Making Blazing Saddles (and then convincing Warner Bros. executives to actually let people see it) was not nearly as effortless and joyful an experience as one might expect after watching it. The production and post-production processes were not always smooth, but as you'll hopefully conclude for yourselves from this compendium of interesting and surprising behind-the-scenes anecdotes, it was a resounding success as a collaboration between several very funny people that has yielded one of the all-time classic comedies.
Writer/director/co-star Mel Brooks, of course, is naturally front-and-center in most of these stories. This is not the first time we have talked about some of Brooks's behind-the-scenes adventures - check out this recent piece for more fun Mel Brooks stories.
What are your favorite and least favorite Blazing Saddles behind-the-scenes stories? Vote below!
Madeline Kahn turned in an iconic performance as sultry caterwauling saloon singer Lili Von Shtupp in the film, but she almost didn't get past the auditioning stage due to a bit of a faux pas from Mel Brooks.
"Her audition was one of the most awkward things I’ve ever had to experience, because … well, I told her, I love your work, but I can’t hire you unless you raise your skirt and let me see your legs. 'Oh, so it’s that kind of audition,' she said, and started to walk out," Brooks said to Rolling Stone.
"'No, no, I’m happily married, it’s not that at all,'" Brooks quickly explained. "'We’re doing a take-off on Westerns, and if you’ve ever seen Destry Rides Again, there’s the scene where Marlene Dietrich sings in the saloon. We’re trying to match that, and I know you can do it, it’s just that…' And she goes, 'Oh, I get it now,' and grabs a chair, hikes up her skirt, and straddles the chair just like Dietrich does in the original. I mean, like an exact match of the shot. I nearly fainted. It was her idea to hum the song out of tune as well, which seems like a small thing, but adds so much to the scene in the end. She was amazing."Interesting?
Mel Brooks Was Wary Of Including So Many Racial Epithets, But Pryor And Little Talked Him Into It
Mel Brooks was reticent to include so many epithets being uttered by white characters, but he was convinced to stay the course by co-writer Richard Pryor and star Cleavon Little.
"I don’t think you could ever get away with the ‘N’ word being done by so many white people so many times," Brooks noted in a conversation captured by NorthJersey.com.
"And I kept asking Cleavon and Richard, ‘Are we going overboard here? Is this too much? Are we going to be in trouble?’ You know, Richard said the most brilliant thing ’cause he was a very good writer and a realist. And he said, ‘You know, Mel, if the racists and the bad guys use it, then it’s perfect. But if good people use it, then you’re in trouble.’”Interesting?
Gig Young, then a recent Academy Award winner for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), had originally been cast by Brooks as the Waco Kid for Blazing Saddles (1974). "[If] you see some of the stuff he did earlier, like the Doris Day movies he was in, you’d see he had a real light comic touch," Brooks relayed to Rolling Stone. Unfortunately, Gig Young was accidentally a little too method in his performance preparation. "And the Kid is [an] alcoholic, and so was Gig. He knew how to do it. Then we have the first day of shooting, he literally started throwing up green stuff all over the set. I thought, 'We aren’t shooting The Exorcist, are we? I think something’s wrong here.' I sent him to the hospital and called Gene in tears."
Wilder had been best friends with Brooks since they first collaborated together on The Producers seven years prior. The duo had also worked together on Young Frankenstein (1974).
"I heard him sigh over the phone: 'I know, Mel, I’m the Waco Kid, you need me, I’ll be there,'" Brooks continued. "This was a Saturday; he flew out on Sunday, tried on the costume, tried on the gunbelt, tried on the horse … [laughs] it all fit. By Monday, he was shooting the scene where he’s hanging upside down next to Cleavon. It all worked."Interesting?
Mel Brooks Cut One Joke At The Last Minute
While Blazing Saddles pushed the envelope in many regards, there was one joke Brooks decided to cut out in the editing stage. During the scene where Madeline Kahn's Lili Von Shtupp character seduces Bart the sheriff, she asks if a certain anatomy-related stereotype is true. She then shuts the lights out, and after an unzipping noise, she exclaims, "It's twue! It's twue!"
In the original cut, Brooks admits, Bart then replies "Excuse me, ma’am. I hate to disillusion you, but you’re sucking my arm."Interesting?