Mel Brooks is known as the grand master of movie satire and is one of Hollywood's most successful filmmakers. He was born Melvin Kaminsky to a Russian Jewish family on June 28, 1926, in Brooklyn, NY. In 1964 he married actress Anne Bancroft.|
Brooks' career began in the forties in the military, while serving as a combat engineer in the US Army. He was known to respond to German propaganda broadcasts by doing an Al Jolson imitation of "Toot Toot Tootsie."
After completing his military service, Brooks began working as a stand-up comedian in a string of resorts in the Catskills, and changed his name to avoid confusion with the musician Max Kaminsky. On the resort scene Brooks gained little income but earned great personal satisfaction. He was known for his odd antics, including performing on-the-spot monologues and routines, pretending to insult both his co-workers and the guests, and even ending one show by jumping fully clothed into a swimming pool.
After years of stand-up comedy, Brooks decided it was time to try television. Applying for the writing staff of TV comedian Sid Caesar, Brooks literally fell to his knees and sang a song about himself. As a writer for Sid Caesar's classic television variety program "The Admiral Broadway Revue" which later became "Your Show of Shows," and much later "Caesar's Hour," Brooks worked with such greats as Neil Simon, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner. At this time he received his first major commendation - a Writing Emmy for "The Sid Caesar, Imogen Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special." Though the work was grueling and at times dangerous, Brooks saw it as the best formal education that any comedian could have.
In the mid-fifties Brooks ended his stint with Caesar, and moved on to produce three plays throughout the fifties and sixties - New Faces of 1952 (1952), Shinbone Alley (1957), and All-American (1962). In the 1960's Brooks teamed up with Carl Reiner for their best-selling "2000 Year Old Man" routines, which graduated into a hit record and numerous TV appearances. Brooks received three Grammys for the 2000 Year Old Man role, which also earned him a reputation as a spontaneously funny comedian. Brooks then teamed up with Buck Henry to develop "Get Smart"- a satirical spy sitcom for comedian Don Adams, which ran successfully from 1965 through 1970.
After doing everything from stand-up to television, Brooks decided to move into films. His first film was The Critic, which poked fun at abstract modern art, and won an Oscar. In 1968 his first major film, The Producers earned Brooks another Academy Award, for "Writing, Story and Screenplay." The Producers was a very low budget comedy, and a satire of the Broadway theatre world. The movie did poorly at the box office, but has since gained a reputation as one of the most funny comedies of all time, and one of Brooks' defining films, and Brooks' favorite. As a result of The Producers, Brooks discovered the talent of Gene Wilder, who would go on to star in future Brooks films.
Brooks' next film, The Twelve Chairs (1970-71), was received with little acclaim, and was the story of a Russian family who discovers that their family jewels have been hidden in a set of twelve chairs, and their hunt to find the chairs. Brooks directed, co-wrote, and starred in the film.
After several years of disappointment, Brooks convinced Warner Brothers to finance an uproariously tasteless comedy about a black western sheriff. Directed, co-written and co-starring Brooks, Blazing Saddles was one of the biggest moneymakers of 1974. Brooks was successful in doing what he wanted, and had found two more co-stars who would appear in his later films- Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn. Brooks was nominated for a Best Music Score Academy Award for Blazing Saddles.
Brooks then went on to create a remarkable string of comedy films. Young Frankenstein followed in 1974, and once again Brooks had a hit. Brooks directed and co-wrote Young Frankenstein, a parody of the Frankenstein movies. Brooks was nominated for another Academy Award, this time for Writing.
Brooks wanted a larger role in his films, and so decided to cast himself in the starring roles. This led to high approval from fans, but disappointing reviews at the box office. Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977), both of which he directed, co-wrote, and starred in, had their moments, but many people feel that they might have been funnier if someone other than Brooks had played the leads. Brooks then directed, wrote, produced, and starred in History of the World: Part One (1981), which presented a humorous look at various events in history, including Roman Empire, The Spanish Inquisition, and the French Revolution.
In 1983 Brooks surprised the world by allowing someone else to direct. To Be Or Not to Be starred and was produced by Brooks, but was directed by Alan Johnson and was also written by others.
A parody of Star Wars, Star Trek, and other various Sci-Fi classics, Spaceballs, produced in 1987, was Brooks' next success. Brooks again directed, co-wrote, produced, and starred in the film.
In 1991, Life Stinks, for which Brooks served in his usual four positions, disappointed audiences. Some critics speculated that Brooks had lost the rouch, but Brooks continued to produce fine films.
In 1993, Robin Hood: Men in Tights parodied everything in the world of Sherwood forest, especially making fun at Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves(1991). Brooks directed, co-wrote, produced, and acted in the film.
Then in 1995, Brooks directed, starred in, co-wrote and produced Dracula: Dead and Loving It. The film parodied the Dracula tale, and specifically Bram Stoker's Dracula(1992).
Rumor has it that Brooks' next project is a remake of She Stoops to Conquer.
Mel Brooks' production company, Brooksfilms, has given us an incredible assortment of films. In addition to producing his own films, the company has produced many notable movies, beginning with David Lynch's The Elephant Man, which was the recipient of eight Academy Award nominations in 1980. Other films include David Cronenberg's hit The Fly (1986); Frances (1982), starring the Oscar-nominated Jessica Lange; My Favorite Year (1982), for which Peter O'Toole was Oscar-nominated; and 84 Charing Cross Road (1986), for which wife Anne Bancroft received the British Academy Award opposite Anthony Hopkins, and which was produced by Brooks.
Recently Mel Brooks has returned to television, and made cameo appearances on numerous television shows. He starred as Uncle Phil on "Mad About You" (for which he won an Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series), as himself (voice) on "The Simpsons," as Tom (voice) in "Frasier" and as "Bernard Schlanger" on "The Tracey Ullman Show."