LYLE: Now, come on, boys, where's your spirit? I don't hear no singing. When you were slaves, you sang like birds.
Lyle has lived most of his life believing in racist stereotypes about black people, like the one about how black people love to sing. That's why Lyle is so disappointed when he finds that the black railroad workers spend their time complaining about their brutal work instead of singing.
But this is just one more instance of where Mel Brooks takes racist stereotypes and uses them to make racist people (like Lyle) look like fools.
LYLE: Okay, I'll send down a team of horses to check out the ground.
TAGGART: Horses? Why, we can't afford to lose no horses, you dummy! Send over a couple of niggers.
Lyle and Taggart are worried about the quicksand that lies ahead in their railroad building. But when Lyle suggests sending horses ahead, Taggart tells him to send two black workers instead. The "comedy" of this exchange tells us that men like Taggart would have put a way higher values on a horse's life than on a black person's life. But the sad historical fact is that this was often true.
TAGGART: Oh, that uppity nigger went'n hit me on the head with a shovel.
Taggart spends all his days yelling at his black workers and whipping them. Then he gets really upset when one of them hauls off and hits him in the head with a shovel. Go figure.
HOWARD JOHNSON: As Chairman of the Welcoming Committee, it is my privilege to extend a laurel and hearty handshake to our new... nigger.
The people of Rock Ridge are very excited to get a new sheriff in town. But this excitement quickly turns to anger when they find out that their new sheriff is black. Once again, people's racism gets in the way of what their town actually needs— which is a new sheriff.
BART: Are we awake?
JIM: We're not sure. Are we black?
BART: Yes, we are.
JIM: Then we're awake. But we're very puzzled.
When Bart first meets Jim, Jim can barely believe that he's looking at a black sheriff. Like the other people in Rock Ridge, Jim can't believe that any government would ever put a black man in charge of white people. Then again, Jim is an alcoholic who barely knows what's real and what's a hallucination.
TAGGART: Here we take the good time and trouble to slaughter every last Indian in the West, and for what? So they can appoint a sheriff that's blacker than any Indian! I am depressed.
Taggart is depressed to see a black sheriff in charge of Rock Ridge, especially after he's put in all the hard work of exterminating or enslaving every non-white person he's come across in the Old West. Of course, the joke here is that Taggart believes that killing and enslaving non-whites is a worthwhile project that takes good ol' fashioned hard work.
HEDLEY: Yes, the first man ever to appoint a black sheriff! Just think, sir—Washington, Jefferson...
Hedley Lamarr shows that he's a great manipulator when he convinces Governor Lepetomane to install Bart as the new sheriff of Rock Ridge. Of course, Hedley knows that the townsfolk will kill Bart because he's black. But he's more than happy to sacrifice Bart if it means getting a railroad built through the town.
BART: Ah, good morning, ma'am. And isn't it a lovely morning?
OLD WOMAN: Up yours, nigger!
When Bart first arrives at Rock Ridge, he takes people's racism with good cheer and tries to win them over. But pretty soon, he realizes just how tough this'll be when old women in the street are figuratively (and maybe literally) spitting in his face.
OLD WOMAN: Sorry about the "Up yours, nigger." I hope this apple pie will in some small way say thank you for your ingenuity and courage in defeating that horrible Mongo.
Once Bart saves Rock Ridge from the attack of Mongo, people in the town learn that they're better off with a black sheriff than they are with no sheriff at all. One old woman even apologizes for her racist comments to Bart. But this doesn't necessarily mean that the whole town is ready to grow up.
BART: I'm rapidly becoming a big underground success in this town.
JIM: See, in another twenty-five years you'll be able to shake their hands in broad daylight.
Bart feels confident that he'll be able to win over the people of Rock Ridge. But as Jim reminds him, it's not like this is going to happen overnight. People might secretly support Bart, but this isn't the same thing as treating him nicely in front of the rest of the town in broad daylight.
CHORUS: And all at once the trouble started/ A pack of murderers and thieves/ Like swarms of locusts they descended/ Their aim to make the townsfolk flee.
In case we couldn't tell from all the violent footage, the movie's chorus kicks in and sings about how the town of Rock Ridge gets attacked by a bunch of horrible men on horses. Of course, this is all part of Hedley Lamarr's plan to clear the way for his railroad.
REVEREND: Well, I don't have to tell you good folks what has been happening here in our beloved little town. Sheriff murdered, crops burned, stores looted, people stampeded…
When the first wave of attacks has died down in Rock Ridge, the townsfolk get together in the local church to discuss whether they should flee the town or stick it out. The reverend thinks they'd all be insane to stay after what's happened, and to back up his point he gives a laundry list of all the horrible violent stuff that's happened.
