Mel Brooks

Biography

Date of Birth 28 June 1926, Brooklyn, New York, USA Birth Name Melvin Kaminsky Height 5' 5" (1.65 m) Mel Brooks is an Academy Award-winning American actor, writer, director and producer best known as a creator of broad film farces and comedy parodies. Born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York to Russian-Jewish parents Maximillian Kaminsky and Kate "Kittie" Brookman. Brooks's grandfather, Abraham Kaminsky, was a herring dealer who immigrated in 1893. He and his wife Bertha raised their ten children on Henry Street on the Lower East Side of New York City. Brooks's father, Max, was their second child. When Brooks was two and a half years old, his father died of kidney disease aged 34. A year later, in 1930, Kittie Kaminsky and her sons Irving, Leonard, Bernard and Melvin were living at 365 S. 3rd St. in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. As a child, Mel was a small and sickly boy. He was bullied and picked on by his peers. By taking on the comically aggressive job of “Toomler” in various Catskills resorts, he overcame his childhood of bullying and name calling.[citation needed] He went to school in New York. For elementary, he went to Public School 19 (Williamsburg). For middle school, he went to Francis Scott Key Jr. High (Williamsburg). Brooks graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School (New York).[citation needed] In June 1944, Brooks enlisted in the Army. He had basic training at Virginia Military Institute and finished up at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. He was shipped off to war in February of 1945 where he initially served as forward observer for the artillery. Shortly thereafter, Brooks was reassigned to the 1104th Combat Engineers Group. Several months later, Germany had surrendered and Brooks was promoted to corporal. He continued to serve in Germany for another 4 months as a Noncom in Charge of Special Services (entertainment). Brooks topped off his service at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Spouse Anne Bancroft (5 August 1964 - 6 June 2005) (her death) 1 child Florence Baum (1951 - 1961) (divorced) 3 children Trade Mark Has frequently cast himself, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman (1927-2008), Rudy De Luca, Madeline Kahn (1942-1999), Cloris Leachman, Dom DeLuise (1933-2009), Ron Carey (1935-2007), Marty Feldman (1933-1982), and Kenneth Mars (1935-2011). Almost always uses music by John Morris Frequently uses the line: "we have much to do and less time to do it in" His films usually contain many Jewish references and jokes Always features one scene in his movies in which the main character is seated and staring blankly, wondering what went wrong, while friends console him. The main villain wears a moustache or a beard Always features a scene where one character is explaining a plan to another, and the latter character repeats everything the former says, including something outrageous. After realizing this, the latter exclaims "what?" Lead character in his films is always a male [Parody] Nearly all of Brooks' films parody a genre or a single film His films often contain references to the film's sequel, which never come to pass. Good examples of this are History of the World: Part I (1981), Spaceballs (1987) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). ["Walk this way" gag] One character says "Walk this way!" (as in "Follow me!"), and another character(s) copies the way he/she is walking (History of the World: Part I (1981), Young Frankenstein (1974) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)). Frequently has a bust of his head on the poster of video/DVD cover of his movies. All of his movies feature a wacky song-and-dance number Frequently makes fun of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany Visual or verbal gags where the characters break the fourth wall and reference the fact that they're in a movie. Trivia Served as a corporal with the U.S. army in North Africa during World War II, where one of his duties was defusing land mines before the infantry moved in. His stage name is an adaptation of his mother's maiden name, Brookman. His film, The Producers (1968), was the inspiration for the title of U2's album, "Achtung Baby". He produced and wrote the music, lyrics, and book for the Broadway musical "The Producers" (2001), the musical version of his earlier movie The Producers (1968). The Broadway hit musical then lead to the musical movie The Producers (2005). One of the few people to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony. He won an Oscar for the screenplay of The Producers (1968); 3 Emmys in a row (1997-1999) for his guest appearance as Uncle Phil in "Mad About You" (1992); 3 Tonys for The Producers- Best Musical, Original Music Score and Book (musical); and 3 Grammys- Best Spoken Comedy Album for "The 2000 Year Old Man In The Year 2000" (1998, with Carl Reiner) and two for The Producers (2001): Best Musical Show Album (as