Jewish Entertainment:
Jewish Actors, Playwrights, Comedians, Musicians

Mel Brooks
(Jewish Name of Melvin Kaminsky)

Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky; June 28, 1926)[1] is an American film director, screenwriter, composer, lyricist, comedian, actor and producer. He is best known as a creator of broad film farces and comic parodies. He began his career as a stand-up comic and as a writer for the early TV variety show Your Show of Shows. He became well known as part of the comedy duo with Carl Reiner, The 2000 Year Old Man. In middle age he became one of the most successful film directors of the 1970s, with many of his films being among the top ten money makers of the year that they were released. His most well known films include The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, History of the World, Part I and Spaceballs. More recently he has had a smash hit on Broadway with the musical adaptation of his first film, The Producers. He was married to the actress Anne Bancroft from 1964 until her death in 2005.

Brooks is a member of the short list of entertainers with the distinction of having won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award. Three of his films ranked in the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 comedy films of all-time: Blazing Saddles at number 6, The Producers at number 11, and Young Frankenstein at number 13.[2]

Early life

Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York, a son of Maximilian Kaminsky and his wife Kate (née Brookman).[3] His father's family were German Jews from the Baltic Sea port of Danzig (the modern Polish port of Gdansk); his mother's family were Ukrainian Jews from Kiev.[4] He had three older brothers, Irving, Lenny and Bernie. His father died of kidney disease at 34 when Brooks was only two years old.[5] Brooks has said of his father's death that "there's an outrage there. I may be angry at God, or at the world, for that. And I'm sure a lot of my comedy is based on anger and hostility. Growing up in Williamsburg, I learned to clothe it in comedy to spare myself problems - like a punch in the face."[6]

Brooks was a small, sickly boy who was often bullied and picked on by his classmates.[7] He was taught by Buddy Rich (who had also grown up in Williamsburg) to learn how to play the drums and started earning money at it when he was fourteen.[6] After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School,[citation needed] he spent a year at Brooklyn College as a psychology major before being drafted into the army.[6] He attended the Army Specialized Training Program[8] conducted at the Virginia Military Institute[9] (although not actually as a VMI cadet) and served in the United States Army as a corporal during World War II, arriving in France weeks after the Battle of the Bulge.[10]

Career

Early career and Your Show of Shows

After World War II, Brooks started working in various Borscht Belt resorts and nightclubs in the Catskill Mountains as a drummer and pianist. Around this time he changed his professional name to "Mel Brooks" after being confused with the well-known Borscht Belt trumpet player Max Kaminsky.[6] After a regular comic at one of the nightclubs was too sick to perform one night, Brooks started working as a stand-up comic, telling jokes and doing movie-star impressions. He also began acting in summer stock in Redbank, New Jersey and did some radio work.[6] He eventually worked his way up to the comically aggressive job of Tummler (master entertainer) at Grossinger's, one of the Borscht Belt most famous resorts.[6][11]

Brooks found more rewarding work behind the scenes, becoming a comedy writer for television. In 1949 his friend Sid Caesar hired Brooks to write jokes for the NBC series The Admiral Broadway Revue, paying him $50 a week. In 1950, Caesar created the revolutionary variety comedy series Your Show of Shows and hired Brooks as a writer along with Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, and head writer Mel Tolkin.[6] The show was an immediate hit and has been influential to all variety and sketch-comedy TV shows since. Carl Reiner, as creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show, based Morey Amsterdam's character Buddy Sorell on Brooks. Likewise the 1982 film My Favorite Year is loosely based on Brooks' experiences as a writer on the show and an encounter with aging Hollywood actor Errol Flynn. Neil Simon's 1993 play Laughter on the 23rd Floor is also loosely based on the production of the show, and the character Ira Stone is based on Brooks.

Your Show of Shows would end in 1954 when performer Imogene Coca left to host her own show. Caesar then created Caesar's Hour with most of the same cast and writers (including Brooks and adding Larry Gelbart). Caesar's Hour ran from 1954 until 1957.

In 1957 Brooks wrote the book for his first Broadway musical Shinbone Alley.

