Perhaps the most audacious movie of Mel Brooks’ directing career, the subversive satire Blazing Saddles takes on racism and prejudice in a way that is still winning over fans four decades later.
Below are 8 howl-worthy facts that will make you want to stand up and cheer – and give it a re-watch, too.
#8. Slim Pickens slept outside, with his Winchester, to get into character.
To get into Taggart’s mind, Slim Pickens grabbed his gun and slept under the stars. That’s dedication!
#7. It was originally titled Ted X: An Homage To Malcom X.
Other rejected titles were Black Bart and The Purple Sage, and the final title came to Brooks while he was taking a shower.
#6. Gene Wilder wasn’t even close to Brooks’ first choice.
Though Brooks described Wilder’s eventual performance as “magnificent” in the DVD documentary, many actors (including Johnny Carson) turned the part down before Brooks cast…Gig Young.
Then Young was removed from the role when he became violently ill from alcohol abuse on the first day of filming and everyone realized that having an alc*holic play an alc*holic probably wasn’t the best idea.
“We draped Gig Young’s legs over and hung him upside down. And he started to talk and he started shaking. I said, ‘This guy’s giving me a lot. He is giving plenty. He’s giving me the old alky shake. Great.’ And then it got serious, because the shaking never stopped and green stuff started spewing out of his mouth and nose, and he started screaming. And I said, ‘That’s the last time I’ll ever cast anybody who really is that person.’ If you want an alcoholic, don’t cast an alcoholic. …Anyway, poor Gig Young, it was the first shot on Friday, nine in the morning, and an ambulance came and took him away. I had no movie.”
Wilder took over almost immediately and the rest is history.
#5. John Wayne declined a role.
The Duke found the script funny but didn’t think it aligned with his resume and career. He did say, “I’ll be the first one in line to see it!”
#4. Wilder pitched the idea of Young Frankenstein while on set.
“His idea was very simple. ‘What if the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein wanted nothing to do with the family whatsoever? He was ashamed of those wackos.’ I said, ‘That’s funny.’
#3. It was the first movie that audiences heard someone fart onscreen.
Brooks once said “Blazing Saddles, for me, was a film that truly broke ground. It also broke wind…and maybe that’s why it broke ground.”
He argued that cowboys ate so many beans that there was no way they didn’t have gas, and out came the campfire scene that made movie history.
#2. It almost spawned a television series.
A pilot called Black Bart was filmed in 1975, but was never picked up.
#1. The character of Mongo was played by a former NFL player.
Alex Karras was a Detroit Lions’ defensive tackle who started appearing in films in the 1960s. He continued acting and is probably best known for the role of George Papadapolis on Webster.
Definitely one to pull out for your kids (once they’re old enough, of course).