Study Guide

Blazing Saddles Bart (Cleavon Little)

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Bart (Cleavon Little)

The Upper Hand

Remember the Roald Dahl book Matilda? Quick recap: insanely smart girl is surrounded by complete idiots, and her brain goes into overdrive because she's just. so. bored. Her unused brainpower allows her to move objects with her mind.

Bart is suffering in pretty much the same way. Except, instead of throwing around pencils with the power of his bored super-brain, he throws around quips, astute observations and (yes) racist scumbags.

Basically, he turns into a master manipulator.

When Lyle asks him to sing a slave song, his choice is the completely inappropriate—and anachronistic—Cole Porter classic "I Get a Kick Out of You." It's a bizarre (and very Brooksian choice: black guy singing a song by the whitest dude ever), but once Bart slips into that buttery opening line, "I get no kick from champagne…" we're hooked. 

And by the time Lyle knows what's happening, he and his men have started singing while Bart looks on and laughs.

Clever boy.

As you might expect from a master manipulator, he's also a dude who can make people forget what their eyes are seeing. Think about when Bart gets cornered by people with guns when he first comes to Rock Ridge: instead of running, he puts a gun to his own head and tells the people,

"Hold it! The next man makes a move, the n***** gets it!"

He says it with so much conviction that he confuses the townsfolk into letting him go. And when he's finally alone again, he can't help but revel in the glory in his achievements by saying,

"Oh, baby, you are so talented. And they are so dumb!"

Humble? No. Correct? Absolutely.

Well, Well, Well

No matter how hard he tries to protect the people of Rock Ridge, Bart has a really tough time winning these people over because he's black and they're… well… extremely racist.

But sure enough, these people come crawling back to him time and time again when they need someone to save them. For starters the town goes berserk when they find out a monster-man named Mongo has come to trash their town, and they even say "Please" when they ask Bart to help them. Bart can't help but appreciate the irony of the situation when he says,

"Did you hear that? Now it's 'please.' This morning I couldn't get the time of day."

But even though Bart knows he has total power over the people who hate him, he's still a good enough guy to do his job as sheriff and lend them a helping hand. His dedication is what leads him to ask important questions like, "Hedley Lamarr? Why would a dude like Hedley Lamarr care about Mongo?" when he learns that Hedley has paid for Mongo's release from prison.

Eventually, Bart unravels the whole plot behind Hedley Lamarr's railroad and how it relates to Rock Ridge. And it's a good thing he does, because if he didn't nobody would. It's not like Gabby Johnson is going to use his linguistic prowess to unravel Hedley's witty web of wickedness. (And if you don't remember, Gabby's the guy who don't talk right good.)

Sharp as a Tack

Bart uses all kinds of different schemes to outsmart people in this movie, some of which are pretty clever and some of which require us to suspend our disbelief… although you really should check your disbelief at the door when it comes to getting the most out of Blazing Saddles.

Bart's also smart enough never to use the exact same kind of scheme twice, which makes it really tough for villains to predict his next move. When Mongo comes to destroy the town, Bart takes a page out of the Looney Tunes book and delivers the guy an exploding box of candy, saying, "Candy-gram for Mongo!" and walking away.

Now you might say to yourself that this isn't such a clever scheme, but cleverness is a relative term. As long as you're cleverer than the guy who opens the exploding box, you're doing pretty good. Plus, who doesn't like candy? (We feel you on this one, Mongo. We'd definitely open that box.)

Bart saves his greatest scheme for the climax of this movie, when he gets the people of Rock Ridge to team up with some railroad workers to "build on this site an exact replica of the town of Rock Ridge."

Bart knows that he and his friends can't defeat Hedley Lamarr's huge army of outlaws and murderers. But he knows that this army's efforts won't be worth squat if they attack the wrong town. Of course, the scheme works and Bart manages to save Rock Ridge once and for all.

Again though, we have to ask whether Bart succeeds because he's so smart or because everyone else is so stupid…

Our Hero (Sort Of)

By the end of the movie, Bart has established himself as our great hero. But at the same time, he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in a little hick town like Rock Ridge. So he makes up a baloney excuse about having to leave, saying,

"I'm needed wherever outlaws rule the West. Wherever innocent women and children are afraid to walk the streets. Wherever a man cannot live in simple dignity."

The people of Rock Ridge immediately call BS on this, and Bart then has to admit,

"All right, you caught me. To speak the plain truth, it's getting pretty damn dull around here."

There you have it. Bart is our great hero, but there's only so much rural boredom the guy can take. So he rides off with his buddy Jim in the final scene as the main theme song of the movie says,

"Then out of the sun rode a man with a gun/ And Bart was his name."

While Bart is doing the stereotypical Western-hero thing by riding off into the sunset, Mel Brooks reminds us one last time that Bart is too cool for regular Westerns: He has Bart get off his horse and into a limousine before driving away.

Thus, he answers that age-old question: did ballers exist in the early 70's? Why yes. Yes, they did.

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