Study Guide

Blazing Saddles Behind the Scenes

  • Director

    Mel Brooks

    You know those comedians who love a nice, slow burn and use discipline to make every joke count? Well, Mel Brooks ain't one of 'em. If you had to describe his approach to humor in one sentence, it'd be "Let's throw every joke we can at the audience and see what sticks."

    But he's still been called one of the funniest men ever by some very respectable comedians. His movies (apart from Blazing Saddles) include such classics as Young Frankenstein and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

    He also scored a gigantic Broadway hit with his musical, The Producers starting in 2001. And among all his movies and shows, you can always find that standard Mel Brooks humor that hits you with everything it's got—and then makes a fart noise.

    Love it or hate it, Mel never passes up the chance for a joke. Undisciplined? Some people might say so. But others would praise him for always trying knew things. Sure, not every joke in a Mel Brooks movie will be funny. But in the worst-case scenario, he'll still hit you with three or four moments that leave you dazed and asking, "Wait, what am I laughing at again?"

    Born in the Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mel Brooks had very little contact with anyone who wasn't Jewish. And whenever he did meet non-Jewish people, Brooks would find that they didn't have a great sense of humor. So this eventually led Brooks to think (for a long time) that comedy was a uniquely Jewish thing.

    After all, all of Brooks' comedic heroes probably would have been Jewish—like the Marx Brothers, Jackie Mason, Moe Howard, and George Burns, to name a few. It wasn't until much later in life that Brooks realized comedy was something anyone could do.

    It's likely that the racial stereotyping Brooks experienced as a kid would go on to play a role in movies like Blazing Saddles, where Brooks uses his comedy to make people laugh at… racial stereotypes.

    P.S. Mel Brooks also served in World War II de-fusing land mines (source). If that doesn't give you a sense of humor, nothing will. 

  • Screenwriter

    Andrew Bergman, Mel Brooks & Co.

    Do you subscribe to the "too many cooks spoil the broth" philosophy? Well, (to quote Adult Swim) maybe too many cooks spoil the broth, but they fill our hearts with so much, so much love.

    Mel Brooks doesn't think that too many cooks—er, comedy writers—is possible either. He collaborated with four other dudes, including the famous comedian Richard Pryor, to write this script—and Richard Pryor's edgy, race-based humor fingerprints are all over this movie. (P.S. Pryor was also supposed to play Bart—alongside Gene Wilder who he supsequently worked with several times—but his drug problems axed the possibility. [Source])

    The original was actually created by the screenwriter Andrew Bergman, who brought the idea to Mel Brooks and ended up collaborating with Brooks' entire team to create the finished product. And get this: Andrew Bergman is actually a Ph.D.-trained history scholar—with an award named after him no less. Makes sense, since the film is rooted in history.

    So if you like Blazing Saddles, be sure to say thanks to a history teacher.

  • Production Studio

    Warner Brothers Studios

    It should come as little surprise that Warner Brothers Studios is the same company that created Bugs Bunny and the whole Looney Tunes gang, because Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles often feels like a live action version of this exact same show. Everything from fake towns to exploding boxes of candy suggests to us that we're watching a movie made by someone who grew up really loving the WB brand and all of its favorite characters.

    And once he got funding from Warner Brothers, Mel Brooks did his best to use every inch of the studio's space, as he has his entire cast break away from their movie set at the end of the film and run amok on other movie sets too.

    When it came out in 1974, Blazing Saddles fit nicely into the WB's film lineup. The company had just come off releasing one of the scariest movies ever made (The Exorcist) one year earlier. And what better way to follow up this movie than with one of the funniest movies ever made? Well WB went ahead and did just that.

    So, is anyone up for a Blazing Saddles and The Exorcist double feature?

  • Production Design

    Breaking the Fourth Wall

    In theatre slang, breaking the fourth wall refers to when a character suddenly looks away from what's happening in a movie and turns directly to you (the audience) to say something. This is something we see whenever Sheriff Bart turns to us and says something like, "Oh Baby, you are so talented. And they are so dumb." In other words, Bart is letting us in on the fact that only he and the audience understand just how dumb all the other characters are.

    By the end of this movie, Mel Brooks doesn't just break the fourth wall figuratively. He literally demolishes it when his characters go so crazy that they break onto the sets of other movies. This is Brooks' way of constantly reminding us that we're watching a movie and that none of it is real, which makes it a whole lot easier to laugh at all the terrible racism and violence that's been happening.

    By the end of the movie, we've been bombarded by so many different characters living in different realities that we actually find Hedley Lamarr hanging out in a theatre and watching the exact same movie we are—Blazing Saddles.

    The whole thing is just wacky, but in a good way. That's why audiences today still flock to this movie to have a good laugh. In some ways, you could even say that this comedy—with its on-the-nose social commentary and its meta elements—is a lot more edgy and clever than 99% of comedies made forty years later.

  • Music (Score)

    Director Mel Brooks might be a kooky maniac, but he's also one of the most talented people ever to hit Hollywood. In addition to being a hilarious writer and director, he's also a great musical composer.

    Working with composer John Morris, Brooks created the original music for Blazing Saddles and used it as yet another weapon in his Make-You-Laugh arsenal. The Old West vibe of this movie is already over the top by the time we see the town of Rock Ridge, but Brooks decides to go a step further with some saloon music and some clever lyrics to remind us how folksy the place is.

    But that's not all. Mel Brooks and John Morris save some of their most clever and hilarious music for the end of the movie, where the fighters at Rock Ridge bust into other movie sets on the Warner Brothers studio lot and eventually clash with a bunch of dancers singing a song called The French Mistake.

    Once again, we see a perfect example of Mel Brooks' talent and his love for big songs and pageantry. And the result couldn't be funnier.

    One last thing: according to Brooks, the singer didn't think the title song was a parody (source). Awk-ward.

  • Fandoms

    There aren't really any major fandoms connected to Blazing Saddles in particular, but Mel Brooks himself has that covered. If you don't believe us, just have a gander (or a goose) at broosklyn.com—a celebration of all things Brooksie and Brookstastic.