Brooks, Mel

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Brooks, Mel

Mel Brooks, 1927–, American film director, writer, actor, and producer, b. New York City as Melvin Kaminsky. His earliest work was in television, notably as a gag writer for Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows" (1950–54). He also scored a hit with a 1964 comedy recording, in which he played an irascible, Yiddish-accented 2,000-year-old man. Turning to film, he wrote and directed The Producers (1968), a comic masterpiece of uproarious bad taste. His other hit comedies are usually wild parodies that mix satire with slapstick; they include Blazing Saddles (1974), a spoof of Western movies; Young Frankenstein (1975), a Brooksian take on the horror genre, and High Anxiety (1977), a comic version of Alfred Hitchcock's spine-tinglers. Among his later movies, which have been less successful with the public, are To Be or Not To Be (1983), Life Stinks (1991), and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). Brooks turned to the stage in 2001, adapting his first film hit, The Producers, into a smash hit, Tony-winning Broadway musical (film, 2005).

See biography by J. R. Parish (2007); N. Smurthwaite and P. Gelder, Mel Brooks and the Spoof Movie (1982); M. Yakowar, In Method Madness: The Comic Art of Mel Brooks (1982); N. Sinyard, The Films of Mel Brooks (1987).

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