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Mel Brooks Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (21) | Trivia (54) | Personal Quotes (29)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 28 June 1926Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Birth NameMelvin James Kaminsky
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. He served in WWII, and afterwards got a job playing the drums at nightclubs in the Catskills. Brooks eventually started a comedy act and also worked in radio and as Master Entertainer at Grossinger's Resort before going to television.

He was a writer for, Your Show of Shows (1950) Caesar's Hour (1954) and wrote the Broadway show Shinbone Alley. He also worked in the creation of The 2000 Year Old Man (1975) and Get Smart (1965) before embarking on a highly successful film career in writing, acting, producing and directing.

Brooks is famous for the spoofs of different film genres that he made such as Blazing Saddles (1974), History of the World: Part I (1981), Silent Movie (1976), Young Frankenstein (1974), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), High Anxiety (1977), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), and Spaceballs (1987).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tony Foster

Spouse (2)

Anne Bancroft (5 August 1964 - 6 June 2005) (her death) (1 child)
Florence Baum (26 November 1953 - 20 January 1962) (divorced) (3 children)

Trade Mark (21)

Has frequently cast himself, Gene Wilder (1933-2016), Harvey Korman (1927-2008), Rudy De Luca, Madeline Kahn (1942-1999), Cloris Leachman, Dom DeLuise (1933-2009), Ron Carey (1935-2007), Marty Feldman (1933-1982), and Kenneth Mars (1935-2011).
Almost always uses music by John Morris
Frequently uses the line: "We have much to do and less time to do it in."
His films usually contain many Jewish references and jokes
Always features one scene in his movies in which the main character is seated and staring blankly, wondering what went wrong, while friends console him.
The main villain wears a moustache or a beard
Always features a scene where one character is explaining a plan to another, and the latter character repeats everything the former says, including something outrageous. After realizing this, the latter exclaims "what?"
The lead character in his films is always a male
[Parody] Nearly all of Brooks' films parody a genre or a single film
His films often contain references to the film's sequel, which never come to pass. Good examples of this are History of the World: Part I (1981), Spaceballs (1987) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993).
["Walk this way" gag] One character says "Walk this way!" (as in "Follow me!"), and another character(s) copies the way he/she is walking (History of the World: Part I (1981), Young Frankenstein (1974) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)).
Frequently has a bust of his head on the poster of video/DVD cover of his movies.
All of his movies feature a wacky song-and-dance number
Frequently makes fun of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany
Visual or verbal gags where the characters break the fourth wall and reference the fact that they're in a movie.
His main characters often stop and sarcastically direct a line to the camera/audience.
His films often make numerous references to previous films whether a poster or cassette or an actual line spoken
Despite being known for directing comedies, many of the films he acts as a producer on are heavy, serious dramas
References to Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis"
Energetic raspy voice with Brooklyn accent
Over the top acting style

Trivia (54)

