“Good evening, sheriff.  Sorry about the ‘Up yours, n——r’….”


As many of you may be aware, I’ve disagreed most vehemently with some of the decisions the great John Nolte’s made, lately.  Nonetheless, his greatness when he’s right is such that his faults tend to pale in comparison.  He was, after all, the direct inspiration for this series of mine.

In this case, one of the most famous moments of Nolte’s career as a Culture Warrior was his dire prediction that one day—one day very soon—the P.C. militancy of the Cultural Overlords of the Far Left would reach the boiling point where they would call for the banning of Blazing Saddles.

He was soundly mocked by said Overlords, of course.  But then, after all…these same folks have scoffed at manysuch predictions which turned out to be all too true.  “NO, no one’s gonna force people who don’t believe in gay marriage to bake a cake for them”—“NO, no one’s gonna bully people who don’t want to have relations with trans folks”—“NO, Obama’s not gonna do an end run around the Constitution and grant amnesty by executive order!”

Get the picture?

NOW…we are not quite at the level of “Ban Blazing Saddles!” just yet…but Nolte’s always been ready to point outevery step they’re taking towards that point.  Most notably: Mel Brooks himself has said that there’s no chance in heck that his classic could possibly be made, today.  (Steven Crowder, to that end, includes it on his list of “Movies That Couldn’t Be Made Today”.  He’s dead wrong about Quentin Tarantino, by the way—but I digress….)

SO: What’s the deal with Blazing Saddles?

Editor’s Note: In April of 2017 writer Eric M. Blake began a series at Western Free Press naming the “Greatest Conservative Films.” The introduction explaining the rules and indexing all films included in the series can be found here. Liberty Island will feature cross-posts of select essays from the series with the aim of encouraging discussion at this cross-roads of cinematic art with political ideology. (Click here to see the original essay. Check out the previously cross-posted entries on Jackie Brown, Captain America: The First AvengerCaptain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil WarUnforgivenHail, Caesar!, Apocalypse Now, Fight Club, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice ULTIMATE EDITION, Wonder Woman, Kill BillGran Torino The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises.) If you would like join this dialogue please contact us at submissions [@] libertyislandmag.com.


This is one of those films that’s Conservative By Default.  That is, it’s effectively become Conservative over the years, as the Left, to be blunt, has gotten more and more insane.

Because let’s be honest, folks: Barring any propaganda flicks for stuff that’s pretty much evil (mostly from the Left), Blazing Saddles is quite possibly the most Politically Incorrect Hollywood movie of all time.  And being a masterpiece of the one and only Mel Brooks…it was meant to be.

As Steven Crowder puts it:

“Everything about this film is ‘offensive’.  Everything about it!  Is it ‘racist’?—yes.  ‘Homophobia’?—it’s got that.  ‘Sexist’?—absolutely.  ‘Xenophobia’?—that wasn’t even a thing back then; but sure—let’s go with that!”

SO…let’s begin with just how Politically Incorrect this film really is.  TRIGGER WARNING!!!


For starters, it’s insane how many times this movie drops the N-word—and it’s not played for drama, to underline the evil of the villains…but for comedy!  It’s a…it’s a…

“As chairman of the welcoming committee, it is my privilege to extend a Laurel and Hardy handshake to our new…!  …n——r.”


Beyond that, there’s also a running gag about the stereotype about how black men are…“gifted”.

And amid all of this…Mel Brooks had no problem whatsoever casting black folks in this film—for goodness sake, Richard Pryor was a co-writer!  And why?

Because in that glorious period before P.C. took hold of our culture, people actually understood, as the great Carlin said: “It’s the CONTEXT that counts!—the CONTEXT that makes it ‘good’ or ‘bad’!”

For contrast, just look at the film Lefties point to, to “prove” that Brooks and Crowder and Nolte are wrong: Django Unchained.  “Oh, Quentin got away with using the N-word a million times in that movie!”

Well…did he?  Really?  Because I seem to recall a Spike-Lee-led controversy about that, at the time.  In fact, pretty much every single time a Quentin movie drops the N-word, a Societal Discussion erupts over whether it’s “appropriate”.

Contrast that with 1974, when Lee or a counterpart would’ve been laughed out of societal relevance, were they to suggest that Blazing Saddles was somehow Mel Brooks looking for “excuses” to be racist.  At the height of the Hollywood Renaissance, filmmakers were willing to go as “edgy” as they felt they had to—and audiences understood that.

Mel Brooks had a specific purpose in invoking racial stereotypes the way he did—in large part to mock them, and show how foolish racism truly is.  And he fulfilled it.

It wasn’t the only reason, of course.  Bear with me.


Just this:

Mel Brooks loves playing up the gay stereotypes, ever since The Producers (where the gay characters were almost creepy, to be honest—compare the more recent, more fully-musical remake, where they’re much more charming).  Here, they’re not only limp-wristed and lispy-voiced, there’s a gag in the clip about how weak the gay dancers are…!  And that’s leaving aside their referring to themselves as, and I quote, “Girls“!


Aside from the crusty old lady, the two prominent women in this film are sexualized to the point of, well, parody.  One’s the governor’s “secretary”, whose only purpose seems to be fairly obvious.  The other is Madeline Kahn’s unforgettable Lilli Von Schtupp.

“Let’s face it, I’m just tired.”

And she’s easily turned to Bart’s side, because it’s true….

Putting aside Bart’s attributes, the sequence has a non-racial subtext: For all the hysterical screams of pseudo-feminists…the truth is, what beautiful women look for in a man is, well, a man.

Oh, the trigger!


Mongo.  Horse.  ‘Nuff said.

And yet…nothing above is the biggest trigger of all—the one element that forever lodges it in our camp, far away from any claim by the Left.