composer/lyricist) and Best Long Form Music Video (as artist). Son Eddie Brooks manages a band called "Early Edison". Named one of E!'s "Top 20 entertainers of 2001.". Called his late wife Anne Bancroft his Obi-Wan Kenobi since she encouraged him to turn his movie The Producers (1968) into a Broadway musical. Named one of People Magazine's "25 Most Intriguing People of 2001". According to his 1975 Playboy interview, Mel's favorite candy is Raisinets. At the opening of the Broadway version of "The Producers", he was asked by a reporter if he was nervous about the play's reception, since it cost $40 million to produce. Brooks joked, "If it flops, I'll take the other sixty million and fly to Rio." He didn't have to worry, since the play was both a critical and financial success. He and Anne Bancroft met on the set of a TV talk show, and Mel later paid a woman who worked on the show to tell him which restaurant Bancroft was going to eat at that night so he could "accidentally" bump into her again and strike up a conversation. He and Bancroft married at New York's Municipal Building, where a passer-by served as their witness. Children from his first marriage: Stefanie Brooks (born 1956), Nicky Brooks (born 1957) and Eddie Brooks (born 1959). Son, Max Brooks, with Anne Bancroft was born in 1972. In 1966, he was about to co-star in a movie called "Easy Come, Easy Go" with Jan Berry and Dean Torrence in the leading roles. What would have been his on-screen debut, was canceled due to a car wreck during shooting, in which Berry suffered a severe brain damage and paralysis. On the casting list was also British comedy star Terry-Thomas. Performed a rap song for the soundtrack of History of the World: Part I (1981) called "It's Good To Be The King". It was a surprisingly successful hip-hop/dance hit in 1981. He followed it up with "Hitler Rap" for To Be or Not to Be (1983). The song was not as successful. But the lyric "Don't be stupid, be a smarty/Come and join the Nazi Party" was originally used in the original movie version of The Producers (1968), then later reused in Brooks' Broadway version of "The Producers". The 1944 edition of the Eastern District High School (Brooklyn, N.Y.) yearbook featured the future Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky) stating that his goal was to become President of the United States; forty-three years later, in 1987, his ambition was to be fulfilled, if only in fiction and in part -- in the movie Spaceballs (1987), he portrayed Spaceball leader "President Skroob". His favorite song is "Yankee Doodle Dandy" by George M. Cohan. Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy", by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 63-66. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387 Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985." Pages 162-167. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988. He is a close friend of Italian TV star Ezio Greggio, whose movies he inspired. Brooks is often a guest in Greggio's shows, and Brooks offered Greggio a small part in his Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), due to this friendship. In 2001, won three Tony Awards for "The Producers": as a co-producer of the Best Musical winner; as Best Book (Musical), with collaborator Thomas Meehan; and as Best Original Musical Score, both lyrics and music. Grandson Henry Michael Brooks (Max's son) born April 2005. In the original film version of The Producers (1968), Brooks' voice can be heard singing the line "Don't be stupid/Be a schmarty/Come and join the Nazi Party" during the "Springtime for Hitler" number. For the Broadway musical version, he repeats this task, with the live actor lip-synching to a recording of Brooks. Has cited his favorite films as Bicycle Thieves (1948) (aka The Bicycle Thief) and La Grande Illusion (1937). Though Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974) are often cited as his best and most popular films as a director, his biggest video sales are Spaceballs (1987) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). His parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants, and he remains an avid fan of Russian literature, occasionally making references to works and writers in his films. His running "walk this way" gag is also the inspiration for the song "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith. The gag was copied from William Powell's ad-lib in After the Thin Man (1936). Would much rather write than direct. He, Anne Bancroft and their son Max Brooks have all won Emmys. Has directed two performers to Oscar nominations: Gene Wilder (for The Producers (1968)) and Madeline Kahn (for Blazing Saddles (1974)). Worked with son Nicky Brooks at Brooksfilm. Nicky was a story editor on The Fly (1986), The Fly II (1989) and Spaceballs (1987). Godfather of Alan Yentob's children. He attended film director Alfred Hitchcock's funeral. On NPR interview, mentioned that he attended Virginia Military Institute - and thus, in reference to the 1938 film setting, was a "Brother Rat". Was considered for the role of Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween (1978). One of the five winners of the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors. Other 2009 winners were Bruce Springsteen, Robert De Niro, Dave Brubeck, and Grace Bumbry. Has directed three of the American Film Institute's 100 Funniest Movies: Blazing Saddles (1974) at #6, The Producers (1968) at #11 and Young Frankenstein (1974) at #13. Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 23, 2010. His father died when Mel was age 2 and his impoverished childhood has been called 'Dickensian'. Worked as a stand-up comedy "tummeler" in Catskill Mountains resorts before joining Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows" (1950) immortal writing staff in the 1950s, which featured Woody Allen and Neil Simon. It's also where he met performer Carl Reiner. This legendary Caesar show was the basis for the comedy classic, My Favorite Year (1982). Personal Quotes "Why should I indulge myself and do a David Lean-ish kind of film? I could do my little Jewish Brief Encounter (1945) and disguise it - shorten the noses. But it wouldn't be as much fun as delivering my dish of insanity". I cut my finger. That's tragedy. A man walks into an open sewer and dies. That's comedy. My movies rise below vulgarity. Critics can't even make music by rubbing their back legs together. Oh, I'm not a true genius. I'm a near genius. I would say I'm a short genius. I'd rather be tall and normal than a short genius. I'm the only Jew who ever made a buck offa 'Hitler'! On Zero Mostel (1915-1977): He could be wicked and cruel, and he could be almost sweet, loving, kind, generous. The great thing about Zero was that he was uniquely gifted. He was really, truly talented, more talented than any actor except for Sid Caesar that I have ever worked with. Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So, for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast-beaters. By the time I was five I knew I was that one. Humor is just another defense against the universe. On his late Blazing Saddles (1974) star, Cleavon Little (1939-1992): My rule was not to eat with actors, but I enjoyed him so much that I begged him to eat with me. "As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes." quoted in Woman's World (3-22-05 issue) You're young forever when you write. Alfred Hitchcock directed until the day he died. As long as you don't have any dementia or Alzheimer's, if you have your All-Bran every day and clear yourself out, I think your brains are gonna be all right. [on Woody Allen] Woody Allen is a genius. His films are wonderful. [on Anne Bancroft] I'm married to a beautiful and talented woman who can lift your spirits just by looking at you. [on the CIA] They don't know right from wrong. That's what makes a satire of these government bureaus [Get Smart (2008)] really funny. On Buster Keaton (1895-1966): I don't think he was a genius. Einstein was a genius; Buster Keaton was astonishing. I've never seen any human being able to perform as brilliantly and gracefully with such unusually gifted timing. There was only one Keaton. His eyes shone with a certain intensity, fire and love. His face had little expression, but his eyes were always dynamically alive. His eyes spoke more than any script could speak. Dom DeLuise was a big man in every way. He was big in size and created big laughter and joy. He will be missed in a very big way. [on David Lynch] He's like James Stewart from hell. I said to Slim Pickens you've made a hundred movies. Do you have any advice? He said, "Mel, whenever you get the chance. Sit down". Sit down? I felt like I was asking Orson Welles how you make Citizen Kane (1941) he says sit down? But Slim was right because it can get very tiring. I love spaghetti and sex, sometimes together. My dream of heaven is walking naked through fields of pasta fazool. Immortality is a by-product of good work. Masterpieces are not for artists, they're for critics. Critics can't even make music by rubbing their back legs together. My message to the world is 'Let's swing, sing, shout, make noise! Let's not mimic death before our time comes! Let's be wet and noisy!' [on the famous campfire scene in Blazing Saddles (1974)]: I only break wind on the prairie. Where Are They Now (April 2004) Opening the Australian production of "The Producers" in Melbourne. (August 2004) Currently working on turning his 1974 comedy film hit, Young Frankenstein (1974), into his next Broadway musical, with a possible opening in 2005. (April 2007) Producing the stage musical adaptation of his hit 1974 film, Young Frankenstein (1974). The musical is slated to open Halloween night, Oct. 31st, 2007, at the St. James Theatre on Broadway after a summer try-out at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. (August 2007) The stage musical adaptation of Brooks' hit 1974 film, Young Frankenstein (1974), opens to rave reviews in Seattle.

