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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

Blazing Saddles (1974)


What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Do our biases and cultural traditions get in the way of truly talented people doing good jobs of service to us?


Plot Summary: When the new railroad route must change and go through the town of Rock Ridge, the conniving Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) looks for a way to drive out the town residences so he can snatch the land. Moreover, Lamarr talks the Governor into appointing the first black sheriff, Bart (Clevon Little), hoping to cause further chaos and disorder. When Bart arrives in town, he is anything but popular. However, he soon teams up with the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder), a washed-up gunslinger, who becomes his deputy. Will the people of Rock Ridge be able to stand against the scheme of Lamarr or will he get the last laugh?


Cast:

  • Mel Brooks as Governor Le Petomane /Indian Chief/Director

  • Andrew Bergman, Writer

  • Cleavon Little as Bart

  • Gene Wilder as Jim

  • Slim Pickens as Taggart

  • Harvey Korman as Hedley Lamarr

  • Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Shtupp

  • Burton Gilliam as Lyle

  • Alex Karras as Mongo

  • David Huddleston as Olson Johnson

  • Liam Dunn as Rev. Johnson

  • John Hillerman as Howard Johnson

  • George Furth as Van Johnson

  • Claude Ennis Starrett, Jr. as Gabby Johnson

  • Carol Arthur as Harriett Johnson

  • Richard Collier as Dr. Sam Johnson

*Recognition:

  • Blazing Saddles was released on February 7, 1974.

  • It was met with mostly mixed reviews at the time, but has since become a Comedy Classic.

  • The film currently holds an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 73 score on Metacritic, and a 3.9/5 on Letterboxd.

  • The film earned theatrical rentals of $26.7 million in its initial release in the United States and Canada. In its 1976 reissue, it earned a further $10.5 million and another $8 million in 1979. Its total rentals in the United States and Canada totalled $47.8 million from a gross of $119.5 million, becoming only the tenth film up to that time to pass the $100 million mark.

  • Blazing Saddles was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actress (Kahn), Film Editing, and Original Song (Blazing Saddles).

  • In 2000, Blazing Saddles made AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs at No. 6.

  • In 2006, Blazing Saddles was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Did You Know:

  • When the film was first screened for Warner Brothers executives, almost none of them laughed, and the movie looked to be a disaster that the studio would not release. However, Mel Brooks quickly set up a subsequent screening for the studio's employees. When these regular folks laughed uproariously throughout the movie, Warner Brothers finally agreed to take a chance on releasing it.

  • Mel Brooks never told Frankie Laine that the theme song "Blazing Saddles" was for a comedy. Laine thought it was a dramatic western. Brooks was worried that Laine wouldn't sing it with conviction if he knew the truth.

  • Hedy Lamarr sued Mel Brooks over the use of the name Hedley Lamarr and settled out of court. Brooks said he was flattered by this attention. The reference to suing Hedy Lamarr was from Harvey Korman's first day on the set and, ironically, made a comedic reference to what was at that point a non-existent lawsuit.

  • While filming, Burton Gilliam (Lyle, the henchman of Taggart (Slim Pickens)) was having a difficult time saying the word "nigger", especially to Cleavon Little, because he really liked him. Finally, after several takes, Little took Gilliam off to the side and told him it was okay because these weren't his words. Little jokingly added, "If I thought you would say those words to me in any other situation we'd go to fist city, but this is all fun. Don't worry about it."

  • The scene in which Cleavon Little aims his gun at his own head to save himself from the townspeople's wrath was based on an incident from Mel Brooks' childhood. He said that once, to his disbelief, he stole some gum and a water pistol from a drugstore; when a store worker tried to stop him, Brooks held the worker at bay with the very water pistol he had just taken from the store.

  • After promising Warner Brothers that he would edit out several "offensive" scenes, such as the infamous farting sequence, Mel Brooks never cut a single scene except one: after the room is darkened and Lilly (Madeline Kahn) informs Bart "It's TWUE! It's TWUE!," Bart (Cleavon Little) quietly states, "You're sucking on my arm." The scene was later added back to the home video release.

