‘Blazing Saddles’ rides again on AMC

Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little in 'Blazing Saddles'The first few minutes of “Blazing Saddles” play out very much like a  conventional western. The film’s opening scene reveals a picturesque landscape,  which depicts an 1870’s railroad under construction, accompanied by the movie’s  stirring theme song, performed by Frankie Laine. But when a group of African  American laborers, commanded by their white foreman to sing, break into a highly  choreographed rendition of “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “Blazing Saddles” is off  and running in the opposite direction of any traditional cowboy flick. The 1974  Mel Brooks directed comedy, presented on AMC, Tuesday, February 16th at 6 pm  pst, stars Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and Harvey Korman, plus,  Brooks himself, playing both a slightly nutty Governor, and a wise, benevolent,  and somehow unmistakably Jewish Indian chief.

“Blazing Saddles” uses the familiar plot of an unscrupulous businessman,  Hedly Lamarr (Korman), trying to acquire land that will soon become valuable due  to the coming railroad. On that land stands the town of Rockridge, so Lamarr  arranges the appointment of an African American sheriff, hoping this action will  outrage the citizens enough to encourage them to either move away, or lynch the  sheriff prompting government intervention. When Sheriff Bart is able to win the  town’s loyalty, Lamarr raises an outlaw army, figuring to take the town by  force. Film buffs will easily recognize some of the classic movies that are  parodied throughout “Blazing Saddles,” such as “High Noon” and “Once Upon A Time  In The West,” while Madeline Kahn’s “Lili Von Shtupp” is obviously inspired by  Marlene Dietrich’s character in “Destry Rides Again.”

Mel Brooks was by no means the first to spoof the Hollywood western. Laurel  and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope and Jack Benny all took their turns  putting on cowboy hats for comic effect. But “Blazing Saddles” went much  further, using surrealism, some adult language and content, plus a constant  breaking down of the “fourth wall”. The film also is somewhat ground breaking as  the first western that deals with the issue of what usually happens after  several men are through eating beans. Although Brooks had to battle with studio  bosses and censors to keep his vision of “Blazing Saddles” intact, the film  ended up with three Academy Award nominations, and became only the tenth movie  as of that time to gross over $100 million dollars.

Note: Richard Prior was among the several writers who contributed to the  screenplay.