Served as a corporal with the United States Army in North Africa during World War II, where one of his duties was defusing land mines before the infantry moved in.
His stage name is an adaptation of his mother's maiden name, Brookman.
His film The Producers (1967) was the inspiration for the title of the album "Achtung Baby" (1991) by the rock band U2.
He produced and wrote the music, lyrics, and book for the Broadway musical "The Producers" (2001), the musical version of his earlier movie The Producers (1967). The Broadway hit musical then lead to the musical movie The Producers (2005).
One of the few people to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony. He won an Oscar for the screenplay of The Producers (1967); three Emmys in a row (1997-1999) for his guest appearance as Uncle Phil in Mad About You (1992); three Tonys for "The Producers" - Best Musical, Original Music Score and Book (musical); and three Grammys - Best Spoken Comedy Album for "The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000" (1998, with Carl Reiner) and two for "The Producers" (2001): Best Musical Show Album (as composer/lyricist) and Best Long Form Music Video (as artist).
Son Eddie Brooks manages a band called "Early Edison".
Named one of E!'s "Top 20 entertainers of 2001".
Called his late wife Anne Bancroft his Obi-Wan Kenobi since she encouraged him to turn his movie The Producers (1967) into a Broadway musical.
Named one of People Magazine's "25 Most Intriguing People of 2001".
At the opening of the Broadway version of "The Producers", he was asked by a reporter if he was nervous about the play's reception, since it cost $40 million to produce. Brooks joked, "If it flops, I'll take the other sixty million and fly to Rio." He did not have to worry, since the play was both a critical and financial success.
He and Anne Bancroft met on the set of a TV talk show, and Mel later paid a woman who worked on the show to tell him which restaurant Bancroft was going to eat at that night so he could "accidentally" bump into her again and strike up a conversation.
He and Bancroft married at New York's Municipal Building, where a passer-by served as their witness.
Children from his first marriage: Stefanie Brooks (born 1956), Nicky Brooks (born 1957) and Eddie Brooks (born 1959). Has one son with Anne Bancroft: Max Brooks (born 1972).
In 1966, he was about to co-star in a movie called "Easy Come, Easy Go" with Jan Berry and Dean Torrence in the leading roles. What would have been his on-screen debut, was canceled due to a car wreck during shooting, in which Berry suffered a severe brain damage and paralysis. On the casting list was also British comedy star Terry-Thomas.
Has performed a rap song for the soundtrack of History of the World: Part I (1981) called "It's Good to Be the King". It was a surprisingly successful hip-hop/dance hit in 1981. He followed it up with "Hitler Rap" for To Be or Not to Be (1983). The song was not as successful. But the lyric "Don't be stupid, be a smarty/Come and join the Nazi Party" was originally used in the original movie version of The Producers (1967), then later reused in Brooks' Broadway version of "The Producers".
The 1944 edition of the Eastern District High School (Brooklyn, N.Y.) yearbook featured the future Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky) stating that his goal was to become President of the United States; forty-three years later, in 1987, his ambition was to be fulfilled, if only in fiction and in part -- in the movie Spaceballs (1987), he portrayed Spaceball leader "President Skroob".
His favorite song is "Yankee Doodle Dandy" by George M. Cohan.
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy", by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 63-66. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985." Pages 162-167. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Is close friends with Italian television star Ezio Greggio, whose movies he inspired. Brooks is often a guest on Greggio's shows, and offered Greggio a small role in his movie Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), due to this friendship.
In 2001, he won three Tony Awards for "The Producers": as a co-producer of the Best Musical winner; as Best Book (Musical), with collaborator Thomas Meehan; and as Best Original Musical Score, both lyrics and music.
Has one grandson: Henry Michael Brooks (Max's son) (born April 2005).
In the original film version of The Producers (1967), Brooks' voice can be heard singing the line "Don't be stupid/Be a schmarty/Come and join the Nazi Party" during the "Springtime for Hitler" number. For the Broadway musical version, he repeats this task, with the live actor lip-synching to a recording of Brooks.
Has cited his favorite films as Bicycle Thieves (1948) and La Grande Illusion (1937).
Though Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974) are often cited as his best and most popular films as a director, his biggest video sales are Spaceballs (1987) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993).
His parents, Kate (Brookman) and Aharon Mordechai/Max Kaminsky, were Jewish immigrants. His father was born in Tilsit, then in Prussia, now in Russia, with ancestors who also lived in Belarus. His mother was born in Kiev, then in the Russian Empire, now in Ukraine. Mel is an avid fan of Russian literature, occasionally making references to works and writers in his films.
His running "walk this way" gag is also the inspiration for the song "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith. The gag was copied from William Powell's ad-lib in After the Thin Man (1936).
Would much rather write than direct.
He, Anne Bancroft and their son Max Brooks have all won Emmy Awards.
Has directed two performers to Oscar nominations: Gene Wilder (for The Producers (1967)) and Madeline Kahn (for Blazing Saddles (1974)).
Worked with son Nicky Brooks at Brooksfilm. Nicky was a story editor on The Fly (1986), The Fly II (1989) and Spaceballs (1987).
Godfather of Alan Yentob's children.
He attended film director Alfred Hitchcock's funeral.
In an NPR interview, he mentioned that he attended Virginia Military Institute and thus, in reference to the 1938 film's setting, was a "Brother Rat".
Was considered for the role of Dr. Sam Loomis in the horror film Halloween (1978), which went to Donald Pleasence.
Is one of the five winners of the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors. Other 2009 winners were Bruce Springsteen, Robert De Niro, Dave Brubeck and Grace Bumbry.
Has directed three of the American Film Institute's 100 Funniest Movies: Blazing Saddles (1974) at #6, The Producers (1967) at #11 and Young Frankenstein (1974) at #13.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on April 23, 2010.
His father died when Mel was age two and his impoverished childhood has been called 'Dickensian'.
Worked as a stand-up comedy "tummeler" in Catskill Mountains resorts before joining Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows (1950) immortal writing staff in the 1950s, which featured Neil Simon. It's also where he met performer Carl Reiner. This legendary Caesar show was the basis for the comedy classic, My Favorite Year (1982).
Often ate dinner at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Monica, California, with his wife Anne Bancroft.
Was presented, by Martin Scorsese, the 41st Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California on June 6, 2013.
Grew up at 365 South Third Street in Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York City.
Produced the stage musical adaptation of his movie Young Frankenstein (1974). The musical opened on Halloween night, October 31, 2007, at the St. James Theatre on Broadway after a summer try-out at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. [April 2007]
Best friends with Carl Reiner. Both of them widowers, they hang out and watch movies together every night.
His musical, "Young Frankenstein" at the Drury Lane Productions in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for a 2014 Joseph Jefferson Equity Award for Large Musical Production.
He has two roles in common with both Peter Cushing and Dennis Price: (1) Cushing played Victor Frankenstein in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), One More Time (1970) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974), Price played him in Drácula contra Frankenstein (1972) and La maldición de Frankenstein (1973) and Brooks played him in Young Frankenstein (1974) and (2) Cushing played Professor Van Helsing in Horror of Dracula (1958), The Brides of Dracula (1960), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972), The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), Price played him in Son of Dracula (1974) and Brooks played him in Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995).
In 1962, the year that his divorce from his first wife was finalized, Brooks wrote an original screenplay entitled "Marriage is a Dirty Rotten Fraud". It was never filmed.
His musical, "The Producers" at the Marriott Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for a 2008 Joseph Jefferson Equity Award for Large Musical Production.
Has claimed that he includes so many jokes about Hitler and the Nazis in his movies because he wants to make them both seem so ridiculous that their beliefs never became popular again.
He learned how to play drums from legendary Jazz drummer Buddy Rich and began making money with them at age fourteen.
Counts Strangers on a Train (1951) as his favorite Alfred Hitchcock film.
His musical, "The Producers" at the Mercury Theater in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for a 2016 Joseph Jefferson (Equity) Award for Midsize Musical Production.
Is a huge fan of the original Star Trek (1966) series.