The 2000 Year Old Man and Get Smart

Brooks and co-writer Reiner had become fast friends and began to casually improvise comedy routines when they weren't working. Reiner would play the straight man interviewer who would set Brooks up as anything from a Tibetan Monk to an astronaut. As Reiner explained, "In the evening we'd go to a party and I'd pick a character for him to play. I never told him what it was going to be."[6] On one of these occasions Reiner's suggestion was a 2000 Year Old Man who had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (who "came in the store but never bought anything"), had been married several hundred times and had "over forty-two thousand children, and not one comes to visit me." At first Brooks and Reiner would only perform the routine for friends but by the late 1950s had gained a cult status in New York City. Kenneth Tynan saw the comedy duo perform at a party in 1959 and wrote that Brooks "was the most original comic improvisor I had ever seen."[6]

In 1960, Brooks moved from New York to Hollywood. He and Reiner began performing the 2000 Year Old Man act on the Steve Allen Show. Their performances led to the release of the comedy album 2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks that sold over a million copies in 1961.[6] They eventually expanded their routine with two more albums in 1961 and 1962, a revival in 1973, a 1975 animated TV special and a reunion album in 1998.

Brooks adapted the 2000 Year Old Man character to create the 2500 Year Old Brewmaster for Ballantine Beer in the 1960s. Interviewed by Dick Cavett in a series of ads, the Brewmaster (in a German accent, as opposed to the 2000 Year Old Man's Yiddish accent) said he was inside the original Trojan horse and "could've used a six-pack of fresh air."[12]

In 1962 Brooks wrote the Broadway musical All American. Brooks wrote the play with lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse. The show starred Ray Bolger as a southern science Professor at a large university who uses the principles of engineering on the college's football team and the team begins to win games. The show was directed by Joshua Logan, who script doctored the second act and added a gay subtext to the plot. The show ran for 80 performances and received two Tony Award nominations.

In 1963 Brooks was involved in the animated short film The Critic, a satire of arty, esoteric cinema, conceived by Brooks and directed by Ernest Pintoff. Brooks supplied running commentary as the baffled moviegoer trying to make sense of the obscure visuals. The short film won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film.

In 1965, Brooks teamed up with comedy writer Buck Henry to create a comedic TV show about a bumbling James Bond inspired spy. Brooks explains, "I was sick of looking at all those nice sensible situation comedies. They were such distortions of life...I wanted to do a crazy, unreal comic-strip kind of thing about something besides a family. No one had ever done a show about an idiot before. I decided to be the first."[13] The show that Brooks and Henry created was Get Smart, starring Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86. This series ran from 1965 until 1970, although Brooks was not involved with its production after the pilot episode.[14] Get Smart was highly rated for most of its production and won seven Emmy Awards,[15] including Outstanding Comedy Series in 1968 and 1969.

Brooks had married actress Anne Bancroft in 1964 and the two lived together in New York City.

Early career as a film director

For several years Brooks had been toying with a bizarre and unconventional idea about a musical comedy of Adolf Hitler. Brooks explored the idea as a novel and a play before finally writing a script.[6] Eventually he was able to find two producers to fund the show, Joseph E. Levine and Sidney Glazier, and made his first feature film, The Producers, in 1968. The film starred Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn, Kenneth Mars, Christopher Hewett, Andréas Voutsinas and Lee Meredith with music by John Morris.

The Producers begins when Max Bialystock (Mostel), a once-successful Broadway producer who whores himself out to elderly women in order to make ends meet and produce plays, meets Leo Bloom (Wilder), a lonely and hyper-hysterical accountant. While Leo is looking over Max's books, he realizes that a producer could make more money producing a flop than a hit simply by raising more money than needed and then ensuring the play would not make any profits to pay back the backers. Max and Leo search for the worst play ever written, which turns out to be Springtime for Hitler by Franz Liebkind (Mars). The play is described as "a gay romp with Adolph and Eva through Berchtesgaden". It turns into a musical comedy under Max and Leo's leadership. After assembling an equally abysmal director, Roger De Bris (Hewett), and a brain-dead hippie to play Hitler (Shawn), Max and Leo expect to become rich with the anticipated flop. However, the audience interprets the play as a satire making it a huge comedic hit. Not wanting to go to jail, Max, Leo and Franz decide to blow up the theater but are caught in the explosion and sentenced to prison, where they promptly produce a musical revue using the prison inmates.[6]

The Producers was so brazen in its satire that major studios would not touch it, nor would many exhibitors. Brooks finally found an independent distributor who released it as an art film, a specialized attraction. In 1968 Brooks received an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film beating such writers as Stanley Kubrick and John Cassavetes. The Producers became a smash underground hit, first on the nationwide college circuit, then in revivals and on home video. Brooks later turned it into a musical, which became hugely successful on Broadway receiving an unprecedented twelve Tony awards.