  • When asked later about his frequent use of "nigger" in the script, Brooks said he received consistent support for its use from Richard Pryor and Cleavon Little. He added that if the film were to be remade today, the controversial word would have to be omitted, "and then, you have no movie." After the film's release, he said, he received many letters of complaint about the frequent "nigger" references, "but of course, most of them were from white people."

  • Gene Wilder said of the film, "They've smashed racism in the face, but they're doing it while you laugh."

Best Performance: Harvey Korman (Hedley)/Mel Brooks (Director)

Best Secondary Performance: Gene Wilder (Jim) - Cleavon Little (Bart)/Harvey Korman (Hedley)

Most Charismatic Award: Gene Wilder (Jim) - Cleavon Little (Bart)/Mel Brooks (Director)

Best Scene:

  • Quicksand

  • Landsnatching

  • Introduction to Rock Ridge

  • The Sheriff is Near

  • The Waco Kid

  • Mongo

  • Lili von Shtupp

  • Outlaws for Hire

  • The French Mistake

  • Mann's Chinese Theater

Favorite Scene: Mann's Chinese Theater/Mongo

Most Indelible Moment: Introduction to Rock Ridge/Le Petomane Thruway


In Memorium:

  • Shonka Dukureh, 44, American actress (Elvis) and singer.

  • Bob Rafelson, 89, American director and producer (Five Easy Pieces, The Monkees (TV), Easy Rider, The Postman Always Rings Twice)

  • Tony Dow, 77, American actor (Leave It to Beaver, The New Leave It to Beaver) and television director (Babylon 5)

  • Kevin Rooney, 71, Comedy Writer (When Harry Met Sally, The Dennis Miller Show, the Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno)

  • Paul Sorvino, 83, American actor (Goodfellas, The Rocketeer, Law & Order)

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Jim: [consoling Bart, who is upset that his attempts to be cordial with the citizens of Rock Ridge led to him being racially insulted] What did you expect? "Welcome, sonny"? "Make yourself at home"? "Marry my daughter"? You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.


[Bart returns unexpectedly after being sentenced to death]

Charlie: They said you was hung.

Bart: And they was right.


Bart: Are we awake?

Jim: We're not sure. Are we... Black?

Bart: Yes, we are.

Jim: Then we're awake... but we're very puzzled.


[Bart, disguised as a Klansman, describes his qualifications as a villain]

Bart: Stampeding cattle.

Hedley Lamarr: That's not much of a crime.

Bart: Through the Vatican?

Hedley Lamarr: [smiling] Kinkyyyy. Sign here.


Hedley Lamarr: My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

Taggart: God darnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.


Taggart: What do you want me to do, sir?

Hedley Lamarr: I want you to round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the west. Take this down.

[Taggart looks for a pen and paper while Hedley talks]

Hedley Lamarr: I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.

Taggart: [finding pen and paper] Could you repeat that, sir?


Hedley Lamarr: Men, you are about to embark on a great crusade to stamp out runaway decency in the west. Now you men will only be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.


Lili Von Shtupp: Would you like another schnitzengruben?

Bart: No, thank you. Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben.

Lili Von Shtupp: Well, then how about a little...

[whispers in his ear]

Bart: Baby, please! I am not from Havana.

Lili Von Shtupp: Will I... see you again?

Bart: Well, it all depends on how much vitamin E I can get my hands on.


Bart: Sir, he specifically requested two "niggers". Well, to tell the family secret, my grandmother was Dutch.


Hedley Lamarr: Meeting adjourned. Oh, I am sorry, sir, I didn't mean to overstep my bounds. You say that.

Governor Lepetomane: What?

Hedley Lamarr: "Meeting is adjourned".

Governor Lepetomane: It is?

Hedley Lamarr: No, you *say* that, Governor.

Governor Lepetomane: What?

Hedley Lamarr: "Meeting is adjourned".

Governor Lepetomane: It is?

Hedley Lamarr: [sighs, then gives the governor a paddleball] Here, play around with this for awhile.

