Top 10 All-Time Mel Brooks Movies You Didn't Know
Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 1926) is an actor, comedian, film producer, director, and screenwriter from the United States. He is most renowned for his wide cinematic farces and comic parodies, which he has made for over seven decades. Brooks started his career as a writer and comedian on Sid Caesar's variety program Your Show of Shows (1950–1954), where he worked with Woody Allen, Neil Simon, and Larry Gelbart. He co-created The 2000 Year Old Man with Carl Reiner, a comedic character. Get Smart, a popular television comedy series that aired from 1965 to 1970, was co-written by him and Buck Henry.
Brooks became one of the most successful cinema directors of the 1970s as he approached middle age, with several of his pictures ranking among the top ten grossing films of the year. Some of his best-known films include The Producers (1967), The Twelve Chairs (1970), Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), Silent Movie (1976), High Anxiety (1977), History of the World, Part I (1981), Spaceballs (1987), and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1987). His debut film, The Producers, was adapted into a musical that played on Broadway from 2001 to 2007 and was turned into a film in 2005.
With his Tony Award for The Producers in 2001, he joined an exclusive group of EGOT winners, having already won an Emmy, a Grammy, and an Oscar. In 2009, he was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor, a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, the 41st AFI Life Achievement Award in June 2013, a British Film Institute Fellowship in March 2015, a National Medal of Arts in September 2016, and a BAFTA Fellowship in February 2017. Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein all placed in the top 15 in the American Film Institute's selection of the best 100 comedy pictures of the last 100 years (1900–2000): Blazing Saddles was number 6, The Producers was number 11, and Young Frankenstein was number 13.
From 1964 until 2005, Brooks was married to actress Anne Bancroft. Max Brooks, their son, is a writer and actor who is best known for his book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (2006). Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York, on June 28, 1926, to Max (1895–1929) and Kate (née Brookman) Kaminsky (1896–1989), and grew up in Williamsburg.
His father's family came from Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), while his mother's family came from Kyiv, in the Russian Empire's Pale of Settlement (present-day Ukraine). Irving, Lenny, and Bernie, his three elder brothers, When Brooks was two years old, his father died of renal illness at the age of 34.
When his father died, he remarked, "There's a ruckus going on. For that, I might be furious with God or with the world. And I'm sure a lot of my humor is based on resentment and rage. I learned to dress it up in humor as a kid in Williamsburg to avoid problems like being punched in the face."
Brooks was a tiny, sickly kid who was often ridiculed and tormented by his peers due to his stature. He was born and raised in a slum. Brooks witnessed Anything Goes with William Gaxton, Ethel Merman, and Victor Moore at the Alvin Theater when he was nine years old, thanks to his uncle Joe, a cab driver who took the Broadway doormen back to Brooklyn for free and was given the tickets in return. He informed his uncle after the performance that he was not going to work in the garment area like the rest of them, but that he was going into show business.
Give Brooks credit for trying something new: unlike his usual parodies, "Life Stinks" sees him attempting to make a pure comedy in the style of Preston Sturges. In reality, it's a rough reworking of Preston Sturges' 1941 classic "Sullivan's Travels," with Brooks portraying a rich businessman who wagers a competitor that he can live on the streets of Los Angeles without spending a cent, which turns out to be more difficult than anticipated.
The problem is that it isn't very amusing, and the uplifting message about homelessness sounds phony. Although life may not always stink, this film definitely does.
You can't blame Brooks for returning to the gold-digging horror mine from "Young Frankenstein." Unfortunately, this parody of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and its many cinematic adaptations is unfunny to the point of being scary.
Leslie Nielsen plays the menacing count as a clumsy idiot prone to pratfalls, dressed in a black cloak and fangs. Brooks, who plays vampire hunter Van Helsing, fails to offer anything new or unique to the material, instead of repeating stale jokes as old as the legendary bloodsucker. It was a low moment for the comedian, who quit directing following the film's financial and critical failure.
Brooks' effort to parody George Lucas' famous trilogy, "Spaceballs," was released ten years after the first "Star Wars." It was panned at the time for being too little, too late, but it has since become one of the director's most beloved films, and it seems even fresher now, given the subsequent flood of prequels, sequels, and reboots set in that galaxy far, far away.