With the moderate financial success of the film The Producers, Glazier financed Brooks' next film in 1970, The Twelve Chairs. Loosely based on a Russian 1928 novel The Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov about greedy materialism in post-Revolutionary Russia, the film stars Ron Moody, Frank Langella and Dom DeLuise as three men individually searching for a fortune in diamonds hidden in a set of twelve antique chairs. Brooks himself has a cameo as an alcoholic ex-serf who "yearns for the regular beatings of yesteryear." The film was shot in Yugoslavia with a budget of $1.5 million. The film received poor reviews and was not financially successful.[6]

Success as a Hollywood director

Brooks then wrote an adaptation of Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, but was unable to sell the idea to any studio and believed that his career was over. In 1972 Brooks met agent David Begelman who helped him set up a deal with Warner Brothers to hire Brooks (as well as Richard Pryor, Andrew Bergman, Norman Steinberg and Al Uger) as a script doctor for an unproduced script called Tex-X. Eventually Brooks was hired as director for what would become Blazing Saddles, his third film.[6]

Blazing Saddles starred Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, Madeline Kahn, Alex Karras and Brooks himself with cameos by Dom DeLuise and Count Basie. The film had music by Brooks and John Morris and received a modest budget of $2.6 million. This film is a satire on the Western film genre and references older films such as Destry Rides Again, High Noon, Once Upon a Time in the West and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre as well as a surreal scene towards the end of the film referencing the extravagant musicals of Busby Berkeley.

In the film, the small town of Rock Ridge is in the pathway of the new railroad being built. In order to buy the land on the route more cheaply, the corrupt State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Korman) and the dim-witted State Governor (Brooks) plot to drive the townspeople out by appointing as their new sheriff a black man, Bart (Little). The racist townspeople are slow to accept Sheriff Bart, but with the help of the drunken ex-gunslinger the Waco Kid (Wilder) he is able to rid the town of all crime and problems and wins the people over. Realizing that they have to do something to destroy Bart's reputation, Lamarr sends the saloon singer Lili von Shtupp (Kahn) to seduce and corrupt Bart. However, she ends up falling in love with him, so as a final effort to drive the townspeople away, Lamarr organizes a raid to burn the town to the ground. But, under Bart's leadership, the townspeople are able to fight off Lamarr's men, and in the ensuing fight the film itself spills over into other films being shot on the Warner brother lot, such as a musical directed by the temperamental Dom DeLuise character. In the end the townspeople are saved and Sheriff Bart rides off into the sunset.

Upon its release, Blazing Saddles was the second highest grossing film, domestically, of 1974 earning $119.5 million worldwide. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a success with younger audiences. It was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Madeline Kahn, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Original Song. The film won the Writers Guild of America Award for "Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen"[16] and in 2006 it was deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[17] Brooks has said that the film "has to do with love more than anything else. I mean when that black guy rides into that Old Western town and even a little old lady says 'Up yours nigger!', you know that his heart is broken. So its really the story of that heart being mended."[6]

When Gene Wilder replaced Gig Young as the Waco Kid, he did so only if Brooks agreed that his next film would be an idea that Wilder had been working on: a spoof of the old Universal Frankenstein films.[18] After the filming of Blazing Saddles was completed, Wilder and Brooks began writing the script for Young Frankenstein and shot the film in the spring of 1974. It starred Wilder, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman and Kenneth Mars with Gene Hackman in a memorable cameo role. Composer John Morris again provided the music score and Universal Monsters film special effects veteran Kenneth Strickfaden worked on the film.

