Day 11 – A Comedy
I love to laugh, long and loud and clear. Like I’ve mentioned before, I watch movies as a form of escapism and not, like many well-rounded and proficient film viewers, to gain something or add to my perspective on life. This makes comedies, a genre skilled (but not always that skilled) at lightening the mood, quite enjoyable to me indeed. While there’s nothing perhaps quite so wretched as a comedy that isn’t funny, there’s nothing quite so heartening and enjoyable as a well-executed gang of laughs, and today’s entry is just that.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
First and foremost, I like my comedies to be silly, and Blazing Saddles is silly as hell. Impromptu Cole Porter song breaks, Yiddish-speaking Indians, and Alex Karras giving a horse a right cross to the jaw all help give Blazing Saddles a wonderfully farcical edge, and this kitchen-sink approach to goofiness helps make it my favorite Mel Brooks movie.
Blazing Saddles doesn’t have a plot so much as a series of comic vignettes strung together, but here goes: in the old west, a black railroad worker named Bart (Cleavon Little) is saved from the gallows and appointed sheriff of Rock Ridge by State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman). It’s not out of beneficence, though—Lamarr wants to drive the folks of Rock Ridge out of town, and figured a black sheriff would help achieve his ends. Unfortunately, Bart soon earns the respect of the town, leaving Lamarr to try different means to driving him off, whether it’s the muscular Mongo (Karras) or the seductive Lily von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn). Bart overcomes every obstacle thrown his way, and with the help of his deputy, Jim, the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder), he brings Lamarr to justice the only way he knows how: breaking out of the movie set and chasing him down at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Little and Wilder have an effortless comic chemistry throughout. "Where the white women at?"
Blazing Saddles is just funny. From the casual racial humor to the manically silly musical numbers to the loving parody of Western tropes, Blazing Saddles has a distinct and hilarious comedy style. So self-evident is the comedy to me that I am literally having trouble writing about it, so instead I’ll content myself with a list of my favorite moments:
- Bart rides off towards Rock Ridge to the tune of “April in Paris,” then rides by Count Basie while he’s playing the song.
- “No, Mongo straight.”
- Lili von Shtupp’s song “I’m Tired,” which I will forever associate with my good friend Kailey.
- “Are we awake?”
“We’re not sure. Are we black?”
“Yes, we are.”
“Then we’re awake, but we’re very puzzled.”
- Bart gives Mongo a Looney Tunes-style exploding Candygram.
The flavor is a bit different than many comedies today (as are most films made in the 70’s), but Blazing Saddles is one of my favorite movies of all time, and perhaps my favorite movie comedy.