TELEGRAM: Sheriff murdered. Church meeting bombed. Reign of terror must cease.
When the people of Rock Ridge have had enough, they send a telegram to the governor asking him to send them a new sheriff. Of course, the reason they need a new sheriff is because the last one was murdered in the recent wave of attacks. But that might be something they want to keep on the down low when they recruit someone new.
GOVERNOR: Sheriff murdered! Innocent women and children blown to bits! We've got to protect our phony-baloney jobs, gentlemen.
When the governor becomes aware of all the violence that has descended on Rock Ridge, he is appalled. But as we quickly find out, he's more worried about looking like a bad governor than he is about the safety of Rock Ridge. In his words, he must act immediately in order to protect his job.
HEDLEY: I want rustlers, cut-throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, half-wits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers...
Hedley Lamarr decides to pull out all the stops when his first two plans for destroying Rock Ridge fail. So he's forced to recruit every single horrible thug in the Old West to help him fulfill his plans. Then again, who's to say you can trust an army of murderers and thieves?
OLD WOMAN: Have you ever seen such cruelty?
To convey just how terrible Hedley Lamarr's men are, Mel Brooks includes a scene where these men are holding back an old woman's arms and punching her in the stomach. In a humorous moment, she looks toward the camera and asks us if we've ever seen such cruelty. Of course, it's a rhetorical question because the answer should automatically be "no." She might be a racist hick, but she's still a tiny old woman.
HEDLEY: I've decided to launch an attack that will reduce Rock Ridge to ashes!
When all his other plans have failed, Hedley Lamarr decides to launch an all-out attack on Rock Ridge that'll destroy the place entirely. Little does he know that Bart is getting the people of the town to create an entire replica town for Hedley's men to destroy. All the violence in the world won't accomplish anything if you're not directing it at the right target.
TAGGART: Be ready to attack Rock Ridge at noon tomorrow. Here's your badge.
Taggart takes on the responsibility of recruiting all the members of Hedley Lamarr's army of vicious outlaws. He gives each of them a badge to remind them which team they're on. But the villains couldn't care less about badges or anything like that. They just want to go destroy stuff.
TAGGART: Oh, that uppity nigger went'n hit me on the head with a shovel.
After a big evil speech, Hedley Lamarr notices that his henchman Taggart has a big bandage wrapped around his head. Taggart tells him that he was hit on the head with a shovel by one of his black railroad workers. The funny thing is that even though Taggart spends his days whipping his workers, he's shocked that one of them would lash out at him.
HEDLEY: It's all right, Taggart. Just a man and a horse being hung out there.
When there's a sudden noise, Taggart jumps and hugs Hedley Lamarr for comfort. And Hedley settles him down by saying that he's just heard a man and his horse being hung outside. Of course, it's absolutely ridiculous to literally hang a man and the horse he rode in on. But Mel Brooks is so captivated by the insane lack of judgment and justice in the Old West that he can't resist creating these nonsensical situations.
Sorry about the "Up yours, nigger." I hope this apple pie will in some small way say thank you for your ingenuity and courage in defeating that horrible Mongo.
After Bart has helped save Rock Ridge from a monster named Mongo, an old lady comes by his station to give him a pie to thank him. The thing she appreciates most about him is his "ingenuity and courage." And hey, she even apologizes for being super racist to him earlier that day.
HEDLEY: All my plans have backfired! Instead of the people leaving, they're staying in droves!
Hedley Lamarr can't believe it when all of his plans to destroy Rock Ridge backfire. The guy obviously has a pretty high opinion of his own cleverness, but the fact is that no matter how clever he is, Sheriff Bart is cleverer.
HEDLEY: Elementary, cactus-head! The beast has failed. And when the beast fails, it's time to call in beauty.
After his first attempt to kill Sheriff Bart fails, Hedley decides to switch up his tactics and to use a beautiful singer named Lili von Shtupp to seduce Bart and break his heart. Of course, this plan doesn't end up working either. But you've got to admire Hedley for trying new approaches to the same old problem.
BART: Now, before the sun comes up we're going to build on this site an exact replica of the town of Rock Ridge.
It seems like an insane idea at first. But with plenty of materials and plenty of people, Bart is able to create a complete copy of the town of Rock Ridge for Hedley Lamarr's army to destroy. Now it doesn't matter if Hedley has the strength of the whole world on his side. None of it will matter if his men attack the wrong town.
