Fancies Himself a Genius
We'll admit it: the passage of time erodes a few of the jokes in this movie. One of them has to do with our Big Bad's name: "Hedley Lamarr" sounds suspiciously like Hedy Lamarr, the name of a woman who was a pin-up, a silver screen siren of the 1930's and… a genius inventor.
The character Hedley Lamarr, of course, is neither a) a hottie with a body, b) a convincing actor, or c) a genius.
Mel Brooks wastes no time establishing Hedley Lamarr as the villain of this movie. Even before we hear about the guy's plans to destroy Rock Ridge, we can tell he's a baddie just from the cartoonish language he uses, like when he says,
"My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention."
Who likes a guy who talks like that? No one, that's who.
Of course, there are lots of villains in this movie who try to use their brawn to defeat our hero. But Hedley is more of a brainy villain who tries to use planning and strategy to accomplish his goals. No matter what the situation, the first words out of his mouth are almost always,
"A plan. A plan. We need a plan."
But when his henchmen don't understand what he wants, he says something like,
"Elementary, cactus-head! The beast has failed. And when the beast fails, it's time to call in beauty."
Of course, none of these plans… work. But you've got to admire the way Hedley never gives up—you know, until he's shot in the groin at the end of the movie. Then he pretty much gives up.
A Real Piece of Work
On top of being an evil schemer, Hedley Lamarr is just a downright rotten guy. He casually passes a bill onto Governor Lepetomane and tells him,
"Well, under the provisions of this bill, we would snatch 200,000 acres of Indian territory, which we have deemed unsafe for their use at this time."
This would be funny if it weren't so sad. Because the truth is that the United States did use this kind of bullying tactic to steal land from Native Americans many times throughout history. And Hedley is more than happy to be part of this process if it can help out his political ambitions.
When he's not busy stealing Native American land, Hedley plots to destroy the town of Rock Ridge so he can build a railroad through it. When his first attacks fail, he thinks to himself,
"If I could find a sheriff who so offends the citizens of Rock Ridge that his very appearance would drive them out of town."
So of course he hires Bart for the job because he knows the people of Rock Ridge are so racist that they'll just give up and leave when they see Bart. As we all know, this tactic doesn't work either. But we also know that Hedley Lamarr is the kind of guy who'll try anything to get what he wants. (Everything except get up after being shot in the groin, that is.)
A Wuss Deep Down
Hedley Lamarr might like to act like a big tough guy from behind his desk. But deep down, he's an immature weenie, and we all know it. And in case we didn't get Mel Brooks' sudden hints, we realize Hedley's childishness when he's playing in a tub and suddenly shouts, "Where's my froggie?" Hedley nearly loses his mind and doesn't calm down until his henchman Taggart brings him a frog toy.
So yeah, Hedley is a child at heart. And at brain.
By the end of the movie, all of Hedley's schemes have failed and he knows that it'll be a miracle if he escapes getting caught and punished by Sheriff Bart. So he does the only thing he can think of, which is leave the Blazing Saddles movie altogether and run away from the Warner Brothers movie lot.
When he grabs a cab and shouts, "Taxi! Drive me off this picture!" we know that this guy is such a coward that he's willing to run clear out of the movie to avoid being punished. That's not just cowardice, that's meta-cowardice.
But Bart catches him anyway and gives him some symbolic comeuppance by shooting him in the groin—one of the oldest gags in the book.