Young Frankenstein stars Wilder as the young American scientist Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced "Fronk-en-steen") who travels to Transylvania to visit his famous grandfather's castle and laboratory. With the help of hunchback servant Igor (Feldman), beautiful assistant Inga (Garr) and suspicious housekeeper Frau Blücher (Leachman), Frankenstein discovers his grandfather's notebooks and attempts to continue his work in reanimation. He builds his creation, the monster (Boyle) but Igor accidentally obtains an abnormal brain making the monster violent and uncontrollable. When the monster escapes, he terrorizes the countryside before Dr. Frankenstein can lure him back to the castle and civilize him, ending in a sophisticated and humorous rendition of Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz". The monster's violent tendencies come back and he is put in jail by Inspector Kemp (Mars). In the meantime, Dr. Frankenstein has begun a relationship with Inga just before his insufferable fiance Elizabeth (Kahn) arrives at the castle. The monster escapes from jail, kidnaps Elizabeth and seduces her to her great satisfaction. Dr. Frankenstein is able to get the monster back again and attempts a dangerous experiment sharing part of his own brain with the monster, which succeeds in civilizing him. In the end Frankenstein and Inga are happily married, as are Elizabeth and the monster.

Young Frankenstein was the third highest grossing film domestically of 1974, just behind Blazing Saddles. It earned $86 million worldwide and received two Academy Award nominations: Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay and Academy Award for Best Sound. It received some of the best reviews of Brooks' career and even critic Pauline Kael liked the film, saying that "Brooks makes a leap up as a director because, although the comedy doesn't build, he carries the story through...Brooks even has a satisfying windup, which makes this just about the only comedy of recent years that doesn't collapse."[6]

In 1975, at the height of his movie career, Brooks tried TV again with When Things Were Rotten, a Robin Hood parody that lasted only 13 episodes. Nearly twenty years later, in response to the 1991 hit film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Brooks mounted another Robin Hood parody with Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Brooks's film resurrected several pieces of dialog from his TV series, as well as from earlier Brooks films.

In 1976, Brooks followed up his two hit films with an audacious idea: the first feature-length silent comedy in four decades. Silent Movie was written by Brooks and Ron Clark, starring Brooks in his first leading role, Dom DeLuise, Marty Feldman, Sid Caesar, Bernadette Peters and, in cameo roles playing themselves: Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Liza Minnelli, Anne Bancroft and ironically, Marcel Marceau, who uttered the film's only word of audible dialogue: "Non!"

In the film Brooks plays Mel Funn, a recovered alcoholic and once successful director, who convinces the Chief of his studio (Caesar) that a silent film could still be profitable and will save the studio from being taken over by the evil conglomerate Engulf & Devour (a thinly disguised reference to Gulf+Western's takeover of Paramount Pictures). With help from his two assistants, DeLuise and Feldman, Funn enlists several well known movie stars to appear in the film thus assuring its success. Worried that Funn's success will prevent their takeover, Engulf & Devour send the sexy nightclub singer Vilma Kaplan (Peters) to seduce and distract Funn. But Kaplan and Funn fall in love with each other and Funn is able to complete the film. In the end the film is a hit with audiences.[6]

Although not as successful as his previous two films, Silent Movie was a hit and grossed $36 million. Later that year Brooks was named number 5 on a list of the Top Ten Box Office Stars.[6]

In 1977, Brooks made a parody of the films of Alfred Hitchcock in High Anxiety. The film was written by Brooks, Ron Clark, Rudy De Luca and Barry Levinson and was the first movie produced by Brooks himself. It starred Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Korman, Ron Carey, Howard Morris and Dick Van Patten. The film satirizes such Hitchcock classic films as Vertigo, Spellbound, Psycho, The Birds, North by Northwest, Dial M for Murder and Suspicion.

Brooks stars as Professor Richard H. (for Harpo) Thorndyke, a Nobel Prize winning psychologist who also happens to suffer from high anxiety. Thorndyke is appointed the director of the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous, which also employs sadistic Nurse Diesel (Leachman) and masochistic Dr. Montague (Korman). Things at the hospital are not what they seem and as Thorndyke becomes increasingly suspicious of Diesel and Montague, he is approached by the mysterious Hitchcockian-blonde Victoria Brisbane (Kahn), whose father is a patient at the hospital. Thorndyke and Brisbane uncover a plot by Diesel and Montague to imprison wealthy patients for profit with Thorndyke framed for a murder. On the run as a Hitchcockian Wrong Man, Thorndyke is able to rescue Brisbane's father and clear himself of all crimes, marrying Brisbane in the end.[6] The film was another modest hit for Brooks, earning $31 million and received mixed reviews.