BART: Candy-gram for Mongo!
Jim tells Bart not to bother shooting Mongo with his pistol because it'll only make Mongo mad. So it makes sense that Bart would try to use his brains to take out the villain. That's when he comes up with the Bugs Bunny-ish plot of creating an explosive box of chocolates and delivering it to Mongo. Mel Brooks completes this little shout-out to Looney Tunes by playing the show's theme song as Bart walks away.
BART: Hold it! The next man makes a move, the nigger gets it!
When the people of Rock Ridge get ready to kill Bart, he decides that the only way to get out of the jam is by using trickery. So he puts a gun to his own head and changes his voice so that he basically takes himself hostage. The sudden bit of reverse psychology totally works, as the townsfolk put down their guns and Bart walks away until he's safe in his sheriff's office.
BART: He was nothing. The bitch was inventing the candy-gram. And they probably won't give me credit for it.
As Bart tells Jim, it wasn't hard to take out Mongo with an exploding box. In his words, the toughest part was inventing the candy-gram, which is director Mel Brooks' way of saying, "Of course there were no candy-grams back in the Old West." Yeah, we were sad to find that out too.
HEDLEY: A plan. A plan. We need a plan.
Hedley Lamarr is always the man with a plan. He doesn't have any real strength or physical skills, so he tries to use his cleverness to beat his adversaries. The only problem is that every time he has a plan, Bart has an even cleverer plan.
BART: I want you to get all the brothers together, round up all the lumber, canvas, paint and nails you can lay your hands on and meet me tonight three miles due east of Rock Ridge at midnight.
Yup, that's right. Bart's plan for outsmarting Hedley Lamarr is to build a complete replica of Rock Ridge for Hedley's men to attack. The plot ends up working too, as Hedley's men ride straight into the trap and end up getting blown to bits by the bombs Bart has planted in the fake town.
BUDDY: Cut! What in the hell do you think you're doing here? This is a closed set!
Just when you think Mel Brooks couldn't get any zanier, he pulls us completely out of his movie and has all of his actors take their on-screen fight onto other movie sets at Warner Brothers studios. The fighting eventually pulls in nearly everyone working at Warner Brothers and most of us are left scratching our heads and wondering how much crazier things will get.
GOVERNOR: Sheriff murdered! Innocent women and children blown to bits! We've got to protect our phony-baloney jobs, gentlemen.
As the governor so eloquently puts it, he can't have murderers running around his state killing the people who voted him in as governor. After all, he's got a job to protect. He doesn't really care about the people at all. He just knows that he'll lose his job if he doesn't do something.
HEDLEY: I'm about to make you an historic figure. Maybe even get you a cabinet post.
Hedley Lamarr knows exactly how to manipulate Governor Lepetomane. All he has to do is dangle a cabinet position in front of Lepetomane's face and the guy will go right for it. Of course, Hedley could always run for governor himself. But he finds it much easier to let some idiot be governor so that he (Hedley) can run the show from behind the scenes.
HEDLEY: Yes, the first man ever to appoint a black sheriff! Just think, sir... Washington, Jefferson...
Hedley knows that Governor Lepetomane wants his name in the history books. And what better way to do this than to appoint the first black Sheriff in America? Of course, this is just all part of Hedley Lamarr's scheme to chase the people of Rock Ridge out of their homes.
HEDLEY: 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 bill might seem absolutely unjust and insane. But the sad truth is that this is exactly the sort of thing that historically allowed white settlers to sweep across America and kill all the Native Americans who stood in their way.
HEDLEY: Just one more bill for you to sign, sir. […] This is the bill that will convert the State Hospital for the Insane into the William J. Le Petomane Memorial Gambling Casino for the Insane.
In case we haven't realized yet how crooked and dumb the politicians in this movie are, Mel Brooks ups the ante by having them convert a mental hospital into a casino. Because what better way is there to treat the mentally ill than to give them a casino?
GOVERNOR: Gentlemen, this bill will be a giant step forward in the treatment of the insane gambler.
Governor Lepetomane supports the new casino idea with all his heart, saying that it'll be a big step forward in the treatment of insane gamblers. Of course, the only reason he's really supporting the thing is that his name will be on it. And there's nothing politicians usually love more than legacies.
HOWARD JOHNSON: Why don't we wire the governor to send us a sheriff? Why should we get our own men killed?
