Blazing Saddles to understand why it is so funny.
Brooks doesn't think he would be able to make the movie in today's PC-minded world, but is Trump really that much different from Hedley Lamarr? The humor still rings true today, which is why people still turn up to watch it, especially if the King of Comedy is going to be there to answer questions afterward.
The story revolves around a black sheriff trying to defend a white town against an army of horse thieves, bull dikes, train robbers, chain robbers ... so that Gov. William J. Le Petomane (played by Brooks) can run a railroad through the town. The role fell to Cleavon Little when the studio rejected Richard Pryor because of a recent drug arrest. Pryor would co-write the screenplay with Brooks.
The film fed off the racist and misogynistic stereotypes of Westerns. Apparently, Brooks worried that they were saying "nigger" too much, but Pryor assured him it was fine as long as the racists and bad guys said it.
Gene Wilder was the perfect sidekick to Sheriff Bart as the "Waco Kid," keeping his dry humor as close to his hip as his gun. Wilder was also a stand-in as Brooks initially wanted Gig Young, but Gig was too drunk to play the role and couldn't get out any of the lines. Wilder had long been one of Brooks' favorites and for good reason. He could always be counted on to deliver the lines.
Madeline Kahn proved to have a great pair of legs, reprising Marlene Dietrich's role from Destry Rides Again. Many other familiar faces as well, but it was Alex Karras who stole the show by punching out a horse, which wouldn't sit too well today with PETA.
I never get tired of watching this movie.