Later film career

Brooks in c. February 1984

By 1980, Siskel and Ebert called Mel Brooks and Woody Allen "the two most successful comedy directors in the world today ... America's two funniest filmmakers."[19] That year, Brooks produced the dramatic film The Elephant Man (directed by David Lynch). Knowing that anyone seeing a poster reading "Mel Brooks presents The Elephant Man" would expect a comedy, he set up the company Brooksfilms. Brooksfilms has since produced a number of non-comedy films, including David Cronenberg's The Fly, Frances, and 84 Charing Cross Road, starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft, along with comedies, including Richard Benjamin's My Favorite Year, which was partially based on Mel Brooks' real life. Brooks sought to purchase the rights to 84 Charing Cross Road for his wife, Anne Bancroft for many years. He successfully obtained the rights to the movie and presented them to her as an anniversary gift.

In 1981 Brooks joked that the only genres that he had not spoofed were historical epics and Biblical spectacles.[6] History of the World Part I was a tongue-in-cheek look at human culture from the Dawn of Man to the French Revolution. The film was written, produced and directed by Brooks with narration by Orson Welles. It starred Brooks, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Ron Carey, Gregory Hines, Mary-Margaret Humes, Pamela Stephenson, Spike Milligan, Sid Caesar and John Hurt.

The episodic film begins with "The Dawn of Man" starring Sid Caesar as a Caveman who discovers fire and music. Next it covers "The Old Testament" where Brooks plays a bumbling Moses who breaks one of God's tablets thus denying humans of 5 of the original 15 commandments. In "The Roman Emperor", Brooks plays a stand-up philosopher who, along with a Vestal Virgin (Humes) and a slave (Hines), gets into trouble with Emperor Nero (DeLuise) and Empress Nympho (Kahn) but they manage to escape unharmed. Eventually Brooks gets a job as the waiter at the Last Supper of Jesus (Hurt). In "The Spanish Inquisition", Brooks portrays the violent and tragic Inquisition of Jews as a grandiose Busby Berkeley-like musical number. In "The French Revolution" Brooks plays both King Louis and the King's look-a-like "piss boy". He manages to help Mademoiselle Rimbaud (Stephenson) save her father (Milligan) from prison. The film's final section, "Coming Attractions", is a fake trailer for the sequel to the film and includes "Hitler on Ice" and "Jews in Space".

This film was another modest financial hit, earning $31 million. It received mixed critical reviews. Critic Pauline Kael, who for years had been critical of Brooks, said "Either you get stuck thinking about the bad taste or you let yourself laugh at the obscenity in the humor as you do Bunuel's perverse dirty jokes."[6]

As part of the film's soundtrack, Brooks, then aged 55, recorded a rap entitled "It's Good to Be the King", a parody of Louis XVI and the French Revolution. It was released as a single and became a surprise dance hit in the United States.

In 1983 Brooks produced and starred in (but did not write or direct) a remake of the classic 1942 Ernst Lubitsch film. To Be or Not to Be was directed by Alan Johnson and starred Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Tim Matheson, Jose Ferrer and Christopher Lloyd. The film was not a financial success, earning only $13 million.

The film spawned a highly controversial single that was featured as part of the film's soundtrack album (although not in the film itself) - "To Be Or Not To Be" (The Hitler Rap). The song - satirizing German society in the 1940s with Brooks playing Hitler - was an unlikely hit, peaking at #12 on the UK Singles Chart in February 1984 and #3 on the Australian Singles Chart (Kent Music Report) that same year.

The second movie Brooks directed in the 80s came in 1987 in the form of Spaceballs, a parody of science fiction, mainly Star Wars. The film starred Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, Joan Rivers, Dom DeLuise and Brooks himself.

