“Please do not write a polite script” was Mel Brooks’ injunction to his room of writers. The 1970s allowed Hollywood to wallow in crudity and vulgarity, and Brooks took advantage of that to produce the first blockbuster of a new genre, the politically incorrect comedy.
A spoof of Westerns, the story introduces a black sheriff (Cleavon Little) into a dismayed all-white town. In reality, the Old West had plenty of African-Americans escaping the legacy of slavery to become soldiers and cowboys and lawmen — for example, Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves and Texas rodeo star Bill Pickett.
But that history hadn’t been told in mainstream Hollywood mythology, so Brooks used the new post-blaxploitation liberalism to rub audience’s noses in a vision that showed what old-school Westerns didn’t, from profanity and racism to flatulence. Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Harvey Korman and Slim Pickens were along for the ride, with cameos by Brooks and Count Basie’s Orchestra. Comedy was never the same. TPR wraps up its excellent Cinema Tuesdays series with a screening of the 1974 classic.
$10-$15 suggested donation, Tue Aug 14, 7:30pm, Santikos Bijou, 4522 Fredericksburg Road, (210) 614-8977, tprcinema.org.
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