Blazing Saddles

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Director: Mel Brooks
Writers: Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Alan Uger
Lyrics: Mel Brooks

  • Cleavon Little — Bart
  • Gene Wilder — Jim (the Waco Kid)
  • Slim Pickens — Taggart
  • Harvey Korman — Hedley Lamarr
  • Mel Brooks — Governor LePetomaine; Indian chief; etc.
  • Madeline Kahn — Lili von Shtupp

Warner Bros.: 1974

93 minutes February 2005


Blazing Saddles is a comic masterpiece film from Mel Brooks, worthy to stand alongside his earlier musical-comedy-disaster hit, The Producers.

The plot is the tried-and-true one of a railroad laying tracks in the American West after the Civil War, but a small pioneer town is athwart its desired right-of-way. Problem: how can the crooked railroad bosses and corrupt authorities (Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, Mel Brooks) get rid of the townsfolk and acquire their land? Shooting up the place is one way; appointing a wholly inappropriate sheriff who is bound to get himself killed the first day, is another way.

I'll give a little of the wonderful flavor, just from the opening scene:

A group of armed railroad toughs try to coax the largely black tracklaying crew to sing an old-time plantation song. The tracklayers, led by Cleavon Little, begin singing Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You", anachronistically but with professional harmony. The puzzled railroad toughs counter by suggesting the more traditional "Camptown Ladies", of which the tracklayers plead ignorance, so the toughs sing it themselves, dancing around like fools. Then rail boss Slim Pickens shows up, and soon the railroad is headed for quicksand.

Cleavon Little has the role of a lifetime as the black railroad track-worker — and "urban sophisticate" — who gets the doomed job: he's appointed sheriff of the town. Gene Wilder shines as the reformed-drunk intellectual gunslinger who helps him. Madeline Kahn plays a Marlene Dietrich sort of saloon singer in the town, entangled with both sides.

Blazing Saddles is not politically correct any more than, say, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. And the movie's "bad language" may not be appropriate for children (use your own judgement); not understanding some of the sexual puns may protect the youngest from moral harm, and not knowing any Yiddish may protect others. Really, though, Blazing Saddles is funny as slapstick / social-commentary without being mean or nasty.

In addition to excellent performances from the actors listed above, the movie abounds with fine people in secondary and cameo roles; Frankie Laine sings the title song. Great fun.


© 2005 Robert Wilfred Franson


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