Mel Brooks biography
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.
Background and Early Career
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.
'Get Smart' and 'The Producers'
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.
'Blazing Saddles' and 'Young Frankenstein'
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."
Movies List and Production Company
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.
Brooksfilms has helmed fare like The Elephant Man (1980), To Be or Not to Be (1983)—in which Brooks and his wife, actress Anne Bancroft, co-starred—and The Fly (1986).
Marriage to Anne Bancroft
Brooks and Bancroft were married for more than four decades, from 1964 until her death in 2005. The couple's son, Max Brooks, has become the author of The Zombie Survival Guide series and World War Z, with the latter book having been turned into a 2013 film.
Multiple Award Winner
Brooks is one of only a handful of people to have won Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards. He won two Grammys for the Broadway version of The Producers and another for the comedy album The 2000 Year Old Man in The Year 2000. He also received a 1967 Emmy for his variety show writing and, decades later, won three additional statues over three consecutive years for his role as Uncle Phil on the NBC sitcom Mad About You.
The new millennium has seen Brooks continue to enjoy success with the 2001 Broadway musical version of The Producers, which earned a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards and ran for six years, inspiring a 2005 film as well. He was also behind the 2007 musical version of Young Frankenstein.
More recently, it was announced that Brooks would be honored with the American Film Institute's 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. Additionally, he is the subject of the PBS American Masters documentary Mel Books: Make a Noise.