After the enormous success of the musical adaptation of Mel Brooks’ film The Producers, Broadway will be seeing more of Mel Brooks’ comedy classics on stage. In 2008, Brooks brought Young Frankenstein to the stage without much success and rumors are abound that he is in the process of developing a musical version of Blazing Saddles. The musical versions of his films may not be great, but they make perfect sense because of one of Mel Brooks’ director trademarks – most of his films feature show-stopping musical numbers.
Nobody uses the escapist musical number as well as Mel Brooks. In a lot of cases the song is the best part of the entire film and in other cases, the song is performed in such an ironic way that it makes the audience gasp.
I thought that in honor of Mel Brooks Month here at Film Misery, I would post my top 5 favorites.
Top 5 Musical Numbers from Mel Brooks Movies
5) “We’re Men in Tights” – Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Mel Brooks’ attempt at a Robin Hood spoof was only mildly successful with a lot less laughs and subversive humor than his earlier efforts. However, one highlight from the film is the all-male musical number “We’re Men in Tights” in which the men of the film defend the masculinity of wearing tights. This song has become a theme for high school theatre boys all over the country as they loudly declare that even in ridiculous costumes, they can still be manly.
4) “The Inquisition” – History of the World: Part 1
One of Mel Brooks’ trademarks was to take something that is incredibly dark and serious and portray it in a light, comedic, and mocking fashion. His ideal that you should be able to laugh at anything really shows in this musical number about the Spanish Inquisition. One of the most gruesome periods in World History is described with a jazzy musical rendition in Mel Brooks’ history bashing film History of the World: Part 1. The movie references abound as the ladies of the Inquisition dive into a pool for a synchronized dance referencing Esther Williams’ musical films of the 1940s (i.e. Bathing Beauty).
3) “I’m Tired” – Blazing Saddles
Madeline Kahn received an Oscar nomination in 1975 for her role as the culturally interminable Lili Von Shtupp. One of the greatest moments in the film happens the first time that we are introduced to Von Shtupp, as she reluctantly performs a musical number to a saloon full of drunk cowboys. The humor in the scene is that there is nothing really at all sexy about her performance, yet the men act floored. Also, the German soldiers. Why are there German soldiers?
Click the picture to go to the video:
2) “Puttin’ on the Ritz” – Young Frankenstein
This is the only song on the list that Mel Brooks didn’t have a hand in writing. However, the fact that it is such a well-known song makes the execution all the more hilarious. Thanks to the popularity of Young Frankenstein, whenever this song comes on there is at least one person who will loudly shout “Puttin’ on da Witz” in a Frankenstein’s monster-like fashion. Apparently the scene was originally Gene Wilder’s idea, but I give Brooks full credit for the bizarre choreography.
1) “Springtime for Hitler” – The Producers
The original musical number for Mel Brooks has always been the best. There’s a reason why the staging of this song has been almost the same throughout the stage and film adaptations – because he got it right the first time. The original bit was done two decades after World War II came to an end and tensions were still high in the Jewish community over the travesty of the Holocaust. Mel Brooks approaches the subject matter in the most direct way, by producing a musical tribute to Adolf Hitler. The human swastika that the dancers create is still just as shocking and hilarious today as it undoubtedly was in 1968.
Did I miss any? What are your favorite musical numbers from Mel Brooks films?