Anyone want to guess which director has three of the top fifteen films on the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Comedies list? It's none other than Mel Brooks, performer, writer, director, and producer of some of the finest comedy to grace the American stage, big screens in theaters, and the television screens in millions of our homes.
|Brooks in a screen still from his super hit, Blazing Saddles (1974)|
Brooks started in comedy in the Catskills in the late 1940's, became a television comedy writer and performer in the early 1950's, and graduated to film direction with The Producers in 1968. The rest is history, a laugh track of films including:
Young Frankenstein (1974) "Abby...Normal."
Silent Movie (1976) "Non!"
High Anxiety (1977) "Those who are tardy do not get fruit cup!"
History of the World Part I (1981) "It's good to be the king."
Spaceballs (1987) "May the schwartz be with you."
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) "Actually Scarlet is my middle name. My whole name is Will Scarlet O'Hara. We're from Georgia."
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) "I have been to many stakings - you have to know where to stand! You know, everything in life is location, location, location...."
The Producers (musical) 2001 "Will the dancing Hitlers please wait in the wings? We are only seeing singing Hitlers.
The Producers (film remake) 2005 "My blue blanket! Give me back my blue blanket!"
Young Frankenstein (musical) 2007 "He vas my boyfriend!"
Brooks has been entertaining us for over 65 years. He has no plans to stop. What I find even more remarkable is the fact that the Mel Brooks in private is most often the same zany entertainer one finds in his films. I recall the many stories my National Park Service colleagues told of Brooks and his wife, Anne Bancroft. In the '70's and '80's they were frequent guests at Caneel Bay Resort inside Virgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John. Known for playing practical jokes on the younger park rangers and resort staff during the day, Brooks and Bancroft hosted them at after-hours gatherings where hilarity ruled. Given the public comedy we know, one can only imagine the memories to come out of the spontaneity of such an evening.
Brooks has definitely left us with many memories over many decades. Who knows what's next for a comedian who is arguably the funniest man on the planet? Whatever it is I'm sure we'll be smiling.
Happy birthday, Mel Brooks!