A conversation with one of our Dads about Blazing Saddles
by Will Young
A year or so ago when we first started talking about having a Very Dad Movies podcast, I mentioned it to Dad. “I’d like to have you on to talk about Blazing Saddles.” Instantly, he began to giggle.
“There’s a scene where they’re all sitting around, eating beans, and…”
“Save it for the podcast, Dad. Also, I don’t need you to explain a fart joke, but I appreciate your enthusiasm for this project.”
Dad’s moment had finally come: While I was visiting my parents one Sunday afternoon, I had a little talk with Dad about Blazing Saddles.
“So, would you say it’s your favorite movie?”
“I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but I like it. I like it a lot. It’s a takeoff on different viewpoints. Viewpoints I guess. Mel Brooks is Jewish, and … They hire a bunch of thugs to run through the town and just disrupt what they have in the town, so they can take over. One of their tricks is that they have a tollbooth to keep them from going through town. To slow ’em down.
“The sheriff and the fella that plays Young Frankenstein [Gene Wilder], he’s the fastest gun in the west. They go to this place where they recruit…where they recruit thugs for the gang, and — . It’s just a takeoff, and they mug the two guys from the Klan, so they can take their robes.
“He was not supposed to be hired. They chose him to be the sheriff from the governor’s office so that he would get killed. They’re going to welcome him into town, but they don’t know that he’s black. He’s threatening to shoot himself.”
“Yeah I remember watching that part with you,” I said. “He holds himself hostage.”
“He knocks a horse out!”
That was actually his response to the first question, not like an overview of the whole interview. I will say this for him: Dad was getting me really excited about rewatching Blazing Saddles. The way he described it and kind of trailed off, and then resumed a description that was actually — I think? — a completely different scene.
His overview sounded like one of those joke descriptions of movies you hear on YouTube, like “The Wizard of Oz is about a young murderer and three friends who set out to kill again.” Or he sounded like a character in a sci-fi movie who can see the future but has to talk in riddles instead of just saying what he wants to say.
“Okay. So what is your favorite movie?”
“…. I don’t know. I like Patton or Midway. I like those, but they’re not comedies. I like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. They had one called High Anxiety, and that was a takeoff on an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I think he’s afraid of heights in that movie.”
“Why do you like Blazing Saddles?”
“Well, uh, the underdog, or the people who are not supposed to win, win. You know, if you listen to their meeting in the church, there’s Howard Johnson, and he’s the one that owns a chain of hotels. There’s a Baskin and Robbins or something like that — that one that owns hotels. There’s a takeoff on all of ’em. They hired the lady who’s supposed to seduce the sheriff — that’s right funny. She speaks like she’s got a German accent.”
I was intrigued by an item he’d buried in that stream-of- consciousness response. From what I remembered, the movie starts out with everyone in the town hating the Sheriff because he’s black, but the townspeople come to realize there’s a bigger threat to them: the governor and attorney general are plotting against them. And, like Dad said, the small town and the black sheriff win. They band together and defeat greedy corporate/government concerns. I was learning so much about Dad and was excited to hear what else he had to say about that topic.
“Would you say you like movies with an underdog you can root for?”
“Oh yeah. …There was a cartoon called Underdog.”
“What is your favorite scene from the movie?”
“Well, besides the sheriff riding in to town? They’re all around the campfire, and they’re all having a gaseous… they’re all farting. They’ve all been eating pork and beans, and that’s how they get Mongo to go. There’s a lot of good scenes in that movie.”
“Who’s your favorite character?”
“I don’t know. I think the fastest gun. He was an alcoholic. Or in the movie. Some little kid scared him to death because he was going to draw on a kid. Shot him with a pop gun or something. Reached for it or something, and it shook him up. He shows him how fast he can pull a gun by taking chess pieces.”
“So you like that back story?”
“Was watching it the first time a memorable experience?”
“I think… I saw it at home. I think I saw it on TV.”
“Did you like it from the first time you saw it?”
“How have your thoughts about the movie changed since becoming a dad?”
“Not from being a dad, no. It’s just a good movie. They don’t — they don’t make comedies like that. They’re more afraid of offending someone with the words they use. Like in Young Frankensteinthey have big metal door knockers. Well his transylv… — his German assistant — she’s with him, and he says, ‘What knockers!’ And he’s talking about the iron knockers, and she thinks he’s talking about her breasts, and she says, ‘Oh thank you.’”
No, thank you, Dad!