Governor Lepetomane: Thank you, Hedy.

Hedley Lamarr: No, it's Hedley!

Governor Lepetomane: It is?


Taggart: I got it! I know how we can run everyone out of Rock Ridge.

Hedley Lamarr: How?

Taggart: We'll kill the first born male child in every household.

Hedley Lamarr: [after some consideration] Too Jewish.


Bart: What's your name?

Jim: Well, my name is Jim, but most people call me... Jim.


Lili Von Shtupp: Tell me, schatze, is it twue what they say about the way you people are... gifted?

[sound of zipper opening]

Lili Von Shtupp: Oh, it's twue. It's twue. It's twue, it's twue!


Mongo: Mongo only pawn... in game of life.


Hedley Lamarr: Now go do... that voodoo... that *you* do... *so well*...!


Bart: Well, Jim, since you are my guest and I am your host, what's your pleasure? What do you like to do?

Jim: Oh, I don't know. Play chess... screw...

Bart: [quickly] Well, let's play chess.


Howard Johnson: [reading] As chairman of the welcoming committee, it is my privilege to extend a Laurel - and Hardy handshake to our new...

[looks up and sees Bart]

Howard Johnson: ...nigger.


[Lamarr's posse rides up on Bart's diversion: a single tollbooth in the middle of the desert]

Taggart: *Le Petomane Thruway*? Now what'll that asshole think of next?

[turns to the posse]

Taggart: Has anybody got a dime?

[henchmen grumble, search their pockets]

Taggart: Somebody's gotta go back and get a shit-load of dimes!


Lili Von Shtupp: Vhy don't you admit it? He's too much of man for you. I know. You're going to need an army to beat him! You're finished. Fertig! Verfallen! Verlumpt! Verblunget! Verkackt!


Hedley Lamarr: My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.

Taggart: Ditto.

Hedley Lamarr: "Ditto?" "Ditto," you provincial putz?


Hedley Lamarr: How did he do such fantastic stunts... with such little feet?!


[Jim downs a bottle of whiskey in one long guzzle]

Bart: A man drink like that and he don't eat, he is going to DIE.

Jim: [eagerly] When?


Jim: Well, it got so that every piss-ant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille. It got pretty gritty. I started to hear the word "draw" in my sleep. Then one day, I was just walking down the street when I heard a voice behind me say, "Reach for it, mister!" I spun around... and there I was, face to face with a six-year old kid. Well, I just threw my guns down and walked away. Little bastard shot me in the ass. So I limped to the nearest saloon, crawled inside a whiskey bottle... and I've been there ever since.


Governor Lepetomane: Thank you, Hedy, thank you

Hedley Lamarr: It's not *Hedy*, it's *Hedley*. Hedley Lamarr.

Governor Lepetomane: What the hell are you worried about? This is 1874. You'll be able to sue *her*.


Bart: I'm rapidly becoming a big underground success in this town.

Jim: See? In another twenty-five years, you'll be able to shake their hands in broad daylight.


[while Mongo is beating the hell out of a bar full of toughs, Bart walks in, dressed as a messenger boy and carrying a box]

Bart: Candygram for Mongo! Candygram for Mongo!

Mongo: Me Mongo.

Bart: Sign, please.

[Mongo grabs the paper and makes some rough scratches on it]

Bart: Thank you.

[he gives Mongo the box and walks out of the bar, putting his fingers in his ears]

Mongo: Mongo like candy.

[he opens the box - boom!]


Olson Johnson: [after Gabby Johnson's speech] Now who can argue with that? I think we're all indebted to Gabby Johnson for clearly stating what needed to be said. I'm particulary glad that these lovely children were here today to hear that speech. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 8.75

Impact/Significance: 7.5

Novelty: 9.5

Classic-ness: 7

Rewatchability: 9.75

Audience Score: 8.95 (88% Google, 91% RT)

Total: 51.45


Remaining Questions:

  • Why didn't Mongo go with them?

  • What is the French Mistake?

  • What is the right age to first see this film?

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