Norman Steinberg, 'Blazing Saddles' Screenwriter, Dead at 83

Norman Steinberg
JONATHON ZIEGLER/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Steinberg died March 15 at his Hudson Valley home in upstate New York.

Norman Steinberg, the screenwriter behind the Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles, has died, according to a statement provided by his family. Per the statement, the late screenwriter died March 15 at his Hudson Valley home in upstate New York. He was 83.

Brooks took to Twitter to mourn Steinberg, following the news of his passing. "It’s a sad day when Norman Steinberg leaves us. From BLAZING SADDLES to MY FAVORITE YEAR, he was one of the best writers I ever worked with.  I’m so glad I rescued him from a dull stable legal career, because he always permeated the writers room with his infectious comic spirit," Brooks wrote. 

Born in Brooklyn, New York, and a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh law school, Steinberg turned to comedy writing after life as an attorney did not turn out how he had imagined it would. It was a dream he often told Brooks about during his regular run-ins with the actor at a Manhattan coffee shop in the 1960s, long before Blazing Saddles hit the big screen in 1974.

It was Brooks who also encouraged Steinberg's career, telling the future Emmy-winner to submit a script for his James Bond-spoofing sitcom Get Smart! The series was canceled, but thanks to Brooks' backing and a vote of confidence in his script, Steinberg quit his hated job at a law firm and started his career as a comedy writer.

After taking a few gigs in New York, he moved to Los Angeles, where he was partnered with George Carlin writing for NBC’s comedy-variety series The Flip Wilson Show. That year, the show’s writers won an Emmy.

Brooks later hired Steinberg and Richard Pryor to work on the draft of a screenplay by Andrew Bergman, for a comic Western -- then called Tex X -- that would eventually become Blazing Saddles -- the classic Western spoof starring Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder.

Steinberg’s other films include My Favorite YearJohnny Dangerously and Mr. Mom. His television credits include the CBS comedy Cosby, Showtime’s Paradise and the special Free to Be … You and Me.

In addition to his work on-screen, Steinberg taught screenwriting at Johns Hopkins University, the American Film Institute and Long Island University in Brooklyn, where he founded a master’s program known as the TV Writers Studio. 

Steinberg is survived by his wife, Serine, son Nik and daughter Daphne, as well as his daughter-in-law Lilly and son-in-law Andreas and his grandchildren Oona, June and Gus, his sister Joan and stepchildren Freja and Alex and their partners, Danny and Caroline, and their children, Llewyn and Arthur, along with his former wife and mother of his children, Bonnie.

A memorial service for the late screenwriter is set to be held in New York sometime this spring.