Personal Quotes (29)

Why should I indulge myself and do a David Lean-ish kind of film? I could do my little Jewish Brief Encounter (1945) and disguise it - shorten the noses. But it wouldn't be as much fun as delivering my dish of insanity.
I cut my finger. That's tragedy. A man walks into an open sewer and dies. That's comedy.
My movies rise below vulgarity.
Critics can't even make music by rubbing their back legs together.
Oh, I'm not a true genius. I'm a near genius. I would say I'm a short genius. I'd rather be tall and normal than a short genius.
I'm the only Jew who ever made a buck offa 'Hitler'!
[on the late Zero Mostel] He could be wicked and cruel, and he could be almost sweet, loving, kind, generous. The great thing about Zero was that he was uniquely gifted. He was really, truly talented, more talented than any actor except for Sid Caesar that I have ever worked with.
Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast-beaters. By the time I was five, I knew I was that one.
Humor is just another defense against the universe.
[on the late Cleavon Little] My rule was not to eat with actors, but I enjoyed him so much that I begged him to eat with me.
As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes.
You're young forever when you write. Alfred Hitchcock directed until the day he died. As long as you don't have any dementia or Alzheimer's, if you have your All-Bran every day and clear yourself out, I think your brains are gonna be all right.
[on Woody Allen] Woody Allen is a genius. His films are wonderful.
[on Anne Bancroft] I'm married to a beautiful and talented woman who can lift your spirits just by looking at you.
[on the CIA] They don't know right from wrong. That's what makes a satire of these government bureaus [Get Smart (2008)] really funny.
[on Buster Keaton] I don't think he was a genius. Einstein was a genius; Buster Keaton was astonishing. I've never seen any human being able to perform as brilliantly and gracefully with such unusually gifted timing. There was only one Keaton. His eyes shone with a certain intensity, fire and love. His face had little expression, but his eyes were always dynamically alive. His eyes spoke more than any script could speak.
Dom DeLuise was a big man in every way. He was big in size and created big laughter and joy. He will be missed in a very big way.
[on David Lynch] He's like James Stewart from hell.
I said to Slim Pickens you've made a hundred movies. Do you have any advice? He said, "Mel, whenever you get the chance. Sit down." Sit down? I felt like I was asking Orson Welles how you make Citizen Kane (1941) he says sit down? But Slim was right because it can get very tiring.
I love spaghetti and sex, sometimes together. My dream of heaven is walking naked through fields of pasta fazool.
Immortality is a by-product of good work. Masterpieces are not for artists, they're for critics. Critics can't even make music by rubbing their back legs together. My message to the world is "Let's swing, sing, shout, make noise! Let's not mimic death before our time comes! Let's be wet and noisy!".
[on the famous campfire scene in Blazing Saddles (1974)] I only break wind on the prairie.
[on Richard Pryor in Blazing Saddles (1974)] I knew how bright he was. I hired him because I was going to do a lot of black jokes. I said, "I'm not going to take the heat for these. I want somebody there to give me the okay, see if I cross the line, what's in good taste, what's in bad taste." Strangely enough, Pryor wrote very little of the black stuff. I wound up doing that.
I thank my lucky stars that I was born and that my brother Irving was so kind and good to me. He gave me... a tricycle, trying to make up for the loss of - I didn't realize it, but trying to make up for the loss of our father.
I had the best childhood. I loved life. I thought life was the most wonderful thing ever created.
I'm not such a comedy giant. I'm five-six. There are guys not as funny, but they're bigger. And I think that counts.
I've always been a huge admirer of my own work. I'm one of the funniest and most entertaining writers I know.
The musical blows the dust off your soul.
I'm grateful to the army. Grateful to Hitler too. The Producers made me the first Jew in history to make a buck out of Hitler.

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