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Monday, September 19, 2016

The Sherrif's Near! Blazing Saddles Movie Trivia



Blazing Saddles

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10.  Is #9 on Bravo's list of the 100 Funniest Movies.

9.  George Furth wore red socks during filming, claiming he heard Van Johnson always wore red socks.

8.  Mel Brooks said that "I'm Tired" was the "dirtiest song I ever wrote in my life."

7.  Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006.

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

5.  It's unlikely if Mel Brooks knew the story, but in real life a black man was named as the postmaster of Punta Gorda, FL, by a man who held a grudge against the town's founders, as a deliberate affront to its Southern sensibilities.

4.  Mel Brooks wrote the movie out of anger at "white corruption, racism, and Bible-thumping bigotry."

3.  This film is ranked #6 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs.

2.  The sound effects for the famous wind-breaking scene (with the cowboys around the camp fire letting nature take its natural course after a meal of beans) were added in the cutting room by Mel Brooks and any passer-by, who rubbed soap onto their hands and placed the hand under the armpit, and then closing the armpit.

1.  Mel Brooks' son, writer Max Brooks, was born during the production.

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EXTRAS


The idea of the film came from an original story outline written by Andrew Bergman, which Mel Brooks described as "hip talk--1974 talk and expressions--happening in 1874 in the Old West". Brooks was immediately taken by the story, and despite having not worked with a writing team for some time, hired a group of writers, including Bergman, to expand on the script, reminding them "Please do not write a polite script".

Mel Brooks described the writing process as chaotic in an interview with Creative Screenwriting, recalling, "'Blazing Saddles' was more or less written in the middle of a drunken fistfight. There were five of us all yelling loudly for our ideas to be put into the movie. Not only was I the loudest, but luckily I also had the right as director to decide what was in or out."

The film was almost not released at all. "When we screened it for executives, there were few laughs," said Mel Brooks. "The head of distribution said, 'Let's dump it and take a loss.' But [studio president John Calley] insisted they open it in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago as a test. It became the studio's top moneymaker that summer." The movie premiered on February 7, 1974, at the Pickwick Drive-In Theater in Burbank; 250 invited guests--including Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder--rode horses to the event, and watched the film on horseback.

Mel Brooks had repeated conflicts over content with Warner Bros. executives; they objected to the constant use of the word "nigger", the scene of Lili Von Shtupp seducing Bart in the dark, the flatulent campfire scene, and Mongo punching out a horse, among other issues. Brooks, whose contract gave him final content control, declined to make any substantial changes. He did remove the final line in Bart and Lili's seduction scene: "I hate to disappoint you, ma'am, but you're sucking my arm." 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've got 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."

One day in the Warner Bros. studio commissary, Mel Brooks and the other writers were seated at a table opposite John Wayne ("the Duke"). The Duke turned and said he had heard about their Western, the one where people say stuff like "blow it out your ass". Mel handed the Duke a copy of the script and said, "Yes, and we'd like you to be in it." According to Brooks, the Duke turned down the offer the next day by saying, "Naw, I can't do a movie like that, but I'll be first in line to see 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 fingered from the store.

At the end of the movie when the whole group is running out of the Warner Bros. studio front gates, there is a man in a sweater standing on the sidewalk, watching the action. Mel Brooks has said that the man was not part of the movie, and had simply wandered into the scene; they shooed him away and then went to film the scene--the guy comes back into the shot and is seen standing next to a light pole as the characters stream past him down the street. Brooks had asked the man to move, as they were getting ready to shoot that scene. The man, not understanding their requests, stood there. So Brooks sent out a waiver for him to sign and left him in the movie.

The role of Bart was intended for Richard Pryor, but due to the controversial nature of Pryor's stand-up routines of the day and his background, Mel Brooks couldn't secure financing for the project with Pryor in that role. So Pryor was made a co-writer of the script, and Cleavon Little played Bart. Pryor later got to star in a different western comedy - Adiós Amigo (1976). However, according to a 2013 interview with Gene Wilder, the casting change was a result of Pryor contacting Brooks via telephone during production - Pryor informing Brooks that he was in Cleveland, and "didn't know why".

The scene in which Mongo knocks out a horse has a basis in reality. Mel Brooks' former Your Show of Shows (1950) and Caesar's Hour (1954) boss, Sid Caesar, who was a physically imposing and somewhat violent man, reported in his 1982 autobiography "Where Have I Been?" that while trail riding with his wife, her horse caused trouble and he punched it once between the eyes. The horse collapsed, unconscious. He notes that this event was Brooks' inspiration for the Mongo-vs.-horse scene.

While filming, Burton Gilliam--who played 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."
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