In the 1990s Brooks directed Life Stinks in 1991, Robin Hood: Men in Tights in 1993 and Dracula: Dead and Loving It in 1995. Life Stinks was a financial and critical failure, but is notable as being the only film that Brooks directed that is neither a parody nor a film about other films or theater (The Twelve Chairs was a parody of the original novel). It is also notable as being Brooks' last leading role in a film (as of 2011). Gene Siskel put Robin Hood: Men in Tights on his "Worst of 1993" list, saying that Brooks has "clearly lost his way" in comedy.

Brooks also had a vocal role in the 2005 animated film Robots. He then worked on an animated series sequel to Spaceballs called Spaceballs: The TV Series, which premiered on September 21, 2008 on G4 TV.

Musicals

One of his most recent successes has been the transference of his film The Producers to the Broadway stage. The show broke the Tony record with 12 wins, a record that had previously been held for 37 years by Hello, Dolly! at 10 wins. Such success has translated to a big-screen version of the Broadway adaptation/remake with actors Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane reprising their stage roles, in addition to new cast members Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell. In early April 2006, Brooks began composing the score to a Broadway musical adaptation of Young Frankenstein, which he says is "perhaps the best movie [he] ever made." The world premiere was performed at Seattle's most historic theater (originally built as a movie palace), The Paramount Theater, between August 7, 2007, and September 1, 2007 after which it opened on Broadway at the former Foxwoods Theater (then the Hilton Theater), New York, on October 11, 2007. It earned mixed reviews from the critics.

Brooks joked about the concept of a musical adaptation of Blazing Saddles in the final number in Young Frankenstein, in which the full company sings, "next year, Blazing Saddles!" In 2010, Mel Brooks confirmed this, saying that the musical could be finished within a year. No creative team or plan has been announced.[20]

Legacy

Brooks in April 2010

Brooks is one of the few artists who have received an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy. He was awarded his first Grammy for Best Spoken Comedy Album in 1999 for his recording of The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000 with Carl Reiner. His two other Grammys came in 2002 for Best Musical Show Album for the soundtrack of The Producers and for Best Long Form Music Video for the DVD "Recording the Producers - A Musical Romp with Mel Brooks". He won his first of four Emmy awards in 1967 for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Variety for a Sid Caesar special and went on to win three consecutive Emmys in 1997, 1998, and 1999 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his role of Uncle Phil on Mad About You. He won his three Tony awards in 2001 for his work on the musical, The Producers for Best Musical, Best Original Musical Score, and Best Book of a Musical. Additionally, he won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for Young Frankenstein. In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted #50 of the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. Three of Brooks's films are on the American Film Institute's list of funniest American films: Blazing Saddles (#6), The Producers (#11), and Young Frankenstein (#13).

Brooks developed a repertory company of sorts for his film work: performers with three or more of Brooks' films (The Producers, The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World: Part I, Spaceballs, Life Stinks, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and Dracula: Dead and Loving It) to their credit include Gene Wilder, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Ron Carey, Dick Van Patten and Andréas Voutsinas. Dom DeLuise appeared in six of Brooks's 11 original films, the only person with more appearances being Brooks himself.

Brooks and his wife Anne Bancroft acted together in Silent Movie and To Be or Not to Be and Bancroft also had a bit part in the 1995 film Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Years later, the couple appeared as themselves in the fourth season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, spoofing the finale of The Producers. It is reported that Bancroft encouraged Brooks (after an idea suggested by David Geffen) to take The Producers to Broadway where it became an enormous success.

In interviews broadcast on WABC radio, Brooks has discussed with NYC radio personality Mark Simone the possibilities of turning other works from his creative oeuvre (such as the movie Blazing Saddles) into future musical productions. Specifically, in a conversation airing March 1, 2008, he and Simone speculated on what show tunes might be incorporated into a theatrical adaptation of the Get Smart property.

