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Blazing Westerns: Mel Brooks Spoofs the Western Genre
Academy Award Nominees
The Film That Changed It All

Blazing Westerns: Mel Brooks Spoofs the Western Genre


Blazing Westerns:

Mel Brooks Spoofs the Western Genre


            Mel Brooks is widely known for spoofing movie genres. Brooks took on the horror genre with his 1974 classic Young Frankenstein and spoofed the Stars Wars series with 1987’s Spaceballs. However, Brooks’ most celebrated movie spoof would have to be Blazing Saddles (1974). Blazing Saddles essentially mocks the entire western genre, which was one of the biggest genres in film during its earlier decades. It really isn’t fair or possible to compare Blazing Saddles to one specific western, but instead it can be compared to the genre as a whole.

            The first thing that is noticeable about Blazing Saddles in spoofing other westerns was the movie’s theme song, “Blazing Saddles,” by Frankie Lane. The song can be seen as a spoof of any western theme song, but it most likely a mocking of Tex Ritter’s theme for Fred Zinneman’s classic High Noon (1952). Another concept that is quickly seen in the movie is its concept of racist attitudes. However, unlike many westerns that held racist attitudes towards Native Americans, most notably John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), in which John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards holds a deep down hatred for “savage Indians;” Blazing Saddles mocks the racist views of the time to African-Americans. The movie’s main character, Bart, played by Cleavon Little, is a black man who is sent to be the sheriff of an all white town.

In the scene where Bart meets Jim “The Waco Kid”, played by Gene Wilder, there is a moment when Jim is trying to prove to Bart that he has the fastest hand in the west. Jim proves this to Bart by grabbing a chess piece quicker than he can, even though Jim is much further away. This scene is a direct parody of a scene in Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950), where Lin McAdams, played by James Stewart, proves he is the fastest and most accurate shooter in the land, by throwing up a coin and shooting a hole through it. The scene in the movie where Madeline Kahn’s dancehall singer, Lili Von Shtupp, sings and dances to the song, “I’m Tired” is a parody of a similar sequence from the 1939 movie, Destry Rides Again, directed by George Marshall, where Marlene Dietrich performs “Falling In Love Again.”

Western movies are synonymous for the good guys wearing white or lighter colored clothing, while the bad guys usually wear darker clad clothing. It’s not apparent whether or not this is intentional, but in Blazing Saddles Wilder’s “Waco Kid” is dressed in black for many scenes, despite being one of the good guy’s. Something that most likely was intended was for Bart to have a sidekick, in Jim. Many westerns leading characters have sidekicks by their sides. In William A. Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident (1940) main character Gil Martin, played by Henry Fonda, has sidekick Art Croft, played by Henry Morgan.

Another direct parody of the western genre can be noticed in the scene were the bad guys are lining up to help take over the town. In line a Mexican proclaims, “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!” This is mocking John Houston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) in which actor Alfonso Bedoya says, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!” Another parody of High Noon can be seen when Bart is trying to get the townspeople to stand up for themselves and help him fight for the town. This is in reference to Gary Cooper’s Will Kane, who tried getting help from many townsfolk who cowardly backed down in High Noon. When the townsfolk flee Bart, he says, “You’d do it for Randolph Scott,” in yet another western send-up. Randolph Scott was a popular western actor whose biggest movies were Budd Boetticher’s Ride Lonesome (1959) and Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country (1962). Towards the end of Blazing Saddles when the big fight occurs the fighting seems to be drawn out and overly acted in a humoresque fashion that was most likely a parody of the absurdity in some of the fights seen in John Wayne movies, like North to Alaska (1960) and The Sons of Katie Elder (1965). Finally, at the very end of Blazing Saddles Bart and Jim can be seen riding on horseback into the sunset, but suddenly both men climb down from their horses and enter a black limousine that drives them off into the sunset. This is a definite mocking of the way many westerns end, with the main hero or character riding on horseback off into the unknown future and sunset. The final scene is also a great way to end the movie because Blazing Saddles is essentially a movie within a movie; which is made obviously clear during the final scenes of the movie.

Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is a great send-up and parody of the western genre, one of the most celebrated genres in movie history. The film while mocking the western genre doesn’t necessarily make fun of the genre.  Blazing Saddles is a film that comedy fans and western fans alike should find hilarious and exquisite. Some movie parodies go too far in making fun of the movies or genres that they satirize, however, Brooks has shown uniqueness in mocking films, while showing major amounts of respect for them. Few films, if any, ride into the sunset like Blazing Saddles, this is what makes the movie such a timeless classic. by Julian Spivey