Over the course of his expansive career, Mel Brooks has become an undisputed titan of comedy, co-creating ‘Get Smart’ for TV, transforming ‘The Producers’ and ‘Young Frankenstein’ into successful Broadway musicals and, of course, helming notable comedies, such as ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘History of the World, Pt. I.’ In celebration of his enduring legacy, ET looks back at his greatest directorial successes.
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'The Producers' (1967)
This celebrated comedy -- about a theater producer and an accountant who try to run a scam by putting on a Broadway show that's bound to fail -- was Brooks' directorial debut, and it still stands as one of the greatest comedies of all time. From Gene Wilder's frantically nervous performance as Leo Bloom to Zero Mostel's unparalleled portrayal of washed-up Broadway hack Max Bialystock, Brooks knew from the start how to bring together amazing talent and mine comedy gold.
'Blazing Saddles' (1974)
Blazing Saddles was Brooks' first foray into genre parody, and it stands among the very best. Once again working with Wilder, Brooks also brought in real Western stars -- like Slim Pickens -- and some of the best talent in Hollywood -- including Cleavon Little, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman and David Huddleston -- to tell the story of a rundown town's first black sheriff and the challenges he overcomes. It's a bold, daring comedy that doesn't shy away from tackling some pretty delicate topics with brazen glee, and it's earned its place in the pantheon of classic comedies.
'Young Frankenstein' (1974)
20th Century Fox
Released the same year as Blazing Saddles, this gothic re-imaging of (well, technically a sequel to) the Frankenstein tale reunited Brooks with Wilder once again. The comedian plays a descendant of the famed mad scientist Frankenstein, who returns to his ancestral castle as a skeptic and soon succumbs to the temptations of playing God. Shot in black and white and co-starring Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Khan, Cloris Leachman and Teri Garr, Young Frankenstein snagged two Oscar nominations -- one for the screenplay, penned by Brooks and Wilder, and one for Best Sound -- and is widely regarded as one of Wilder's greatest performances.
'History of the World: Part I' (1981)
20th Century Fox
Another example of Brooks' brilliant ability to meld genre parody with slapstick farcical comedy, History of the World: Part I is a timeless send-up of big budget historical spectacle films. The film looks back at four historical periods, including the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition and the French Revolution. Boasting an enormous ensemble cast, Brooks himself headlines this over-the-top classic, which gave us the indelible comedy quote, "It's good to be the king."
Four years after the last installment in the original Star Wars trilogy hit theaters, Brooks released his iconic parody, which lampooned the beloved sci-fi series with a slapstick goofiness that still entertains its legion of devoted fans. Bill Pullman stars as a Han Solo knockoff named Captain Lone Starr, Brooks plays a Yoda-type mystical green mentor named Yogurt, and "the force" is known as "the Schwartz." Is it a high-brow example of subtle comic timing? No. But it does have one of the best ensemble casts imaginable with the likes of John Candy, Joan Rivers, Rick Moranis, Dick Van Patten and Dom DeLuise to name just a few of the film's brightest stars.
'Robin Hood: Men in Tights' (1993)
20th Century Fox
While the story of Robin Hood has been told time and again, Brooks' ridiculous take on the age-old classic might actually be one of the best. Starring a young Cary Elwes as the titular hero, this laugh-out-loud farce features some of Brooks' most memorable and most quotable scenes. With a supporting cast featuring the comedic talents of Dave Chappelle (in one of his first major screen roles), as well as Richard Lewis, Tracey UIlman, and Patrick Stewart, this rendition of the Robin Hood story is legitimately better (and nearly as historically accurate) as Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which came out two years earlier.