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Blazing Saddles (1974)

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To ruin a western town, a corrupt political boss appoints a black sheriff, who promptly becomes his most formidable adversary.

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(screenplay), (screenplay) | 4 more credits »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Burton Gilliam ...
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Liam Dunn ...
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Gabby Johnson (as Claude Ennis Starrett Jr.)
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Richard Collier ...
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Storyline

The Ultimate Western Spoof. A town where everyone seems to be named Johnson is in the way of the railroad. In order to grab their land, Hedley Lemar (Harvey Korman(R.I.P.)), a politically connected nasty person, sends in his henchmen to make the town unlivable. After the sheriff is killed, the town demands a new sheriff from the Governor (Mel Brooks). Hedley convinces him to send the town the first Black sheriff (Cleavon Little(R.I.P.)) in the west. Bart is a sophisticated urbanite who will have some difficulty winning over the townspeople. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Mel Brooks and the West! Together for the last time! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Western

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

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Language:

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Release Date:

7 February 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black Bart  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,600,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$119,500,000 (USA)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The scene in which Mongo knocks out a horse has a basis in reality. Mel Brooks' former Your Show of Shows (1950) and Caesar's Hour (1954) boss, Sid Caesar, who was a physically imposing and somewhat violent man, reported in his 1982 autobiography "Where Have I Been?" that while trail riding with his wife, her horse caused trouble and he punched it once between the eyes. The horse collapsed, unconscious. He notes that this event was Brooks' inspiration for the Mongo-vs.-horse scene. See more »

Goofs

When Mongo bursts into the saloon, the view of the street behind him is revealed to be a painted backcloth when his shadow falls on it. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Lyle: Come on, boys! The way you're lollygaggin' around here with them picks and them shovels, you'd think it was a hundert an' twenty degree. Can't be more than a hundert an' fourteen.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Tyler Perry's a Madea Christmas (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
(uncredited)
Written by Wallis Willis
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User Reviews

 
Trailblazing "Saddles"
14 December 2003 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

A few years ago, Broadway producers decided to adapt a Mel Brooks comedy and made a bundle. Could it happen again with 'Blazing Saddles?' The movie already has four great songs; a half-dozen more of similar caliber would make for a strong score. 'Blazing Saddles' has a ready-made cast of over-the-top characters, strong audience identification, and some minor problems for a theatrical production (like blowing up the phony Rock Ridge) which are easily overcome.

But 'The Producers' was a cult film that never made it to Main Street and needed the second act of a Broadway musical to give it a place in popular culture. 'Blazing Saddles' could never open again as big as it did in 1974. In the summer of Watergate and Patty Hearst, here was one bit of madness people could enjoy. And it wasn't just random kookiness, but a film that broke barriers and courted controversy like no other major-release film of its time. No other movie had characters that were basically likable if stupid throwing around the 'N' word before. In fact, it hasn't happened since (and I doubt it would on Broadway today.) The whole notion of white people and black people living together was not new, but the approach of 'Blazing Saddles' was certainly new. In order to live together, we have to laugh together first. The only way this film was not a trailblazer was in that it blazed trails untaken by any film that came after.

Was Cleavon Little then a civil rights pioneer for the 1970s, in a way Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were the decade before? He's very good, bringing a lightness to the role that's equal parts Shaft and Bugs Bunny. Richard Pryor was one of the film's writers and Brooks' first choice for Sheriff Bart, but Pryor wouldn't have played the role in the same smooth way. Little is an amiable actor, one step ahead but never cocky about it. He makes for a sympathetic center, and he is flash in those corduroy threads.

Little didn't work much after 'Blazing Saddles,' which makes no sense. It was only the highest-grossing Western of all time, and Little was the lead actor in it. Maybe institutional racism wasn't the sole cause. After all, he had a distractingly rock-solid cast around him, particularly Harvey Korman as Attorney General Hedley Lamarr. Growing up in the '70s, it was a shock the first time I saw the unedited 'Blazing Saddles' with all the casual vulgarity spewing from the mouth of Tim Conway's slapstick buddy on the ultra G-rated 'Carol Burnett Show.' 'You will be only risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost-certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor,' he tells his gang before they ride off to pillage Rock Ridge. If only the Academy didn't penalize comedies so, that might have been true.

Madeline Kahn did get nominated for Lili Von Shtupp, and deserved her Laurel and Hardy handshake for sure. Her Baba Wawa meets Marlene Dietrich performance is a comic masterpiece, and it takes guts to wear that dead-weed lingerie in which she performs 'I'm So Tired.' Slim Pickens (Taggart), Burton Gilliam (Lyle), Dom DeLuise (Buddy), and Brooks himself as 'the Gov' all shine, and the level of comic acting remains high all the way to the smallest roles, like the guy playing Hitler ('They lose me right after the bunker scene') and the cowboy who chews gum in line ('I didn't know there was gonna be so many people!')

Gene Wilder is a little young and ironic for the bitter ex-gunslinger known as the Waco Kid, but he grows into the role well enough. Certainly he was in tune with what Brooks was doing more than Gig Young or Dan Dailey would have been (Brooks' earlier choices for the part, with Young making it all the way to the first day's shooting before it was discovered he wasn't just acting the part of a hopeless drunk.)

'Blazing Saddles' doesn't make the IMDb top 250, but it's still one of the most significant video titles because it rewards repeat viewings so well. The wholeness of the film's comic spectacle is too dense to be absorbed in one viewing, especially when you are laughing too hard. It's a cultural landmark, yes, but it's even funnier now than it was 30 years ago, one of the funniest comedies that exist today. Making it into a musical now would almost be demeaning, but I suspect it will happen anyway.


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