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Blazing Saddles: racism made funny

Bart (Cleavon Little)

So if you're in the mood for a good laugh, pop in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles and task accomplished. The American Film Institute ranked Blazing Saddles #6 in its top 100 comedies of all time, and all for good reason. Although Brooks made this film in 1974 back when this brand of humor was fresh and wicked, the film has remained a comedic success for over 35 years. Although its satirical value probably won't be as appreciated so much now a day with a younger audience, a classic was born.

As a master of the comedy genre, Brooks credits us with such hits like; Young Frankenstein, History of the World, Spaceballs, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights... but his reputation was truly born with Blazing Saddles- one of his first directorial films.

Never has racism been so funny. Blazing Saddles is set in The Old West of 1874 and circles around Bart (Cleavon Little) a black railroad worker who is appointed new sheriff of a town where the railroad construction undergoes. Mel Brooks cameos the Governor of this town and is convinced to appoint Little the new Sheriff in hopes that this will cause the townsfolk to be so mad, due to him being black, that they will leave the town entirely. Or worse case scenario lynch Little in the process... Aha!, the racism comes into play.

Keep in mind that this film was released in 1974 and the American view on black racism probably wasn't as liberal as the now 2009, however Brooks (a white man remind you) doesn't seem to care all too much. The N-bomb is dropped at least 15+ times in this film, but somehow every time it's funny. It's never really offensive, and always seems to get you to chuckle. Perhaps that's why this film has remained so popular and is ranked #6 on AFI's list. You need to watch it in context and try and imagine the times when it was released and the times when it's portrayed. And if you can't find it funny then there is either something wrong with you, or you're just too uptight.

Now let’s not still any thunder away from Gene Wilder (Young Frankenstien, WIlly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). Wilder plays Jim, a drunken gunslinger that helps Bart gain some type of respect of the townspeople, in a non-racist kinda way. The film does offer much more than just dumb black jokes remind you. Through his lack of judgment, sympathy, and reason Wilder fights off people who are sent after the loveable, yet still hated Sheriff Bart… see and vanilla and chocolate mixed together are better than just alone.

Brooks brings the film alive with his directing and scriptwriting abilities and Little and Wilder kill the screen with their performances. Brooks also shows us how unique he is by giving us what later becomes one of his trademarks of breaking the fourth wall of film. He breaks the fourth wall in Blazing Saddles via the fight which explodes outside the Warner Bros. Studio and the final scene where Bart shoots the State Attorney outside the premiere of Blazing Saddles.

So nuff said, go watch this film. It's funny. Don't get offended, if you do... well then that just kinda sucks.