Born Melvin James Kaminsky, June 28, 1926.He was raised in Brooklyn in a family of Russian Jews.
In 1944, Melvin graduated from highschool and was drafted into thearmy. He received training at VirginiaMilitary Institute in Lexington, VA.
Corporal Kaminsky served in the1104th Engineer Combat Group. His main job was to deactivate enemy land mines.
‚War isn’t hell. War is loud. Much too noisy. All thoseshells and bombs going off all around you. Never mind death. A man could lose his hearing. ‚ – Mel Brooks
After the war, Kaminsky began working as amusician and comic in the ‚Borscht Belt‛ --aseries of resorts in the Catskill Mountainsfrequented by New York Jews. The rapid-fire delivery and self-deprecating jokes of Borscht Belt humor are trademarks of Mel Brooks’ style.
To avoid beingconfused withBorscht Belt trumpetplayer MaxKaminsky, Melvinchanged his stagename… …to Mel Brooks.
Brooks found hisnext opportunity inthe burgeoningmedium oftelevision. Sid Caesar as Professor Von Hoffmeyer, a character he In 1950, he was created for Your Show of hired as one of five Shows. writers for Sid http://www.yo utube.com/wat Caeser’s Your Show ch?v=y4neJKJb uvI of Shows.
Also writing for Your Show of Shows was CarlReiner, and with him Brooks created ‚the 2000year old man.‛ This was performed on albumsand various TV shows. The 2000 Year Old Man on Shakespeare: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1tosm 25OOE
In 1964, Brooks married actress Anne Bancroft.
She died of uterine cancer in 2005.‚I had 45 of the greatest years of my life.‛ --Mel Brooks
In 1965, Brooks co-created the hit TV series, Get Smart, about bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart.Get Smart ‚The Cone ofOpening Silence‛:Sequence: http://www.youtuhttp://www.youtu be.com/watch?v=Hbe.com/watch?v= WtPPWi6OMQKv3kcnI72Ec
For years, Brooks had wanted to do a musical featuring Adolph Hitler.‚Springtimefor Hitler‛: In 1968, he turned thishttp://www.y idea into his first fulloutube.com/watch?v=ovC length motion picture,f9VRLnDY The Producers. Mel Brooks wins The movie became an Oscar: underground smash hit http://www.youtub e.com/watch?v=Tc and won the Oscar for nSXEvzULk Best Screenplay.
Brook’s next film The Twelve Chairs (1970) flopped.In 1972, Brooks was hired as a script doctor for the movie that would become…
Blazing Saddles (1974) Blazing Saddles Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=1V1c1yCQI5A Brooks co-wrote the songs for the film,including the Oscar-winning theme song.
Next, Brooks and Gene Wilder wrote and filmed Young Frankenstein (1974). Young Frankenstein Trailer: http://www.youtu be.com/watch?v= mOPTriLG5cUThe film was a spoof of classic horror moviesand film noir and (at Brooks’ insistence) was shot in black and white.
Interviewer: When did it first occur to you that Frankenstein was funny?I was in the middle of shooting the last few weeks of "Blazing Saddles" somewhere inthe Antelope Valley, and Gene Wilder and I were having a cup of coffee and he said, I have this idea that there could be another"Frankenstein." I said not another – weve had the son of, the cousin of, the brother- in-law, we dont need another Frankenstein. 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, "Thats funny."
Young Frankenstein was both financially andcritically successful. Brooks has called it his favorite of all his films. Brooks explains how he dealt with laughter on the set during takes: ‚I bought 200 [white handkerchiefs]. I said, ‘If you’re not in the scene, take this handkerchief, and when you feel you’re going to laugh, shove this in your mouth.’ And every once in a while, I’d be shooting a scene and I would turn, and I could see a sea of white handkerchiefs. So I said, ‘Okay, this is going to be funny. This is good.’ ‚
Brooks’ next two hits were Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977). Silent Movie was a High Anxiety was afull-length silent film. spoof of the films of Alfred Hitchcock.Trailer:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ph6GIWOCiO8 Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsJE8sYoe0E Brooks starred as film director Mel Brooks starred as Funn. Dr. Thorndyke.
In 1980, Siskel & Ebert named ‚the two most successful comedy directors in the worldtoday... Americas two funniest filmmakers.‛ Woody Allen Mel Brooks
After producing a few dramatic films with his company Brooksfilms, Brooks returned to comedy with his spoof of historical dramas, History of the World Part 1 (1981). History of the World Part 1 Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDf5IkKAv-s
In 1982, Brooks produced and starred in a remake of the 1942 film To Be Or Not To Be. The Hitler Rap: http://www.yout ube.com/watch? v=yu2NqfISm9kIncluded on the film soundtrack (though not in the film) was ‚To Be Or Not to Be‛ (The Hitler Rap)‛ with Brooks playing Hitler. The song became a hit, reaching No. 12 on UK charts.
