Gene Wilder … Cowboy

31 Aug

Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder made only 2 Westerns – the immensely popular Blazing Saddles (1974) and The Frisco Kid (1979).

Though a comedy, I’d guess a good number of Western fans would put Blazing Saddles in their Top Ten favorite Westerns.

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Blazing Saddles Theme / Frankie Laine

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Blazing Saddles poster 1 Blazing Saddles poster 2 Blazing Saddles poster 3 Blazing Saddles poster 4

Blazing Saddles IMDB review Blazing Saddles Rotten Tomatoes review

(Rather Amazing) Blazing Saddles Trivia from IMDB

  • Mel Brooks wrote the movie out of anger at “white corruption, racism, and Bible-thumping bigotry.”
  • One studio executive stopped Mel Brooks in an elevator at the Warner Brothers lot and told him that several scenes were offensive and needed to be cut in order for the picture to be released. Brooks nodded and agreed to be polite even though he had no intention of changing a thing, being that he had final cut written into his contract.
  • Mel Brooks never told Frankie Laine that the theme song “Blazing Saddles” was for a comedy. Laine thought it was a dramatic western. Brooks was worried that Laine wouldn’t sing it with conviction if he knew the truth. When Brooks advertised in the show business trade papers for a “Frankie Laine-type” voice to sing the film’s title song, he was hoping for a good imitator. Instead, Laine himself showed up at Brooks’ office two days later, ready to do the job.
  • The original plan for the film was to have Alan Arkin direct with James Earl Jones playing Bart.
  • Upon a chance encounter with John Wayne, Mel Brooks asked him to be in the movie. According to Brooks, the Duke turned down the offer the next day by saying, “Naw, I can’t do a movie like that, but I’ll be first in line to see it!”
  • At the beginning of the scene in which Mongo awakens chained up in the sheriff’s office, when Bart (Gene Wilder) is hanging up posters on the board, there is a wanted poster already hanging up on the wall. This same wanted poster can be seen on the wall in the jail house in the John Wayne movie Rio Bravo (1959).
  • Brooks humor is not everybody’s brand of whisky. When the film was first screened for Warner Brothers executives, almost none of them laughed and the movie looked to be a disaster that the studio would not release. However, Mel Brooks quickly set up a subsequent screening for the studio’s employees. When these regular folks laughed uproariously throughout the movie, Warners finally agreed to take a chance on releasing it.
  • In the DVD commentary, Mel Brooks said that the working title for the film was “Tex X”, as a reference to black Muslim leader Malcolm X. It was then switched to “Black Bart”, then to “The Purple Sage”. In either case, neither he nor the other writers thought those were great titles. Brooks says that one morning he was taking a shower and the words “Blazing Saddles” suddenly popped into his head. When he got out of the shower, he pitched the title to his wife, actress Anne Bancroft, who liked the idea, and that’s how the movie ended up with its title.
  • When Harvey Korman‘s character purchases a ticket at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater box office, you can see the original film title, “BLACK BART” in the poster case in the background.
  • Hedy Lamarr sued Mel Brooks over the use of the name Hedley Lamarr and settled out of court. Mel said he was flattered by this attention and even made a reference to the lawsuit in the movie.
  • Supposedly, this movie officially marks the first time the sound of farting has ever been used in a film (at least according to the filmmakers in the DVD Documentary). According to Mel Brooks, they came up with the idea after watching numerous old westerns where cowboys only consume black coffee and plates of beans.
  • Production began with Gig Young as the Waco Kid. On the first day of shooting, the scene where the drunk Waco Kid hangs from a bunk asking if Bart is black, Young revealed that he really was indeed drunk (he had had an alcohol problem for years) and proceeded to undergo a physical collapse on set. Brooks shut down production for a day and Gene Wilder flew cross country to take over the role. Young later sued Warner Bros. for breach of contract.
  • Mel Brooks also asked Johnny Carson to play the Waco Kid; he refused.
  • The role of Bart was intended for Richard Pryor, but due to the controversial nature of Pryor’s stand-up routines of the day and his background, Brooks couldn’t secure financing for the project with Pryor in that role. So Pryor was made a co-writer of the script, and Cleavon Little played Bart. Pryor later got to star in a different western comedy – Adiós Amigo (1976).
  • Dom DeLuise has claimed that the role of the director of the film-within-a-film, “The French Mistake”, was originally meant to be played by actor Peter Sellers. However, after Brooks endured an exhaustive four-hour audition, he instead cast DeLuise.
  • The bull that Mongo rides has “YES” painted on one side and “NO” painted on the other. This is apparently a reference to the practice in the 1950s of marking the back of school buses for which side was safe to pass on, essentially inferring that Mongo and his mount are as big as a bus.
  • Over 70 stuntmen worked on this film, many of them doubling as extras.
  • A large photo of Edward G. Robinson can be seen hanging on the commissary wall during the pie fight.
  • Cameo: Count Basie: leader of the jazz band in the desert. The song being performed is ‘April in Paris’ written by Vernon Duke and E.Y. Harburg in 1932.
  • Mel Brooks: [fourth wall] often breaks the “fourth wall”, having the actors speak directly to the audience.

Gene Wilder Blazing Saddles

Blazing Saddles Cleavon Little Blazing Saddles Slim Pickens Blazing Saddles Harvey Korman Gene Wilder Blazing Saddles 2 Blazing Saddles Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder Gene Wilder Blazing Saddles 3 Gene Wilder Blazing Saddles 4

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4 Responses to “Gene Wilder … Cowboy”

  1. Cindy Bruchman September 1, 2016 at 4:12 am #

    I loved him! Nice tribute to a fine man. RIP, Gene.

    • jcalberta September 1, 2016 at 9:47 am #

      He was a great guy – and a natural Comedian. Sometimes I’d just watch him and start to chuckle. He had the impish smile – like we were all IN on some secret joke.
      Maybe he was right.

  2. Don Ostertag September 1, 2016 at 11:50 am #

    Thanks for this post, J.C.. It reminds us of just how great Wilder was.

    • jcalberta September 1, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

      A pleasure …
      Will be missed.

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