Friday, June 28, 2013

"Mel Brooks: Make a Noise" - American Masters (2013)

Once you have been exposed to the comedy of Mel Brooks you’re hooked for life. This is the guy who wrote for the landmark TV show “Your Show of Shows” starring Sid Caesar. Writing alongside such luminaries as Carl Reiner, and Woody Allen, this is the man who gave us the character of the “2,000 Year Old Man”, and then went on to be co-creator of the TV series “Get Smart”. That’s right, he invented the “shoe phone”, and the “cone of silence.” As far as the shoe phone goes, he was way ahead of his time.

Drawing on interviews with Mr. Brooks himself, as well as those who have worked with him for decades, the film provides a look inside the mind of someone who is arguably one of the funniest and most creative men of his time. Gene Wilder is effusive in his praise of Mr. Brooks, who really gave his career a boost as the foil to Zero Mostel in 1968”s “The Producer’s”, which has since gone on to become a legendary Broadway Show, a feat all in itself.

His marriage to Anne Bancroft is explored by both Mel and Anne, with predictably comic results. She claims, at one point, that he pursued her relentlessly, while at other times she admits to having fallen for him in an instant. And he has his own side of the story to tell, describing himself as a poor Jewish writer, struggling to make it, and smitten with the best actress on Broadway; Ms. Bancroft was fresh from her run in ‘A Miracle Worker” and seemed to be light years ahead of Mr. Brooks, and thus unattainable.

He was struck with the “bug” at age eight when he saw Ethel Merman on Broadway and knew exactly what he wanted to do in life. There was never a doubt in his mind about where he was headed. His time on “Your Show of Shows” is remarkably re-created in the film “My Favorite Year” with Peter O’Toole.

From “History of the World” to “Spaceballs”, which grew out of the little vignette at the end og the “History of the World” film (remember “Jews In Space” at the end?) Mr. Brooks has given us some incredible characters over the course of his 60 years in the business. And in this film, he recalls them all fondly. A must see for fans of Mel Brooks.

PS: I just saw that today is Mr. Brooks 87th birthday. Proof positive that laughter keeps you young at heart. Happy Birthday Mel Brooks!

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