1987 brought Spaceballs, Brooks’ spoof of Star Wars and other space movies. Spaceballs Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JaJG1fXHpM
Next came Life Stinks (1991). Life Stinks Trailer: http://www.yout ube.com/watch?v =KJWCNcAjSEoBrooks played a tycoon who makes a bet he can survive on the streets for 30 days.
Then, Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993). Men In Tights Trailer: http://www.you tube.com/watch ?v=dX4Ik-cyp-IBrooks spoofed all Robin Hoods, but notably 1991’s Prince of Thieves. For the film, Brooksborrowed material from his short-lived 1975 TV series When Things Were Rotten.
And in 1995, Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Dead & Loving It Trailer: http://www.youtu be.com/watch?v=c 7Dogj5c9pg The film starred Leslie Nielsen as CountDracula, and is a send up of vampire films. It isthe last movie that Mel Brooks has directed to date.
Just when his career seemed to be losingmomentum, Brooks took Broadway by storm in 2001, when he adapted his 1968 film The Producers for the stage. The Producers at the Tony Awards: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGMkCw858eE
Starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the show won 12 Tony awardsincluding Best Musical, and Best Original Score written by Brooks himself. In 2005, Brooks turned the musical into a film. The Producers Trailer: http://www.youtu be.com/watch?v= VzF4N0StVes
Music was always a part of Brooks’ life from his childhood. He learned to playdrums at age 10, andlater piano. Before hedid a comic act in the Borscht Belt, Brooksworked as a musician.
Interviewer: Who were your musical influences? Louis Armstrong: Brooks: http://www.youtu be.com/watch?v=Y The radio was a big influence. Big tElKZHRISg Bands. Small groups at first, emanating from Dixieland to Louie Armstrong. I was only three or four, Glenn Miller:but I was bouncing around like crazy http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=bfKpBlistening to that stuff and my mother O7eHG8 couldnt keep me down. Then when the Big Bands came in the 1930s, everything from Benny Goodman to Glenn Miller. Artie Shaw was my Artie Shaw: absolute favorite. http://www.youtu be.com/watch?v= V8xFOm3pdoM
‚As far as songwriters, Ive always been a fan of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin; those guys mean a lot to me.‛Irving Berlin: Cole Porter: George Gershwin:http://www.youtube. http://www.youtube.co http://www.youtube.com/com/watch?v=WOYz m/watch?v=qo6lPifGnG watch?v=4Rck21wqYfgFKizikU A (featuring YF’s Inga)
Brooks recalls what it was like adapting The Producers: "David Geffen kept calling and calling me,saying, The Producers is a natural and JerryHerman will do the score. "Anne did have a lot to do withHerman called Geffen and [my writing music] and it started told him, Brooks is a all the way back with The 12 musician. Hes into Chairs. I said, I need a theme Gershwin. Use Mel song for the movie, and she said, Brooks. And we did it.‚ Go into the attic and write it and dont come down until you have it. So I wrote it in four hours and then I got to come down from the attic."
Brooks credits his wife Anne with giving himthe inspiration to musicalize The Producers. She would also help him with his next project, a Broadway adaptation of Young Frankenstein.Clips from Young Frankenstein: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOo6HCPJqZU
For Young Frankenstein, Brooks re-teamed with Producers co-playwright Thomas Meehan. The first draft of their script was performed in a reading in October 2006. The reading was directed by Susan Stroman, and featured Brian dArcy James as Dr. Frankenstein, Kristin Chenoweth as Elizabeth, Sutton Foster as Inga, Roger Bart as Igor, MarcKudisch as Inspector Kemp, Shuler Hensley as the Monster, andCloris Leachman as Frau Blucher (reprising her 1974 film role).
Though many of the reading’s cast wererumored to make the jump to Broadway, some had to back out due to other commitments.When the show began out-of-town tryouts in Seattle in August2007, the cast had been set: Roger Bart as Frankenstein, Megan Mullally as Elizabeth, Christopher Fitzgerald as Igor, SuttonFoster as Inga, Andrea Martin as Frau Blucher, Shuler Hensley as The Monster, and Fred Applegate as Inspector Kemp.
Young Frankenstein opened on Broadway on November 8, 2007 at the Hilton Theatre on West 42nd Street.The show was directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman and once again Brooks wroteboth music and lyrics. His wife Anne would not live to see the project finished.
The show met with mixed reviews… ‚…an overblown burlesque revue, right down to its giggly "DELIGHTFULLY NUTTY!smuttiness ... Mr. Brooks’s songs GLITTERING, BUOYANT FUN have a throwaway quality, as if that TICKLES ITS AUDIENCEthey were dashed off on the day INTO HIGH SPIRITS. CLASSIC of the performance.‛ –The New BROOKS!" --Los Angeles Times York Times "With EYE-POPPING ‚You cannot escape the impression scenery, PRAISEWORTHY that everyone is working desperately performances, INSPIRED hard to animate essentially weakchoreography and DEVILISHLY material, and the show fatally lacks acrobatic dances…It gives any that touch of the sublime that madehorror flicks special effects a run The Producers so special.‛ –The Dailyfor the money." --Bloomberg News Telegraph…but was popular with audiences and didn’t close until January 2009.