Bill Pullman stars as Lone Starr, who must rescue a lovely princess (Daphne Zuniga) from the wicked Dark Helmet with the help of his half-man, half-dog friend Barf (John Candy) (Rick Moranis). Brooks plays both the evil President Skroob and the magical wise man, Yogurt, in the film.
In this extremely entertaining adaptation of Ernst Lubitsch's classic comedy, Brooks teams up with his wife, Anne Bancroft (produced by Brooks and helmed by Alan Johnson).
They play a Polish husband-and-wife performing pair who get involved in a hazardous espionage mission during WWII. For his role as a malevolent SS commander, Charles Durning was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
As a thespian with an ego as big as his skills, Brooks is funny. Bancroft, on the other hand, manages to be sexy and ridiculous at the same time. It's easy to see why the funniest guy alive chose this lady as his wife after seeing the movie.
"The Producers" is a gift that keeps on giving to Brooks. It did not only launch his cinematic career, earning him an Academy Award for the screenplay, but it also produced a tremendously successful Broadway musical, which earned a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards, including three for him (it was also later turned into a movie).
Max Bialystock, played by Zero Mostel, is a failed producer who obtains money for his theatrical performances by wooing elderly women. He persuades hesitant accountant Leo Bloom (Supporting Actor candidate Gene Wilder) to help him stage the worst play conceivable so they can grab the money and run: "Springtime for Hitler."
Brooks revels in the premise's obnoxiousness, resulting in a startlingly, refreshingly funny comedy that inspired "South Park," the Farrelly Brothers, and other obnoxious satirists.
Brooks' second directorial effort, one of his few non-spoofs, is an underappreciated treasure just waiting to be unearthed. It revolves around a poor nobleman (Ron Moody), a greedy priest (Dom DeLuise), and a cunning con artist (Frank Langella) who discover a huge treasure hidden in one of twelve dining chairs in 1920s Soviet Russia.
Unfortunately, during the revolution, the set was dispersed throughout the nation, resulting in a frantic and humorous hunt. Brooks was nominated for a WGA award for his screenplay, which was adapted from a famous book that has been filmed 18 times across the world!
Brooks had a difficult time in the 1990s, with reviewers and fans alike shunning his works. "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," from that decade, has a cult following, and although it's far from flawless, it does include a few great laughs.
It stars Cary Elwes as Robin Hood, who must fight the wicked King Richard (Richard Lewis) and the Sheriff of Rottingham in a blatant parody of Kevin Costner's 1991 blockbuster "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (Roger Rees). Brooks as Rabbi Tuckman, Isaac Hayes as Asneeze, and Dave Chappelle (in his feature debut) as his son, Ahchoo, form a merry gang of crooks.
"History of the World: Part I" never quite determines what it wants to be about, opting for a jumble of parodies instead. From the Stone Age to the Old Testament, the Roman Empire to the Spanish Inquisition, and the French Revolution to a sneak peek at upcoming attractions, everything is represented here (including Hitler on Ice).
As Moses, Comicus, Tomas de Torquemada, Louis XVI of France, and Jacques le Garcon de Pisse, Brooks leads the cast. Not all of the jokes land (and some are plain bad), but the ones that do are on par with anything the filmmaker has come up with. There will be a flurry of famous appearances, so keep an eye out.
Brooks plays a recently arrived doctor at the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous in "High Anxiety," in which he plays Alfred Hitchcock. When he is suspected of murder, he must face his own mental condition in order to track out the true perpetrator.
From the shower scene in "Psycho" (with Brooks being assaulted by a newspaper) to the tower climbing in "Vertigo," fans will delight in the director's love homages to those iconic scenes. He received Golden Globe nominations for Best Comedy Actor and Best Comedy Film for the film.
With "Silent Movie," Brooks creates a loving and accurate tribute to old Hollywood, complete with his trademark mix of brilliant jokes and bad gags, celebrity appearances, and visual inventiveness. With the assistance of sidekicks Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise, Brooks plays a washed-up director attempting to save a bankrupt studio by making the first silent picture in decades.
The idea allows the director to mimic slapstick greats like Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Mack Sennett by being completely devoid of speech (save for one extremely hilarious phrase). Brooks was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Comedy Film, while Feldman and Bernadette Peters were nominated for supporting roles as vampy nightclub singers.