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When Things Were Rotten

Published Monday, December 10, 2012 @ 7:11 AM EST
Dec 10 2012

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!

Categories: Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks, TV, When Things Were Rotten, YouTube

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Happy birthday, Mel!

Published Thursday, June 28, 2012 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Jun 28 2012

Quotes of the day- Mel Brooks:
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 unrehearsed.

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? Practically none.

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 one.

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 Studio dudgeon.

"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.")

Categories: Anne Bancroft, Blazing Saddles, Harvey Korman, Mel Brooks, Movies, Quotes of the day, Video, YouTube

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