On December 5, 2009 Brooks was one of five recipients of the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.[21]

On April 23, 2010 Brooks was awarded the 2,406th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[22]

Personal life

Mel with son Max Brooks in April 2010

Brooks was married to Florence Baum from 1953 to 1962. Their marriage ended in divorce. Mel and Florence had three children, Stephanie, Nicky, and Eddie.[citation needed]

Brooks was married to the actress Anne Bancroft from 1964 until her death from uterine cancer on June 6, 2005. They met at a rehearsal for the Perry Como Variety Show in 1961 and married three years later, August 5, at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau. Their son, Max Brooks, was born in 1972. In 2010, Brooks credited Bancroft as being the guiding force behind his involvement in developing The Producers and Young Frankenstein for the musical theater, citing an early meeting as "From that day, until her death on June 5, 2005, we were glued together."[23]

Work

Brooks at the White House for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors

Writer/director

Theatre

Other credits

Rotten Tomatoes ratings

Film All Critics Top Critics Audience
The Producers 93%[26] 90%[26] 82%[26]
The Twelve Chairs 92%[27] N/A[27] 62%[27]
Blazing Saddles 89%[28] 80%[28] 89%[28]
Young Frankenstein 94%[29] N/A[29] 91%[29]
Silent Movie 89%[30] N/A[30] 65%[30]
High Anxiety 74%[31] N/A[31] 66%[31]
History of the World, Part I 62%[32] N/A[32] 80%[32]
Spaceballs 54%[33] 33%[33] 80%[33]
Life Stinks 20%[34] N/A[34] 44%[34]
Robin Hood: Men in Tights 48%[35] N/A[35] 79%[35]
Dracula: Dead and Loving It 09%[36] 20%[36] 52%[36]
Average 66% 56% 72%

References

  1. ^ Parish, pp. 16–17
  2. ^ AFI's list
  3. ^ "Mel Brooks Biography (1926-)" at Filmreference.com
  4. ^ Mel Brooks is on a roll. As his hit revival of The Producers comes to London
  5. ^ "A Mel Brooks Fan Site :: Print :: Adelina Magazine Feb 1980". Brookslyn. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 2. The H. W. Wilson Company. 1988. 162-167.
  7. ^ "A Mel Brooks Fan Site :: Print :: Adelina Magazine Feb 1980". Brookslyn. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  8. ^ "ASTP Program and Roster, World War II, VMI." (PDF). Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  9. ^ Heard on Weekend Edition Saturday (2008-05-24). "Mel Brooks Blazes Wacky Trail". NPR. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  10. ^ These Guys Served?! Who Knew?
  11. ^ "8/15/01: Lost Issue Mel Brooks Interview 1997". Filmscoremonthly.com. Retrieved 2012-05-04.
  12. ^ Mel Brooks Interviewed in Playboy, 1966
  13. ^ "Smart Money". Time. October 15, 1965. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
  14. ^ IMDb
  15. ^ Mel Brooks Emmy Nominated
  16. ^ Awards for Blazing Saddles (1974)
  17. ^ Awards for Blazing Saddles at the Internet Movie Database
  18. ^ "Blazing Saddles (1974) - Trivia - IMDb". IMDb.com, Inc.. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  19. ^ Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (1980-05-01). "Take 2: Who's Funnier: Mel Brooks or Woody Allen?". Sneak Previews. season 4. Chicago. PBS.
  20. ^ Back on the Horse: Mel Brooks Penning Songs for Blazing Saddles Musical
  21. ^ Mel Brooks laughs his way to Kennedy Center honor - washingtonpost.com
  22. ^ "Mel Brooks gets Hollywood Walk of Fame star". MSN.
  23. ^ Carucci, John (2010-03-03). "Brooks recalls Anne Bancroft as wife, collaborator". San Francisco Chronicle.
  24. ^ Caesar's Writers | About
  25. ^ LA Times revue
  26. ^ a b c "The Producers". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  27. ^ a b c "The Twelve Chairs". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  28. ^ a b c "Blazing Saddles". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  29. ^ a b c "Young Frankenstein". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  30. ^ a b c "Silent Movie". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  31. ^ a b c "High Anxiety". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  32. ^ a b c "History of the World, Part I". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  33. ^ a b c "Spaceballs". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  34. ^ a b c "Life Stinks". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  35. ^ a b c "Robin Hood: Men in Tights". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.
  36. ^ a b c "Dracula: Dead and Loving It". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 05-11-2011.

Further reading

  • Parish, James Robert. It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks (2007) Wiley ISBN 0-471-75267-3

External links

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 
 

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