On December 10, 1975, the 13th and final episode of Mel Brooks' When
Things Were Rotten aired on ABC.
Hoping to do for the Middle Ages what Blazing Saddles did for the
Old West, the absurdist comedy premiered in the top 20 but quickly
tanked. A critical success, it couldn't survive in its Wednesday 8 pm
time slot opposite Tony Orlando and Dawn on CBS and Little
House on the Prairie on NBC.
In that primitive age- before the Internet, before DVRs, yea, verily,
even before Betamaxes- moms and dads opted for musical variety and
wholesome viewing on the family's two television sets.
It was a shame. In addition to Brooks, the series boasted top-name
talent. The show's bouncy theme was written by Charles Strouse and Lee
Adams, the guys who did Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, and Annie.
Four episodes were directed by Peter Hunt, better known for directing
the Tony-winning musical 1776 and its movie adaptation.
And it featured great stuff like:
Villain: "Are you ready to tell that to your maker?"
Victim (to camera): "Mel! I didn't do it!"
(YouTube video: Opening credits and theme, "When Things Were Rotten")
Once upon a time when things were rotten Not just food but also kings
were rotten Everybody kicked the peasants Things were bad and that
ain't good Then came Robin Hood... ba-bah!
Soon the band of Merry Men begotten They wore outfits made of plain
green cotton Helping victims was their business Boy oh boy was
business good Good for Robin Hood!
They laughed, they loved, they fought, they drank They jumped a lot
of fences They robbed the rich, gave to the poor Except what they
kept for expenses!
So when other legends are fogotten We'll remember back when things
were rotten Yay for Robin Hood!
Mel Brooks (born Melvin
Kaminsky; June 28, 1926) is an American film director, screenwriter,
composer, lyricist, comedian, actor and producer... [and]; is a member
of the short list of entertainers with the distinction of having won an
Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award. Three of his films ranked in
the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 comedy films of
all-time: Blazing Saddles at number 6, The Producers at
number 11, and Young Frankenstein at number 13. (Click
here for full Wikipedia article)
Anybody can direct, but there are only eleven good writers.
As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and
we're gonna make mistakes.
Bad taste is simply saying the truth before it should be said.
Critics are like eunuchs at an orgy. They just don't get it.
Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin.
Everything we do in life is based on fear, especially love.
He who hesitates is poor.
Hope for the best, expect the worst. Life is a play. We're
Humor is just another defense against the universe.
I only direct in self-defense,
I've been accused of vulgarity. I say that's bullshit.
If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us tickets.
If Shaw and Einstein couldn't beat death, what chance have I got?
Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So,
for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy
and amuse the breast-beaters. By the time I was five I knew I was that
Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are
just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with
comedy, they stand no chance.
Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open
sewer and die.
Usually when a lot of men get together, it's called war.
What is the toughest thing about making film? Putting in the little
holes. The sprocket holes are the worst. Everything else is easy, but
all night you have to sit with that little puncher and make the holes on
the side of the film. You could faint from that work. The rest is easy.
The script is easy, the acting is easy, the directing is a breeze... but
the sprockets will tear your heart out.
[Mel Brooks] was approached by a woman who offered condolences on the
passing of his beloved wife, Anne Bancroft. "I know how you feel. I just
lost my mother," the woman said. "How old was she?" asked Mel.
"Ninety-six," the woman replied. "Well," Mel said, "she was asking for
it." -New York Post, August 23, 2005
George Anthony, chief of entertainment programming for the CBC,
remembers that Bancroft and Brooks were a "genuine bonafide love match,
in the early years almost as famous for their public battles as
Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Todd." He recalls one of their fights when
he grabbed her arm and she pulled away from him. Anthony's story:
"Don't you dare touch my instrument!" she raged, in her highest Actors
"Oh, so this is your instrument?!"
"Yes. This is my instrument!"
"Okay. Play Melancholy Baby."
-Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, June 8, 2005
(Clip rated "R": discretion advised.)
(YouTube video: Mel Brooks and Harvey Korman in "Blazing Saddles.")