The Movies of Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks has lived quite the life. The comedian has been a writer, an actor, a producer, not just for one medium, but for many -- television, film, theater. He has won many of the top awards in entertainment -- an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, even a Grammy. He had a long, loving marriage to actress Anne Bancroft. The other evening, PBS aired a retrospective on his career, American Masters: Mel Brooks -- Make a Noise, and later this year, the American Film Institute (AFI) will honor him with its prestigious Life Achievement Award, adding him to the ranks of John Ford, Orson Welles, Bette Davis, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, Jack Lemmon, Sydney Poitier, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Morgan Freeman, just to name some of the legends who previously won the AFI accolade.

Although he made his start in television during its golden age, working alongside Sid Caesar and other comedy legends on Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, and teaming up with Carl Reiner on "The 2000 Year Old Man," eventually going on to help create Get Smart, it is through his wonderful big screen movies that I (and countless other fans) came to love his talent.

Here is a quick look at his filmography.

The Producers - His very first movie in 1968 was excellent, starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder as a couple of schemers trying to produce what they think will be a guaranteed flop, "Springtime for Hitler." Decades later, Brooks would turn it into one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time.

The Twelve Chairs - His next film in 1970 was an adaptation of a 1928 Russian novel. It was an ambitious satire with Frank Langella and Dom DeLuise searching for a fortune in hidden jewels.

Blazing Saddles - This is my favorite of all his works, and one of my overall favorite flicks ever made. This 1974 spoof of the Western genre is arguably perfect from beginning to end, with brilliant performances by Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, and Mel Brooks himself.

Young Frankenstein - Here's another beloved motion picture, the terrific spoof of classic horror movies, with Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn again, this time joined by the hilarious ensemble of Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, and Gene Hackman.

Silent Movie - Years before The Artist dazzled audiences and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Mel Brooks paid homage to era of cinema before the "talkies" with this neat little gimmick flick that had Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, Sid Caesar, Bernadette Peters, and others.

High Anxiety - Brooks next took a stab at spoofing Alfred Hitchcock thrillers. His cast included his usual reliables -- Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Harvey Korman.

History of the World: Part I - Brooks hits a homerun with this epic spoof of epic movies. I always wanted to live long enough to see Part II.  :)

Spaceballs - Next, Brooks took on Star Wars and other science fiction films. Who can ever forget John Candy as Barf, Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet, Bill Pullman as Lone Starr, and Daphne Zuniga as Princess Vespa?

Life Stinks - In all of his comedy, Brooks manages to show a bit of heart, and while this movie may not be his biggest hit, it had good intentions.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights - Better than Life Stinks, but not as good as his earlier classics, this was a spoof of the swashbuckling cinematic adventures of yesteryear.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It - His last directorial big screen effort was another horror spoof, this time starring Leslie Nielsen as the blood-thirsty count. It had its moments, but again, it's tough to compare to the brilliant work during his heyday. It should be noted, however, that even his lesser films had funnier jokes and stronger stories than some other current excuses for spoofs, parodies, and comedies.

As of this writing, Brooks is almost 90 years old and still going strong. He's an inspiration to us all.