- NAME: Mel Brooks
- OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor, Comedian, Director, Producer, Television Producer, Screenwriter
- BIRTH DATE: June 28, 1926 (Age: 87)
- Did You Know?: Mel Brooks is one of only 14 people to have won Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards.
- EDUCATION: Virginia Military Institute
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
- AKA: Melvin Kaminsky
- Originally: Melvin James Kaminsky
- Full Name: Mel Brooks
- ZODIAC SIGN: Cancer
Best Known For
Mel Brooks is an iconic filmmaker known for comedies like The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, among other works.
Mel Brooks - Comedic Start (1:11)
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Born on June 28, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, Mel Brooks has directed a number of classic (and quite disarming) film comedies, including The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. The longtime spouse of actress Anne Bancroft, Brooks started his own production company, Brooksfilms, and has won awards in a slew of categories, including an Academy Award and multiple Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards.
"I could have been a great psychiatrist. I am a student of human nature and I know how to flatter. I know the secrets of how to get people to come along on these crazy rides with me. And it works."
"Really, life is funnier than just reciting or relaying a joke. Characters and storytelling mean a lot more to me."
"Humor is just another defense against the universe."
"Honestly, on a few things I think I was in bad taste. Maybe in Blazing Saddles. But I don't mind it. ...The whole movie's in bad taste. But I like bad taste."
"Look who I have had to work with. I have been so dammed lucky to get a Madeline Kahn, a Harvey Korman, a Marty Feldman, Richard Pryor, Dom DeLuise and a Gene Wilder. ...I have had the chance to weed out the real actors, find the real human talent."
Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, to Kate Brookman and Max Kaminsky. The young Brooks worked as a comic in his neighborhood and learned how to play the drums as a teen from Buddy Rich. He served in World War II and returned home to work at resorts in the Catskills for a time, utilizing a variety of talents and skill sets.
By 1949, Brooks came to partner with legendary comedian Sid Caesar as a writer on The Admiral Broadway Revue and then, in 1950, on Your Show of Shows. He later worked with Carl Reiner, another Caesar writer, to develop the "2000 Year Old Man" skit, which they released on a series of related albums.
Mel Brooks found more television success as the co-creator with Buck Henry of Get Smart, a series starring Don Adams that debuted in 1965 and parodied the spy genre. After working on an animated short, The Critic, which won a 1964 Academy Award, Brooks made his feature-length film debut in 1968 with the comedy The Producers, starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder as greedy Broadway creators who knowingly put on a play—Springtime for Hitler—that's in appallingly bad taste. Producers didn't fare well at the box office initially, but would be lauded in later years, and Brooks nonetheless received the 1969 Oscar for best screenplay.
Brooks next directed the 1970 film Twelve Chairs and did screenwriting work for the animated adaptation of the musical Shinbone Alley before having two grand slams in 1974. Early that year saw the release of Blazing Saddles, a parody of westerns co-written by Richard Pryor that starred Wilder, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn and Cleavon Little as the first African-American sheriff of a town. The film, known for a number of mouth-dropping sequences, earned almost $120 million domestically.
Then in December, Brooks released another future classic and immediate hit, Young Frankenstein, for which Wilder developed the script and starred in. The film, also featuring Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman and Peter Boyle, offered among its wit a show-stopping reworking of the tune "Puttin' on the Ritz."
Other films Brooks has directed and written include Silent Movie (1976), High Anxiety (1977), History of the World - Part 1 (1981), Spaceballs (1987), Life Stinks (1991), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995).
In addition to appearing onscreen in his own projects, Brooks started his own production company, Brooksfilms, with the desire to push forth more serious projects.
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