Mel Brooks is a comedic genius. He is the mind behind some of the smartest and most hilarious spoofs, parodies, and farces of the modern age. In fact, to say that his influence echoes through the world of comedic filmmaking would be an understatement. Without him, the world would be lacking in the laughter department. Today, Brooks turns 95 years old. So, to celebrate, we’re going to look back at his career and some of his best films.
Mel Brooks’ Beginnings
Today, we know Mel Brooks as an accomplished writer, director, actor, and producer. However, he got his start as a writer on Your Show of Shows in 1950. Before he ever struck out on his own to create some of the greatest comedies in cinematic history, he was one of the minds behind several classics. His list of early writing credits includes Get Smart, The 2000 Year Old Man, and the Broadway show Shinbone Alley, according to his IMDb biography.
His filmography contains some of the most hilarious films you’ll ever see. So, let’s look at a few of them. In no particular order, here are some solid examples of Mel Brooks’ gems.
The Producers (1967) Mel Brooks’ Directorial Debut
The Producers introduced the world to Mel Brooks in a big way. He wrote and directed the film. It starred Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. This marked the beginning of a long line of collaborations between Brooks and Wilder. The film itself is focused on an underhanded producer and his accountant. The plan to create the worst musical possible as part of a scam. They finally decide to make a show called Springtime for Hitler.
The film was controversial from the start. A comedy featuring Hitler and the Nazi Party was hard to take for many moviegoers as well as critics. However, it later became a cult classic. The film was also adapted into a Tony-winning musical. That musical was then adapted into yet another film.
Spaceballs is a hilarious spoof of the Star Wars franchise. It takes everything about the classic sci-fi films and combines it with Mel Brooks’ unique brand of satire. Countless films have attempted to capture the magic of Brooks’ spoofs over the years. However, none have come close. This film is a shining example of his comedic genius. If you haven’t seen this one, it’s a must-watch. May the Schwartz be with you.
Blazing Saddles (1974) Mel Brooks Pushes the Envelope in an Early Film
Have you ever heard people say things like, “They don’t make them like they used to,” or “You couldn’t do a movie like that today,”? Well, Blazing Saddles fits both of those phrases like a glove. It’s a black comedy satire of classic western films. It was well-received by critics as well as audiences.
The film focuses on a crooked railroad baron who plans to buy out a small town so that he can run tracks over the land. It contains several historical anachronisms as well as some stellar performances from Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, and Cleavon Little.
However, the reason that it fits those two phrases above is that it is full of racial stereotypes and slurs. But, don’t for a minute think that Mel Brooks was reveling in the chance to put those things on film. Instead, the film shows just how ignorant bigotry is. In fact, every bigoted character in the film is the butt of their own joke. It’s a hilarious film that showcases Brooks’ top-notch directorial skills. He also co-penned the script with Andrew Bergman, Alan Uger, Norman Steinberg, and comedy legend Richard Pryor.
Celebrate Mel Brooks’ birthday by going back and watching one of these comedic gems for yourself.