Teri Garr originally auditioned for the role of Elizabeth, the fiancée, while Madeline Kahn, was the front-runner for Inga, the assistant. But Kahn ultimately decided she'd rather play Elizabeth, leaving director Mel Brooks with the task of recasting the Inga role. Undaunted, he called Garr in and told her that if she could come back the next day with a German accent, he'd like her for the part. She looked at Mel and said, "Vell, yes, I could do zee German ackzent tomorrow - I could come back zis afternoon" and the part was hers. Garr has said that she based her accent on Cher's wigmaker whom she worked with on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour (1971).
When they started to film the "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene, no one was sure what the creature should say. The first time out of the gate, however, Peter Boyle came up with a strangled version of "Puiinin on da reeez!"
The brain which Igor is sent to steal is labeled as belonging to "Hans Delbrück, scientist and saint." There actually was a real-life "Hans Delbrück"; he was a 19th-century German military historian and professor at the University of Berlin, notable for going beyond technical problems and linking warfare to politics and economics. His son Max Delbrück was a 20th-century biochemist and Nobel laureate.
In 1974 rock band Aerosmith took a break from a long night of recording to see this film. Steven Tyler wrote the band's hit "Walk This Way" the morning after seeing the movie, inspired by Marty Feldman's first scene, the "walk this way . . . this way" scene.
The original cut of the movie was almost twice as long as the final cut, and it was considered by all involved to be an abysmal failure. It was only after a marathon cutting session that they produced the final cut of the film, which both Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks considered to be far superior to the original product. At one point they noted that for every joke that worked, there were three that fell flat. So they went in and trimmed all the jokes that didn't work.
When Mel Brooks was preparing Young Frankenstein (1974), he found that Ken Strickfaden, who had made the elaborate electrical machinery for the lab sequences in the Universal Frankenstein films, was still alive in the Los Angeles area. He visited Strickfaden and found that Strickfaden had saved all the equipment and had it stored in his garage. Brooks made a deal to rent the equipment for his film and gave Strickfaden the screen credit he'd deserved, but hadn't gotten, for the original films.
The electrical apparatus used in the movie was basically the same as the equipment used in Frankenstein (1931). which was designed and built by electrical engineer Ken Strickfaden. After the film finished shooting, he stored the equipment in his garage. When Mel Brooks was in pre-production on this film, he learned that the apparatus from the original film still existed. He contacted Strickfaden and was able to borrow the apparatus, which is what you see in this film. Strickfaden's name was in the credits of both movies, 43 years apart, for the same thing.
Gene Wilder conceived the "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene, while Mel Brooks was resistant to it as a mere "conceit" and felt it would detract from the fidelity to Universal horror films in the rest of the film. Wilder recalls being "close to rage and tears" and argued for the scene before Brooks stopped him and said, "It's in!". When Wilder asked why he had changed his mind, Brooks said that since Wilder had fought for it then it would be the right thing to do. But it was only when he soon saw the musical number along with a howling audience that Brooks was finally confident about the sequence.
When the monster is being brought back to life, the area around his eyes (and what appears to be his teeth) begin to glow. This was done with a plastic head created to look exactly like that of Peter Boyle. Some fake teeth, fake brain tissue, and a light were used to create the effect.
Due to make-up continuity problems, certain shots in "The Blind Man" scene had to be re-shot. In the shot where The Blind Man spills soup on the Monster, the "Hand" spilling the soup actually belongs to director Mel Brooks, not Gene Hackman.
The Blind Man's parting line "I was gonna make espresso" was not in the script, but was ad-libbed by Gene Hackman during shooting. Hackman was uncredited when the movie was originally released in theaters.
Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks got into only one fight during the movie's production, but it was a big one with Mel throwing a huge temper tantrum, yelling and raging and eventually storming out of Gene's apartment (where the men had been working on the script). Roughly ten minutes later, Gene's phone rang. The caller was Mel, who had this to say: "WHO WAS THAT MADMAN YOU HAD IN YOUR HOUSE? I COULD HEAR THE YELLING ALL THE WAY OVER HERE. YOU SHOULD NEVER LET CRAZY PEOPLE INTO YOUR HOUSE - DON'T YOU KNOW THAT? THEY COULD BE DANGEROUS." That, as Gene later put it, was "Mel's way of apologizing".
The shifting hump on Igor's back was an ad-libbed gag of Marty Feldman's. He had surreptitiously been shifting the hump back and forth for several days when cast members finally noticed. It was then added to the script.
Mel Brooks initially thought that the "Walk this way" gag was too corny and wanted it cut from the film. But, when he saw the audience's reaction to it one night at a screening, he decided to leave it in.
Cloris Leachman, on NPR's "Fresh Air" on June 3, 2009, claimed that Mel Brooks told her that Blücher (as in Frau Blücher) means "glue" in German, hence the reason for the horse whinnies. However, this is not true: Blücher bears no resemblance to the German for glue. It's a very common name, so that shouting "Frau Blücher!" is equivalent to shouting "Ms. Jones!" According to supplementary information on the DVD the horse's terror at her name is meant to show that she is a terrible and frightening person.
Mel Brooks says that when Columbia Pictures realized he wanted to shoot the film entirely in black and white, it was so opposed that Brooks took the project the very next day to 20th-Century Fox, where the much more accommodating Alan Ladd Jr. had just taken over. Ladd had no problem with the film being shot in black-and-white.
Mel Brooks usually appeared in his own films but Gene Wilder insisted that Brooks should not appear in the film. He felt that Brooks' appearance would ruin the illusion and would only make the film if Brooks promised not to appear in it.
The experiment the medical student mentions, where Darwin preserved a worm in fluid until it came to life, is mentioned in Mary Shelley's foreword to the novel "Frankenstein." The Darwin in question was Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of the famous Charles Darwin.
At the 1975 Golden Globe Awards, Cloris Leachman was nominated for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy/Musical, while Madeline Kahn was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for their work in this movie. However, Kahn has more screen time than Leachman.
The Blind Man scene includes parts where we see the monster having hot soup poured on him and getting his thumb lit on fire. To keep himself protected, Peter Boyle had a hot pad on his lap, and he held a fake thumb with alcohol on it to keep the fire burning.
The Broadway musical version of Young Frankenstein starring Roger Bart as "Dr. Frederick Frankenstein" and Shuler Hensley as "The Creature" opened at the Hilton Theater, New York City on November 8, 2007. It closed on January 4, 2009 after 29 previews and 485 performances.
Igor (Marty Feldman) mentions that his grandfather (also named Igor as evidenced by Frederick's first visit to the lab) used to work for Frederick's grandfather. Interestingly in the original Frankenstein (1931) film the assistant's name was Fritz. Igor (spelled Ygor) did not appear until Son of Frankenstein (1939).