Brooks is the product of live-audience TV7, hired to write gags for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows in 1950. For over a decade, he was a script doctor for TV, radio, and stage musicals. In 1964, he did the voice on Ernest Pintoff’s cartoon, The Critic. His first two features are his most personal and dangerous works. The Producers has moments of rich bad taste, and its Jewish show-biz angle is all the sharper for having Hitlerism as an opponent and Zero Mostel as its spokesman.
But those early works were too prickly for popular acceptance, and Blazing Saddles was a concession to the masses, devoid of wit or a feeling for Westerns. There is a facetious, mindless desperation grabbing laughs anywhere, anyhow, regardless ol the intrinsic amusement of men in cowboy hats always appreciated by the directors ol good Westerns. Young Frankenstein has more sense of the horror genre's dignity, and Silent Movie is an unashamed revue, including fine sketches with Burt Reynolds and Brooks’s wife, Anne Bancroft. High Anxiety is a disaster: coarse and repetitive and without the shocking malice that Hitchcock employs to make us smile. It has only one unflawed sequence, when Brooks himself sings a love song and discloses a forlorn, pompous ham. That character is both funny and touching, and might be the basis of something much more worthwhile.
There is little more to he said for Brooks the director. He has acted occasionally—in To Be or Not to Be (83, Alan Johnson) and as a voice in Look Who’s Talking, Too! (91. Amy Heckerling). But it is as an executive producer that he has been most adventurous and useful: The Elephant Man (SO, David Lynch); Frances (82, Graeme Clif-ford); The Doctor and the Devils (85, Freddie Francis); 84 Charing Cross Road (86, David Jones); The Fly (86, David Cronenberg); and Solarbabies (86, Johnson)—a remarkable attention to deformity and the grotesque.
The prodigious Broadway success of The Producers, and its final proof that setting out to fail is as sure a way as any.
(Book by Gilbert Pearlman (Adapter), Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks)
(Loose leaf copy of a draft of the shooting script. Movie ...)
Author: sketch Of Fathers and Sons in New Faces of 1952, 1957, sketch Shinbone Alley. Co-author: sketch All American, 1962. Writer (television series) Your Show of Shows, also Caesar's Hour, The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special, 1967 (Emmy award for outstanding writing achievement in a comedy-variety), co-creator Get Smart, recordings include 2000 Years, 2000 and One Years, 2000 and Thirteen Years, 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000, 1997 (Grammy award for Best Spoken Word Album Comedy, 1998), writer, director (films) The Producers, 1968 (Academy award for Best Original Screenplay), writer, director, actor The Twelve Chairs, 1970, co-writer, director, actor Blazing Saddles, 1974, Young Frankenstein, 1974, The Silent Movie, 1976, co-writer, director, producer, star Robin Hood: Men In Tights, 1993, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, 1995, producer, director, co-writer and star High Anxiety, 1977, Spaceballs, 1987, Life Stinks!, 1991, writer, director, producer, star History of the World-Part I, 1981, writer, narrator The Critic, 1964 (Academy award for best animated short subject).Actor(voice only): (films) Robots, 2005. Actor, producer (films) To Be or Not To Be, 1983. Producer: (films) 84 Charing Cross Road, 1987.Producer: (films) The Elephant Man, 1980, Frances, 1982, My Favorite Year, 1982. Guest actor (television series) Mad About You (Emmy award for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series, 1997, 1998, 1999), co-writer, composer, producer (Broadway musical) The Producers, 2001 (3 Tony awards, Grammy nomination for best song written for motion picture, 2005), Young Frankenstein, 2007.
A besetting handicap of modern comedy is its belief that media conventions and genre takeoffs are funnier than human predicaments. The noblest comedians created a character who might have lived and suffered anywhere, without self-consciousness. The events of their comedies are everyday and ordinary. But for Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, humor grows in the hothouse of burlesque. Their own comic attitudes are less subtle and appealing because their clenched personalities are preoccupied with the clichés of entertainment and the task of rip-off parody. With Allen, this may be a substantial loss. But in the case of Brooks, everything suggests a brash, superficial personality dependent on the role of stage schmuck. Nothing shows Brooks’s vulgarity more than the reckless idea that Hitchcock merited pastiche. A serious comic would respect fat Alfred for being an inimitable black humorist, far more dainty and piercing than the clumsy efforts of High Anxiety.