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Birth Name

Melvin James Kaminsky

Birth Place

Brooklyn, Nueva York, Estados Unidos

Birth Date

6/28/1926
Known For
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Spaceballs

President Skroob / Yogurt

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Leap!

(voice)

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History of the World: Part I

Moses/Comicus/Torquemada/Jacques/Louis XVI

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High Anxiety

Richard H. Thorndyke

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Silent Movie

Mel Funn

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To Be or Not to Be

Dr. Frederick Bronski

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Life Stinks

Goddard Bolt

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The Great Buster

Himself

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Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank

Shogun (voice)

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Spaceballs: The Animated Spoof

President Skroob / ... (15 episodes, 2007-2009)

Starring In
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Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank

Shogun (voice)

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The Automat

Self

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Toy Story 4

Melephant Brooks (voice)

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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Vlad (voice)

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The Great Buster

Himself

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GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II

Self

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Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies

Himeself

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Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

Himself

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If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast

Self

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Leap!

(voice)

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The Guardian Brothers

Rogman (voice)

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The Last Laugh

Himself

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Hotel Transylvania 2

Vlad (voice)

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Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Albert Einstein (voice)

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The Unbeatables

Ace's Manager

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Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic

Himself

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Spaceballs: The Animated Spoof

President Skroob / ... (15 episodes, 2007-2009)

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The Producers

Hilda the Pigeon / Tom the Cat (voice)

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Robots

Bigweld (voice)

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De Caunes/Garcia - Le meilleur de Nulle Part Ailleurs 2... suite et fin!

Self (archive footage)

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Broadway: The American Musical

Himself (2 episodes, 2004)

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It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

Joe Snow (voice)

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Hail Sid Caesar! The Golden Age of Comedy

Self

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Screw Loose

Jake Gordon

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The Prince Of Egypt

Additional Voices (voice) (uncredited)

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AFI's 100 Years - 100 Movies (CBS Television Special)

Himself

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Pretty as a Picture: The Art of David Lynch

Himself

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Dracula: Dead and Loving It

Professor Van Helsing

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The Little Rascals

Mr. Welling

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The Silence of the Hams

Checkout Guest (uncredited)

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Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Rabbi Tuckman

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Holiday Greetings from 'The Ed Sullivan Show'

Self - Comedian (archive footage)

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Life Stinks

Goddard Bolt

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Look Who's Talking Too

Mr. Toilet Man (voice)

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Spaceballs

President Skroob / Yogurt

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To Be or Not to Be

Dr. Frederick Bronski

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An Audience with Mel Brooks

Himself

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History of the World: Part I

Moses/Comicus/Torquemada/Jacques/Louis XVI

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The Muppet Movie

Professor Max Krassman

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High Anxiety

Richard H. Thorndyke

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Silent Movie

Mel Funn

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Young Frankenstein

Werewolf / Cat Hit by Dart / Victor Frankenstein (voice) (uncredited)

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Blazing Saddles

Governor William J. Lepetomane / Indian Chief

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Free to Be You and Me

Baby Boy (voice)

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The Twelve Chairs

Tikon

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Putney Swope

Mr. Forget It

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The Producers

Singer in 'Springtime for Hitler' (voice) (uncredited)

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