In Mel Brooks's 1974 film Blazing Saddles, the enforcer Mongo rides into town on a Brahma bull, and knocks out a horse with one punch. "Don't shoot him, it will just make him mad," the townspeople advise Sheriff Bart. Later, Bart asks Mongo about the things he's done. Looking up with puppy eyes, the hulking villain says: "Mongo only pawn in game of life."
Alex Karras, who has died aged 77, was a natural to play Mongo, with his larger-than-life body and rubbery face, which he could contort in exaggerated clowning, or soften to suggest his slyly sympathetic wit. Some of those skills he learned as a professional wrestler, and even as a novice actor he stole scenes from comedians as talented as Cleavon Little or Gene Wilder. Karras went on to have a successful career as a character actor,