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February 7: Blazing Saddles

February 7, 2015

936full-blazing-saddles-screenshotMel Brooks’ most popular comedy, Blazing Saddles, premiered in theaters across the U.S. on this date in 1974. The original screenplay was written by Andrew Bergman (dubbed by New York magazine the “Unknown King of Comedy”), whose subsequent screenplays include Fletch (1985), Soapdish (1991), The Freshman (1990), Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), and several others. Blazing Saddles is ranked sixth on the American Film Institute’s list of the best 100 comedies. The film satirizes racism by presenting a black sheriff (Cleavon Little) in an all-white town in which the Ku Klux Klan is as ubiquitous as cowboys and railroad men. Richard Pryor, Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, and Al Uger all collaborated on the final script, and Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, and Madeline Kahn were among the co-stars. Brooks appeared in two roles, one of them a Yiddish-speaking Indian chief. Warner Brothers objected to the movie’s use of the word “nigger,” as well as a farting scene, but Brooks had rights to the final cut and exercised his good taste by ignoring the studio’s complaints. To see the movie’s most famous scene, look below.

“You men are only risking your lives, while I am risking an almost-certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor!” —Harvey Korman, as the corrupt politician Hedley Lamarr