In 2009, “Blazing Saddles” will celebrate 35 years since its initial theatrical release in 1974. I still laugh heartily, sometimes wiping tears from my face, every time I watch “Blazing Saddles”, even with most of the words edited for television.
Mel Brooks spared no one in this parody of classic Western films. He even made sure to include a German chanteuse a la Marlene Dietrich in “Destry Rides Again.” Co-written by Richard Pryor, “Blazing Saddles” skewers every ethnicity, sexual preference, handicap, film genre and criminal record known in the early 1970s.
Pryor was originally slated to star as “Sheriff Bart”, but due to his controversial comedy acts, Brooks couldn’t secure financing for a film starring the talented comedian. Cleavon Little made the film his own, showing great chemistry with co-stars Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn. The supporting cast, headlined by Slim Pickens, is stellar.
All of these assets – great comedic writing, stellar cast and satire – would do nothing to permit “Blazing Saddles” to see the inside of a movie theater in 2009. In today’s politically correct world, I can imagine Mel Brooks presenting this script with a working title of “Tex X” to the studio heads.
Studio Executive: Mel, great to see you. We’ve really missed seeing your work!
Mel Brooks: Yeah, well I was working on something with Richard Pryor, keeping me busy after Anne passed away in 2005, but when he died that same year it sort of went to the back burner. I’ve finally found the heart and I think it’s some of my best work. Not quite as funny as “Young Frankenstein”, but close.
SE: (after reading the synopsis): Um…Mel? You know, we did pretty well with “3:10 to Yuma”, but Westerns are a pretty tough sell. And a farting scene? What’s so funny about that?
MB: No…this is satire. It’s a parody of all the Westerns. Think about it. Everyone has jumped on the satire bandwagon. Some schmuck even copied “History of the World Part 1” with “Meet the Spartans”.
SE: I see your point – there’s an even bigger problem, though. We don’t use the “N” word these days. No way, no how, not ever – unless the principal cast is black and calling each other the “N” word as a term of affection. Whites can’t say it at all.
MB: Look – I’m making fun of everybody! The Chinese, the Irish, Germans, homosexuals, the Jewish – I’m Jewish and I’m parodying myself!
SE: Sorry, Mel. Our liability insurance doesn’t cover intentionally offending a protected class of citizens. Do you have anything about George Bush?
A 30th Anniversary DVD of “Blazing Saddles” was released in 2004 and can still be found at many online retailers.