While it was nominated for a few Tonys (including scenic design and featured actor/actress for Christopher Fitzgerald andAndrea Martin), Young Frankenstein would winnone. It did win the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.
One of the show’s iconic and thrilling moments is the spectacular rendition of Irving Berlin’s 1929 hit ‚Puttin’ On the Ritz.‛Bart & Hensley perform Fred Astaire performs ‚Puttin’ On the‚Puttin’ On the Rtiz‛: Ritz‛ in Blue Skies (1946).http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc_5YyWgRasBefore its insertion into Young Frankenstein, the song was most closely associated with Mel Brooks’ favorite actor: Fred Astaire.
Just as the music of the 1930’s influenced Brooks’ work, so too did the films of the era. http://www.yo utube.com/watWhen Melvin Kaminsky was ch?v=akD7r3Ponly a boy, Hollywood was in ClRca heyday of comedy, glamor, ^Fred Astaire and music. Some of the best performing his composers in America had iconic ‚Top begun writing for films, Hat, White Tie, & Tails‛ including Irving Berlin, from what George & Ira Gershwin, Brooks has Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, called his favorite Johnny Mercer and more. movie, Top Hat (1935). And they all wrote for Fred Music & Lyrics Astaire. by: Irving Berlin
One of the biggest films of Audiences in the 1930’s There was also the thrillthe 1930’s was It Happened escaped into the romance of of melodramatic andOne Night (1934) starring operettas with ‚America’s spectacular horrorClark Gable and Claudette Singing Sweethearts,‛ films, like 1931’s Dracula:Colbert. The final (sexually Jeannette Macdonald & http://www.youtube.cocharged) gag of this scene Nelson Eddy. One of their m/watch?v=7Nfmh178L9could have been written by biggest hits was ‚Indian Love 8Brooks himself. Call‛ from Rose Marie (1936):http://www.youtube.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watwatch?v=_wHfSb2xz2M ch?v=GaQX9YuFaj0
Also at large in 1930’s films were The Marx Brothers. These one-of-a-kind comedians utilized wise cracks,zany jokes, slapstick, and Vaudeville-style caricatures. There is no doubt that they contributed greatly to Brooks’ style. ‚Swordfish‛ from Horse Feathers (1932): http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=W50L4UPfWsg Marx Brothers Montage (some of these sequences could have come right out of a Mel Brooks movie): http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=rIUsnuXJydA
When creating musicals, Brooks naturally gravitates towards the old Hollywood style that he loves. Just compare ‚That …with any of Fred Face‛ from The Astaire and Ginger Producers… Rogers’ great http://www.metacafe.com/watch/an- routines.6sxl4tm2YhbJmm/the_producers_2005_bl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T oom_and_ulla_dance/ -lshXApIJs
Or this scene in …with this classic Men In Tights… Nelson Eddy serenade.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_9feu hTZdSquKl8 _9SSo
Young Frankenstein was directly influenced by thesmash-hit film adaptation of Frankenstein in 1931, and its many sequels in the 1930’s including Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939).Frankenstein (1931): The Bride of Frankenstein (1935): Son of Frankenstein (1939):http://www.youtube.c http://www.youtube.com/watch? http://www.youtube.com/om/watch?v=8H3dFh6 v=8H3dFh6GA-A watch?v=iMzbgLftYroGA-A
Young Frankenstein hadtwo successful national tours—the first 2009- 2010 and the second 2011-2012. VIDEOS:• Recording the Cast Album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJy7M_CdSEQ• Director-Choreographer Susan Stroman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uza4PzrP7KQ• Young Frankenstein Alive! on Broadway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqFQ3Of5oGE, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjrgMOHHlM4 , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgRXfUmg9jc, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50_WNkEcVR4, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhzLvmZrVhM
Today, at age 86, In 2009, Brooks was granted a Kennedy Brooks can boast an Center Honor, and inOscar, several Tonys, a 2010 he received thefew Emmys and a few 2,406th star on the Grammys. Hollywood Walk of Fame.Three of Brooks‘s films are on the American Film In June 2013, Brooks will Institutes list of Funniest be presented with the American Films: Blazing American FilmSaddles (#6), The Producers Institute’s Life (#11), and Young Achievement Award. Frankenstein (#13).
Interviewer: Are you writing theRumors abound that "Blazing Saddles" musical?Brooks’ is currently ‚Im toying with it. I dont knowadapting Blazing Saddles whether or not its a good thing. I knowfor the stage. There has Ill walk into a storm of criticism, especially in New York. The Broadwayalso been chatter by guys will say, ‘What? Another movieBrooks about adapting Get and another.... How many movies has heSmart as a stage musical. done? Do we have to suffer through a dozen?’ I could write the reviews.‛
‚If youre alive youvegot to flap your armsand legs, youve got tojump around a lot, forlife is the very oppositeof death, and thereforeyou must at very leastthink noisy andcolorfully, or youre notalive.‛ ‚If Shaw and Einstein couldnt beat death, what chance have I got? Practically none.‛