A pioneer community is rankled by the introduction of the first black sheriff in this epic parody of the Wild West.
Madeline Kahn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Mel Brooks and John Morris were also nominated for Best Original Song, “Blazing Saddles”.
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“The Blues Brothers”. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. And yes, “Blazing Saddles”. These are the three funniest movies I have ever seen, and I have seen an awful lot of them.
So, here is the story. A destitute black railroad worker is forced into becoming the local sheriff of a town that the assistant governor, Hedley Lamarr, wants to destroy. This is the town of Rock Ridge, a rustic dwelling of racist pioneers and dim-witted, God-fearing farmers.
And if you have not yet seen Mel Brooks’ comedy classic, then you should read no further. Because I do not want to be responsible for soiling your enjoyment of perhaps the most comical movie to ever come out of American theaters.
With his first picture filmed in Panavision scope, Mel Brooks shakes the comic foundations of American cinema. Racist slurs, bodily noises, gay Hollywood filmmakers. You name it. It’s in there. “Blazing Saddles” has lasted in comedy as one of the most offensive examples of gastrointestinal humor. Can anyone tell me a more blatant experience involving the passing of methane gas?
When Bart (Cleavon Little, in perhaps one of the most neglected performances in filmed comedy history) is recruited as the new sheriff of Rock Ridge, he discovers Lamarr’s sinister plot to destroy the town by running a railroad straight through it.
Then cometh the chaos. Lamarr sends dastardly cowboys, angelic sirens, and a savage ox of a cowboy named Mongo to stop Sheriff Bart. Enter Gene Wilder, brilliant as the alcoholic sidekick Jim, formerly known as the Waco Kid, who had the fastest hands in the West. Yes, the reference is staring Dean Martin right in the face. Like Martin, Jim is redeemed by the weight of responsibility and good nature.
This review would be absurd without giving honorable mention to the Late Great Madeline Kahn, who received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Lili Von Shtupp. I cannot prove it, but I have always believed that Madonna owes a handful of gratitude to Miss Kahn for her performance as the tempting songstress. Just look at Lili Von Shtupp’s seductive stance upon the stage and you can imagine where the Material One got the inspiration for her trademark image.
Other fans of the movie may not know that Richard Pryor, who co-wrote the screenplay, was intended to play the lead role. However, because of his unpredictable comedic routine, Brooks could not secure the insurance to finance his performance in the starring role. Therefore, the part went to Little, and Pryor was made a co-writer.
In the scene where Lili Von Shtupp seduces Sheriff Bart, she says, “Is it true what they say about black guys?” An unzipping of the pants is heard in the blinding darkness. “Oh, it’s true, it’s true!”
The line that got cut out was one Pryor himself wrote. Bart was supposed to say, “You’re sucking on my arm.”
Another one of my favorite anecdotes regarding this movie is the story of Frankie Laine, who sings the Oscar nominated title song. When Brooks advertised in the show business trade publications, he requested a “Frankie Laine-type” of performer. At that point in his career, Laine had entertained audiences by belting out showtunes to cowboy classics like “Gunfight at O.K. Corral” and the original “3:10 to Yuma”. When Laine himself showed up to audition, Brooks neglected to mention that the movie was a parody. Can you imagine the surprise he must have experienced the first time he watched the movie, expecting it to be an actual Western?