Classic films now face the wrath of perpetually enraged social justice warriors. Last weekend’s “Watters World” on Fox News Channel analyzed the impact of this politically correct phenomenon.
Exhibit A was Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles,” the single funniest motion picture ever committed to celluloid.
Jesse Watters’ guest, Cathy Areu, publisher of Catalina Magazine, responded to a clip of the comedy-Western in which Brooks himself portrays a Yiddish speaking American Indian chief.
After securing safe passage for a family of black pioneers rolling West in their stagecoach, the feather-headdress-clad Indian bids them, “auf wiedersehen.”
Displaying the stunning ignorance that propels so many of the politically correct, the shockingly far-left Areu complained that “auf wiedersehen” is “a Nazi joke.” She added, “Nothing is funny about the Nazis.” (Brooks’ musical “The Producers” — the Tony-winningest Broadway show of all time — blitzkriegs that claim.)
As Buddy Bizarre (Dom DeLuise) shouts into a megaphone late in “Blazing Saddles:”
“Auf wiedersehen” is German for “goodbye.” It’s as Nazi as the words tag (day), wasser (water), or straße (street). Amid his myriad atrocities, Adolf Hitler surely uttered tag, Wasser, und Straße. Would Areu now make those words verboten?
“There’s no way that [film] would be greenlighted right now,” said Watters’ other guest, Salem Radio host and syndicated columnist Larry Elder. “And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
“Blazing Saddles” was released in 1974 — 45 years ago. America must cure the growing cancer of presentism, whereby yesterday’s actions and artworks are judged (and often condemned) by today’s standards.
Just as things have evolved in ways that people back then neither could have predicted nor even prayed (e.g. “Men marrying men? Whaaaaaat? You must be joking!”), works of art, literature, and culture are emerging in 2019 that are popular, sensitive, and perfectly appropriate. And in 2064 — 45 years from now — Americans will be appalled and disgusted by some of these offerings. Today’s Taylor Swift may be tomorrow’s Kate Smith.
This American masterpiece was a widely embraced work of art when it hit U.S. movie screens.
“Blazing Saddles” was 1974’s highest-grossing film. Shot for $14 million, it earned $118.2 million in domestic receipts or today’s equivalent of $569.7 million, Box Office Mojo calculates. This film became the biggest-selling Western up to that date.
“Blazing Saddles” was critically acclaimed, too. It scored three Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Madeline Khan in her hilarious turn as Teutonic Titwillow Lili Von Shtüpp), Best Film Editing, and Best Original Song.
Screenwriters Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, and Alan Uger won a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen. (Note the name of Pryor, a black man, and legendary comedian, on the script. So much for this being a work of “white nationalism”).
The Library of Congress judged ”Blazing Saddles” “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 2006. It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
This film concerns a black man (Cleavon Little as Sheriff Bart) who overcomes the severe, nearly fatal racial bigotry of a rustic town full of white people, mainly named Johnson.
The only way to present the adversity over which he triumphs is to present the adversity over which he triumphs. This involves the citizens of Rock Ridge very liberally hurling the N-bomb and other ethnic slurs.
“Good morning, Ma’am,” Sheriff Bart says to a sweet-looking, bonnet-wearing elderly woman (Jessamine Milner). “And isn’t it a lovely morning?”
“Up yours, n****r!” she replies.
The sheriff’s pain is palpable. And the audience feels it, right in their guts.
But Sheriff Bart eventually beats the bad guys, led by state Attorney General Heddy Lamar (“That’s Hedley”), played by Harvey Korman.
The sheriff wins the confidence and authentic frontier affection of those who, days earlier, nearly shot him. And the prejudiced old lady becomes one of his biggest fans.
Across five decades, audiences have appreciated the inspiring moral of this saga: Courage, perseverance, brains, and love can erode hate, just as the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon from desert stone.
Rather than preach didactically, like a windy, left-wing community organizer, “Blazing Saddles” delivers this hopeful message while also being knee-slappingly, washboard-tighteningly, laugh-out-loud funny.
Today’s snowflakes should get over their hypersensitive selves and simply enjoy this movie’s boundless, sometimes surreal yucks:
- Mongo (former NFL star Alex Karras) decks a horse with a single sucker punch. Cattle wander through a Main Street saloon.
- The Waco Kid, the sheriff’s alcoholic sidekick (Gene Wilder), endures the delirium tremens in one hand and wields the West’s fastest trigger finger in the other.
- American Indians converse in Yiddish (a comedic embodiment of a genuine 19th Century theory, as expressed scripturally in the holy “Book of Mormon,” that U.S. Indians were one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel).
- Count Basie leads his 16-piece big band amid the sagebrush in 1874 — 30 years before his actual birth.
- A crooked, middle-aged politician tries to buy a cheap movie ticket with a student ID card.
And on and on and gloriously on for 93 minutes of non-stop mirth.
“Blazing Saddles” is a work of fiction. It satirizes racism and lovingly mocks the entire Western film genre.
As a work of imagination, rather than reality, it deserves a wider berth than anything offensive and factual, such as the anti-Semitic remarks of Representative Ilhan Omar, D – Minn.
Fiction aside, the left loves to yank down statues of historical figures. They do so while focusing exclusively on their wrongs and ignoring anything they did right.
Robert E. Lee, now swept clean off a pillar in New Orleans’ Lee Circle, commanded the Confederate States Army in the Civil War — to his discredit.
Totally forgotten are his post-bellum efforts to reunite America by inviting Northerners to study at Washington and Lee University (which he led) and to support public education for freed blacks.
After Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg advocated discounting the memory of Thomas Jefferson, “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade said Monday, “If we have only perfect people on statues, we’ll be a nation of pedestals.”
Likewise, if America only honors politically perfect films, we will become a nation of blank screens.
Rather than topple historical statues, why not install bronze plaques beside them to outline the good, the bad, and the ugly about controversial individuals cast in bronze or chiseled in marble?
Likewise, instead of denouncing or even banning “Blazing Saddles” and other cinematic landmarks of yesteryear, a similar disclaimer should be attached to every film on its 25th anniversary: “An earlier generation produced this film before today. Use it to look into yesterday and visualize an even better tomorrow.”
Coincidentally, Norman Lear (age 96!) and Jimmy Kimmel, on Wednesday night presented back-to-back productions of an old episode each of “All in the Family” (from 1973) and “The Jeffersons” (1975). This was done live on ABC, before a studio audience on Los Angeles’ Westside.
It was great TV! Very funny. Terrific acting in the roles of George Jefferson (Jaime Foxx), Louise Jefferson (Wanda Sykes), and Edith Bunker (Marisa Tomei). Archie Bunker (Woody Harrelson) seemed thin for the part and a bit winded, although his lines generated abundant guffaws.
And the original, ”Blazing Saddles”-era scripts, full of jokes on race, sex, and class— including talk of “Hebes,” “honkeys,” and “colored people” — were hilarious. (The N-word twice was stated dramatically on “The Jeffersons” episode, but also bleeped.)
Overnight reviews were positive. Everyone walked away laughing, rather than tiptoeing nervously on eggshells. And that’s the point.