Mel Brooks

Brooks, Mel, 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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