The people of Rock Ridge are sick of seeing their friends and neighbors volunteer to be sheriff only to be killed immediately by Hedley Lamarr's thugs. In their eyes, the governor is responsible for sending them a new sheriff, so they decide to send a telegram asking for their next one to be sent along ASAP.
HARRIET: The fact that you have sent him here just goes to prove that you are the leading asshole in the state.
When the people of Rock Ridge learn that the governor has sent them a black sheriff, they nearly throw an all-out rebellion. But once cooler heads prevail, they write a letter basically telling the governor where to go and demanding that he send them someone new (and someone white).
GOVERNOR: I didn't get a "hrumph" out of that guy!
HEDLEY: Give the governor a "hrumph".
Governor Lepetomane clearly doesn't have his priorities straight. At one point, he even becomes more concerned that one of his lackeys didn't say "hrumph" with him than he is about the fact that murderers are running loose in his state.
HEDLEY: Official business, sir.
GOVERNOR: Is it important?
HEDLEY: It's very crucial.
GOVERNOR: Be with you in a minute.
Oh yeah, and did we mention that Governor Lepetomane likes to spend most of his time having sex with his secretary instead of actually governing his state? Well now we've said it.
CHORUS: There was a peaceful town called Rock Ridge/ Where people lived in harmony/ They never had no kind of trouble/ There was no hint of misery.
As the movie's chorus tells us, Rock Ridge is pretty much your ideal town from the Old West. Everyone gets along and everything's nice and peaceful. But that doesn't last too long once Hedley Lamarr's thugs ride in and try to chase everyone away.
CHORUS: Now is a time of great decision/ Are we to stay or up and quit?/ There's no avoiding this conclusion/ Our town is turning into shit.
After the first wave of Hedley's attacks, the people of Rock Ridge meet in a church to decide whether they'd like to stick around or if it's better to take off and never look back.
REVEREND: Well, I don't have to tell you good folks what has been happening here in our beloved little town.
It's true, Reverend. You don't need to tell us because we've all seen the mayhem that Hedley Lamarr's henchmen have been wreaking all through your poor town. It's nice that you have a strong enough sense of community to talk things over. But then again, it also makes it easy for someone to chuck a stick of dynamite through the window and kill you all at once.
GABBY JOHNSON: You get back here, you old pious, candy-ass sidewinder! There ain't no way that nobody is going to leave this town!
Yes, you can barely tell what the dude is saying. But somewhere in all of his gibberish, Gabby Johnson tells us that there's more to a town than a bunch of houses. It's where the townsfolk were born and it's where they should die. And Gabby isn't afraid of some band of outlaws trying to change that.
GABBY JOHNSON: Hell, I was born here and I was raised here, and goddamn it, I'm going to die here!
As Gabby puts it, he has no intention of leaving the community that he's spent his whole life in. This is the Old West, after all, and you'll be lucky to find a town within a hundred miles where there's no danger of dying every day.
OLSON JOHNSON: What are we made of? Our fathers came across the prairie... fought Indians, fought drought, fought locusts, fought Dix! Remember when Richard Dix came in here and tried to take over this town?
After Gabby has finished speaking, a dude named Olson Johnson steps up and decides to make another passionate speech about how the people of Rock Ridge must never surrender to the villains who try to chase them away.
REVEREND: Well, if we're going to stay, and I think it's a big mistake, we're going to need us a new sheriff.
It's clear that once the community of Rock Ridge decides to stay put, they're going to need a new sheriff to come in and try to keep up the rule of law. But they're tired of seeing their own people killed by desperadoes, so they telegram the governor to send them someone from away.
TAGGART: I understand there's a new sheriff in town. Who wants to kill him?
Yup, it's business as usual for a thug like Taggart. As soon as he hears there's a new sheriff in Rock Ridge, he asks his men who'd like to do the honor of killing the dude.
BART: Well, once I establish myself in this here town, Deputy Spade might turn out to be a groovy position.
Despite all the racism that he faces when he first gets to town, Bart keeps believing that the people of Rock Ridge will eventually accept him. Of course, his buddy Jim thinks this is all crazy because there's no changing the way people in a rural town think if all of them are raging racists.
OLD WOMAN: Of course, you'll have the good taste not to mention that I spoke to you.
It looks like Bart is making some progress with the community of Rock Ridge when an elderly lady brings him a pie. After all, this same woman called him the "N" word earlier in the same day. But despite her apology, she still doesn't want Bart telling people that she spoke to him. After all, it's one thing not to be racist. But it's another to not be afraid of other people's racism.