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In 1974, Mel Brooks presented a film unlike anything that had preceded it. Blazing Saddles exploded into theaters in the winter, and by the end of the summer, it was one of the most popular movies in America. Produced on a meager budget of $2.5 million, Blazing Saddles made nearly 60 times its budget in box office revenues. It became only the tenth film ever (at the time) to reach the $100 million milestone. Blazing Saddles earned a total of three Academy Award nominations: best film editing, best original song, and best supporting actress (Madeline Kahn).
Blazing Saddles tells the tale of a small town in the American West which stands in the way of a lucrative railroad. In an effort to force the townspeople to abandon their town, the attorney general, a conniving man named Hedley Lamarr, convinces the Governor to hire a black sheriff in the hope that the townspeople will be offended by his presence. Instead, the quick-witted Sheriff Bart becomes friends with the Gene Wilder’s Waco Kid. The two continually fend off efforts by the town and by Hedley Lamarr to remove Bart as sheriff.
The film went through a lengthy production process due to the touchiness of its subject and the raciness of its script. Bart is frequently called inappropriate names by the townspeople. Brooks did a great job of broaching the subject of racism in a real yet hilarious way. Warner Brothers Studio was not pleased with Brooks at first but was more than willing to reap the benefits once the film became a hit. The film also continued to pave the path of collaboration between Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder. Wilder had appeared in Brooks’ The Producers. They would work together again on Young Frankenstein. In the more than 30 years since it premiered, Blazing Saddles became a titanic classic, one with many secrets that we never knew.