Evil, but rarely sarcastic: The great comedian and filmmaker Mel Brooks on his 95th birthday.
If you hardly look at Mel Brooks’ 95 years, which he will be today, Monday, it may also be because he trimmed himself to be old as a young man. It was the title role in a sketch called “2000 Year Old Man” that brought the comedian his first major successes in the early 1950s.
The character, who he invented together with his later filmmaker colleague Carl Reiner, presented himself as an eloquent contemporary witness of how she likes to interview journalists about important events. For example, Christ’s crucifixion, which the two-thousand-year-old remembered as if it were yesterday: “Of course I went there. All were there. There was so little entertainment back then ”.
Mel Brooks: Humer across shame lines
To the surprise of the Jewish entertainer, not only did his neighborhood in Brooklyn laugh at the not always pious anecdotes that filled five albums by 1997. Just as Brooks’ films made since 1967 have proven to be very successful in crossing shame boundaries. The most daring was probably the first, “The Producers”, which earned him an Oscar for best screenplay. The disarming story leads two Broadway producers who have to produce a flop for financial reasons, on the idea of a Hitler musical. The scandal of the film with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder seemed inevitable, but the first damning reviews were followed by a wave of liberating laughter.
“With the medium of comedy one can rob Hitler of his posthumous power and his myth,” Brooks later explained. “You can laugh at him if you cut him down to his normal size.” He condemned any downsizing of the Holocaust all the more resolutely.
Mel Brooks: “Spring for Hitler” is based on Charlie Chaplin
In Germany, however, it was eight years before the film was released in cinemas under the title “Spring for Hitler”. Alongside Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” and Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be”, Brooks’ work is still considered one of the best comedic confrontations with the Nazi era. In spite of all the slapstick, Brooks’ travesty of Nazi aesthetics has proven to be visionary and found countless imitators in the camp culture of the seventies and eighties. He adapted his own material very successfully in 2001 as a Broadway musical with numerous additional songs that he composed himself.
His greatest time as a filmmaker was in the 1970s and 1980s, when he developed the genre parodies, which were particularly popular at the time, into a personal art form. The cowboy outfit “The wild wild west” around a black sheriff still provokes through the unabashed use of the N-word – and yet it was expressly praised by ex-US President Obama when Brooks was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2016 : “As Mel Brooks once said to his authors on ‘Der Wilde Wilde Westen’: ‘Write what you want, because nobody will hear from us afterwards anyway. We’re all being arrested for this film, ‘”Obama quoted him as saying.
Mel Brooks turns 95: bitterly angry, hardly sarcastic humor
Of course, that never happened, probably because Mel Brooks’ humor is sometimes bitterly angry, but hardly sarcastic. His heroes always remain human in their weaknesses and failed ambitions.
His parodies approach the legacy of classic Hollywood with equal mockery and awe: the black and white horror pastiche “Frankenstein Junior”, the Hitchcock satire “Höhenkoller”, the silent film homage “Silent Movie” or the Star Wars parody “Spaceballs” : All of them are stylish in their extremes and in their unmistakable way even unrivaled classics of parody.
Mel Brooks: Committed to the art of film
How seriously Brooks was committed to the art of film is particularly evident in his work as a producer. In 1980 he made it possible for the young David Lynch to realize his drama “The Elephant Man”, and in 1986 he produced David Cronenberg’s metaphysical horror film “The Fly”. These productions have always been about outsider characters who articulated themselves in an almost artistic way through extraordinary skills.
Born June 28, 1928 in the United States, he served as a teenager during World War II. Once, he liked to tell, he heard German soldiers singing songs. He took a megaphone and answered them with a Broadway song. “They applauded. Actually, you could have ended the war much faster this way, ”he said with conviction.
“Immortality is a by-product of good work,” said Brooks with conviction. “My message to the world is: rock, sing, make noise! Do not imitate death before our time comes. We’d rather be wet and loud! “(Daniel Kothenschulte)