Most Important Black Films #19 – Blazing Saddles


Lucas, Spielberg, and Scorsese all get their well-deserved credit, but doesn’t Mel Brooks deserve a little more love for pumping out his own classic films in the 70s/early 80s?  Chief among them is his parody of the Western genre, Blazing Saddles.  The story revolves around a black sheriff put in charge of a racist town in the Old West.  This isn’t just a ‘film geek’ pic, this is truly a great comedy…

Now on to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  While I joke with my partner about someday making a ‘slavery comedy’, Blazing Saddles is probably as close as anyone will get.  The main character is a black sheriff, and nearly every joke of the film revolves around that fact.

Legacy:  Already one of film’s great comedies, Mel Brooks wanted Richard Pryor to play the lead role of Bart.  The studio 86’ed it since Rich was already well into drugs, so Pryor got a writing credit.  Still one of Hollywood’s great ‘what ifs’ to me, but that’s neither here nor there.

Craft:  If you appreciate the art of parody and the art of telling a good (film) joke, you have to love this movie.  It’s often credited with being the first film to have a ‘fart joke’ in it, but when I think of craft in regards to this movie, I instantly think of Sheriff Bart’s first ride into Rock Ridge…

Drunk:  The sheriff’s a (church bell).

Pastor: What’d he say?

Mayor: The sheriff’s near!

Crossover: Big Time.  Because it’s a Mel Brooks film first and foremost, Blazing Saddles almost certainly has a bigger fanbase with the mainstream than it does with black audiences.  The film was nominated for three Oscars, but didn’t win any.

Apollo:  I repeat, it’s a Mel Brooks film.  While I’m partial to ‘Where the White Women At?’, Mongo punching out a horse, or the Hollywood backlot ending probably have much more ‘What the Hell?” credibility as far as this category goes.

A minor surprise next month as the countdown continues…

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