Where Wild and West Meet
Blazing Saddles, by Mel Brooks, is a very funny film making fun of a serious issue in the time surrounding the making of this movie. It is focused in the old American west in the late 1800’s during a national boom of industrialization. The state attorney general, Hedley Lamar, who is played by Harvey Korman is building a railroad and has to change the route making it run through Rock Ridge. Not wanting to pay a lot of money for the land he, sends in a gang of trouble makers which make the townspeople force Governor William J. LePetomane, played by Mel Brooks, to select a new sheriff. Governor LePetomane, not being such a bright fellow, is convinced by Lamar to choose a black man about to be hung by the name of Bart played by Cleavon Little. Lamar’s purpose for this was to make the residents of Rock Ridge leave so he could buy the land cheaper. This all back fires in the Lamar’s face because Bart, eventually becomes accepted by all of Rock Ridge. He has become so loved by the townspeople, and he unites them in an uprising to stop the evil plans of the corrupt and evil Lamar. As the movie comes to a close, Bart shoots General Lamar outside of the Grumman’s Chinese Theater, and as a final message he tells people of all color and nations to get along and live in harmony. The main message of this movie is to make fun of the western genre of films. Mel Brooks is worldly known for his creation of many different film genres and films, and Blazing Saddles hold up to that claim in some people’s opinion one of the funniest films made by brooks.
The trailer for this movie would appeal to viewers about 13 and older. By previewing the movie it looks like a western comedy. It also looks as if the hero is very friendly and a good leader. From watching the trailer, a viewer could make the assumption that this movie is like most typical western movies with horses, Indians, and a hero. This is true, but it also contains some elements of comedy. When Bart asks Jim (Wilder) his name his says “Well my name is Jim but most people call me…Jim”. Another conclusion that can be made in the trailer is that the viewer can assume who the hero is because of how many time he is showed during the clip. Also when the hero Bart is first shown he has music playing in the background along with a theme song for the movie, and whenever he appears again in the trailer music is playing. The music in the trailer helps the viewer with connecting to the time period along with setting the mood of the movie.
The reverse of rolls in society during this time period where blacks were inferior and whites superior is a common base of humor in this movie. This is shown by the portrayal of the white citizens being the stupid and corrupt people and the black man being the smart hero. The only white character that is shown to be smart is the only character that isn't racist. I think with this Brooks was trying to get the point across that racism is ignorant and dumb. That was a huge shift in the way society had viewed racist persons during this time period. To me one of the most striking features of this film is that it was made by a white director and made for a mostly white audience. You can conclude from this that there was a significant advance in learning to accepting one another and a definite effort by some of the white community to tell to the rest of the country that they needed to accept blacks like their own kind . For Brooks, being a white director during this age in time to put a black man in the hero position of a movie and poke fun at the ignorance of white racist was a huge step toward tolerance and acceptance.
When Bart first arrives, he is disliked and not popular just as General Lamar had wanted. One of the schemes to remove Bart as the new sheriff drive and him away is to get him to fall in love with a white woman and make it seem like he was causing a problem in the town. This also shows a reverse of roles in society because normally it would be the black male enticing himself upon the white female. I think that Brooks purpose for making the white people who are racists so dumb and easily defeated was to encourage not only whites in America, but everyone of that time of racism to not be that way and for them to stand up against others who continued to be racist. In the years before Blazing Saddles was made acceptance of everyone was a key element missing from society .This movie approached the problem of racism from a humorous point of view which enabled the different race groups to see and understand their own flaws.
During the time period this movie was created there was lots of tension between whites and blacks. The biggest between the two groups is the history of the whites and white supremacy. The movie has scenes including the Nazis, white bikers, and the KKK. This is ironic and weird because the movie was set up to take place in 1875, which means that the bikers from the 60's and Nazis from the 40's wouldn't have even been around at all. Both the Nazis and bikers are shown to be ignorant and the KKK members are easily beaten up and tricked. One scene that shows this is when Bart goes undercover wearing a Klan suit. I think that the reason for this is that brooks was trying to show that he thought racism was dumb, while at the same time trying to make it funny so it wouldn’t offend people. The whole racism period and movements, mostly including the KKK, was a very suppressive era. The White almost always seemed usually seemed to have the upper hand and usually was the group that was instigating the violence. Blazing Saddles show this group of people in a very humorous but true way. While keeping true to the theme of the movie, Brooks displays them as being easily fooled not intelligent. An example that shows this statement is when Bart sets up a toll both in the middle of the dessert so as the thugs pass they all have to pay a dime to go on with their mission to rob all the townspeople.
The movie also portrays a shared heritage of minorities and American immigrants. Chinese along with black railroad workers are displayed as being equally oppressed in the movie. In the scene in which the Indian Chief speaks with Bart's family in Yiddish, there are three cultures that are mixed together in harmony despite their obvious differences. Even as the townspeople are obliged to unite in order to fight General Lamar and his crew of thugs, David Huddleston (Johnson) says, "All right! We'll give some land to the niggers, and the chinks. But we don’t want the Irish!"(Blazing Saddles)
This movie has many uses anachronisms and breaks what is known in the movie business as the fourth wall. Brooks repeatedly does this to constantly remind viewers that they are watching a comedy movie. For example, when Bart is just elected the sheriff he is on his way to Rocky Ridge he is shown wearing Gucci cowboy gear. This is ironic because Gucci was not worn in that area and especially not by a person of color. He is also accompanied by a jazz soundtrack as he makes his way to town. However as the camera moves left showing Bart riding by Count Basies jazz group band, which is playing their most famous song "April in Paris" in the middle of the desert.
Blazing Saddles allows us the chance to examine our culture, our country, and beliefs. It leads us to question together where we came from and why wars were fought for and where our country is headed. Brooks uses this movie as a message to the rest of the country that some of the things we believe in are not intelligent and smart while at the same time making people laugh.