13 Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Blazing Saddles'
Photo: Blazing Saddles / Warner Bros.

13 Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Blazing Saddles'

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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."

    3,541 votes
  • 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."

    2,891 votes
  • 3
    2,901 VOTES

    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.’”

    2,901 votes
  • Co-writer Richard Pryor was originally supposed to portray Black sheriff Bart, the lead in Blazing Saddles. Because Warner Bros. balked at insuring Pryor - then coming off a recent drug arrest per a NorthJersey.com interview - Pryor bowed out, but convinced co-writer/director Mel Brooks to stay aboard the project.

    "I almost quit the movie because the studio was scared of casting him," Mel Brooks told Rolling Stone in 2016. "He was the original Black Bart. But Richard said, 'Mel, don’t quit - I still have two more payments coming to me from the Screenwriters’ Guild, let’s make the movie. I have to get paid. We’ll find a good Black Bart, let’s just do this.'"

    2,384 votes
  • 5
    2,783 VOTES

    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."

    2,783 votes
  • 6
    1,835 VOTES

    One Scene Features An Actual Bystander Whom Brooks Kept In The Movie

    During the film's extremely meta finale, Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) is pursuing his adversary, the crooked mayor Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) and his group of cowboy ruffians. Soon, the pursuit escapes the movie's sets and turns to the rest of the Warner Bros. studio backlot. In the scene, during a meta-on-top-of-meta moment, there appears to be a confused bystander in the shot, baffled by all the activity. In reality, that was an actual confused bystander!

    "So the area in front of Warner Bros. was supposed to be absolutely clear," Brooks told Conan O'Brien during an appearance on Conan. "There was a guy in a kind of a brindle sweater walking up and down, and I said to the [assistant directors], 'Chase him, chase him away.' So they did." As they rolled, "everybody flew out of Warner Bros, onto the street... and he just wandered back in." Brooks enjoyed the moment so much, he made sure his crew got the man to sign a waiver green-lighting the use of his image for the movie.

    1,835 votes