June 28 is Mel Brooks's birthday! Is it strange to write a blog well-wishing someone who doesn't know I exist? That I leave for the philosophers. Arguably the most esteemed comedic film director, Mel Brooks has made us all laugh. If I were to list my top 3 comedies of all time, two of Brooks's films would be featured (Young Frankenstein and The Producers, respectfully).  His films have influenced the way that my sense of humor has developed; what I think is remarkable about his writing and direction is the delivery and timing of his material. Here are a few scenes that I find work particularly well.

Young Frankenstein - 1974

An homage to the Frankenstein movies of old, this film takes a place in my heart as my favorite of his films. Dialogue from this movie is burned into my brain. I could go on and on about werewolves, Abby Normal, and quiet "dignity and grace," but there is one piece of dialogue in particular that always makes me laugh. It starts with Frau Blücher (horse noises).

     Frau Blücher: Would the doctor care for a... brandy before retiring?

     Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No. Thank you.

     Frau Blücher: [suggestively] Some varm milk... perhaps?

     Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No... thank you very much. No thanks.

     Frau Blücher: [suggestively] Ovaltine?

     Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: NOTHING! Thank you! I'm a little -- tired!

I truly do hate to explain the joke and ruin all sense of humor, I truly do. This set of dialogue often gets overlooked when people talk about the film's comedic genius, in favor of other memorable moments ("It could be raining," for example). However, these lines have a lot of meaning for me.

I would watch this movie a lot as a kid, and while I didn't get all the jokes 'til later in life, I got this one. Frau B being persistently nice and Gene Wilder being resistant to everything and suspicious set this scene up. The Ovaltine being completely out of place (and time), and Dr. Frankenstein's reaction knocked it out of the park.

I know I am biased, though. I remember on really tough days growing up, going to my room and being upset. My mother would come to the door and, doing her best Frau Blücher impression, would ask me these same questions. No matter how resistant I was (if I ended up laughing, I was no longer in my well-deserved bad mood), she would always make me break come to the Ovaltine part. By then I could talk about what was wrong. 

The Producers - 2005

While I do like Brooks's original film starring Gene Wilder a great deal, his later musical adaptation is superior (still bitter about never being able to see it live). The acting is wonderful in both, but the music in the film is just A+. What really sells it at the end of the day is the litany of well-written and fun songs. It is tough to find a favorite of all the songs on the soundtrack, but if I had to pick just one it would be "We Can Do It." Precluded by a step-by-step plan on how to pull of their scheme, the duet is perfectly executed by both Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. It's a beautiful song on how to be perfectly terrible. The parallel between historical figures of note and then themselves, sleazeballs trying to make a quick buck, is what truly makes the song work. It is so uplifting for such a scummy purpose.

Blazing Saddles - 1974

If you ever needed to know exactly who Mongo is, his purpose, how he acts, or whether he is the type of guy who can knock out an innocent horse in one punch, well, this scene covers these questions, and then some.

I have had a lot of conversations about Mel Brooks. Well, maybe not conversations as much as quote spamming and giggling. Everyone I have ever talked to has different favorite scenes, from conversations to film class critiques. That speaks volumes to Mel Brooks's ability as a writer and director. So many hilarious memories across so many different people, he has had quite the career (and is still making things!).

Happy birthday to an incredibly humble and talented man who has made an impact on so many people's lives.

So, what do you think?