As Nolte put it:

In “Blazing Saddles,” Brooks isn’t looking to humiliate or insult anyone.  His target is bigotry, not people. …[T]he everyday Western townspeople portrayed as racists are also the film’s victims.  The villain is the government: the wicked State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) and Governor William J. Le Petomane (Mel Brooks), a corrupt and vain buffoon.  By the time Bart and the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) ride off into the sunset together (where a limousine awaits), the townspeople have grown out of their bigotry after working with the sheriff to save their town from Hedley.

WHAT?!?  That’s…that’s…  You mean a town full of racists actually…actually…REDEEM  THEMSELVES?!?  There’s actually REDEMPTION for racism?—and more…a nigh-immediate redemption?!


And yet it happens, heralded beautifully by the nice little arc of the cranky old lady.  Bart wins the hearts and minds of the entire town—and they all pitch in to help him save the day.

Contrast this with Leftist dogma, where Evil Racist Whites must be kept under a permanent burden of guilt, because they’re all racist…and evil.  “White Privilege”, “latent prejudice”, that sorta thing.

Not so with Mel Brooks.  As far as he’s concerned, once the townspeople rid themselves of their “overt” racism—well, frankly, that’s all that matters.  Because, you know…that’s the only racism that actually exists, whether you’re Southern, or German, or whatever.


I have to thank Bill Whittle for this one.  He’s brought it up a lot.  Consider:

After the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, black Americans now faced the question of how to integrate into the whole of American society.  After all, there were, and are, still a lot of wounds in need of healing—wounds of prejudice, and so forth.

Two camps arose—and frankly, they still exist today.

Camp #1: The W.E.B. DuBois crew.  Basically, DuBois posited that America owed the black community, and thus the government should pay reparations…to an elite “Talented Tenth” who’d distribute the resources as they see fit, because these self-proclaimed “civil rights leaders” know what’s best for their presumably less elite “brothers”….

Yep.  Hello, Jackson—and Sharpton—and Dyson—and all the rest….

Camp #2: The Booker T. Washington crew.  Washington understood that forcing “reparation” from above would notchange the hearts and minds of the people—it’d just change the external, if that, while failing to address the internal.

So his solution?  For the black community to lead societal change by example.  To pull up by the bootstraps, and set out to be the best at whatever one sets one’s mind to—period.  To push yourself to fight harder—faster—stronger and smarter…so that the rest of America would be without excuse.  No nonsense about “racial IQs”—nothing.

And his ideas culminated in the founding of a certain institute, where he motivated his students to do exactly that:

The Tuskegee Institute.

That’s right—the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, famous for being, yes, the absolute best in aerial combat.  They followed the wisdom of Booker T.—the wisdom of taking advantage of a meritocracy, not an “affirmative action” welfare state (as DuBois wanted).

Just like Bart does—being the best sheriff humanly possible.


Again from Nolte:

“Blazing Saddles” isn’t just timeless because the politically incorrect comedy feels even more cutting edge today than it did 40 years ago, it is also because Brooks isn’t sneering at his audience; peering down from a place of superior sanctimony….

Brooks’ message and theme have something very important to say about bigotry.  But the director’s humanity presents it in an inclusive way that brings us together to laugh at the stupidity and evil of racism, not at each other or even ourselves.

And it’s a message the Left can’t stand, once made aware of it.  Because it’s a “micro-aggression”, you know.

And that’s why, someday soon, we’ll get an article by a Lefty academic, calling for a “new look” at Blazing Saddles as “problematic”.  And then, with the new narrative taking hold…

Well, they’re gonna call for it.  Hopefully, by then, we’ll have had enough of a foothold in the Culture that said “experts” will be laughed out of all credibility.

Somehow, I’m not holding my breath.


It’s worth noting that, for all the jokes Mel Brooks has given over the years involving Christianity (and Judaism—Brooks is nothing if not self-deprecating)…the town reverend is the first to try and call for acceptance of Bart as sheriff—meaningfully invoking the Bible to make his point.

Yes, a bullet shot through the book gets him to step away, telling Bart he’s on his own.  But to be blunt, who can blame him?  And at least he tried.

Robert McKee, in his masterwork Story, has an unfortunate moment in said book where he claims that the Western genre owes its (temporary) death in the late 1970s to Blazing Saddles “exposing” the genre’s “fascist heart”.  Yeah…once again, someone drops “fascist” with absolutely no knowlege of what the word even means.  (Heck, even the typical mistaken definition of “police state” doesn’t fit!  For heaven’s sake, McKee: What are you TALKING about?!?)

Finally, did I mention Nolte’s point that the villains all come from the government?

“Well, under the provisions of this bill, we would snatch 200,000 acres of Indian territory—which we have deemed unsafe for their use at this time.  Uh, they’re such children….”

To take it even further, archvillain Hedley Lamarr—big-government guy through-and-through—assumes like a Lefty that the racism of the townspeople will be such that they just won’t find it in themselves to actually accept a black sheriff.  After all, racism is inherent, right?  A racist is unforgivable, because they’re unchangeable…right?  The South is Solid, and they only went Republican because of a (mythical) Southern Strategy where the GOP went racist, or…something—but they’ve never actually purged their racism, because they never could



Come on.  Do I really have to lay this out?

Well…maybe for the young’uns.


The Producers—“backstage” musicals.  History Of The World, Part I—historical epics.  Young Frankenstein—the classic horrors of the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe.  High Anxiety—all things Hitchcock.  Spaceballs—well…Star Wars, with some Buck Rogers, Alien, and Star Trek thrown in.  Robin Hood: Men In Tights—well…duh.

Mel Brooks, the master—who actually got his start, of all places, on the European Front in WWII, pulling double duty disarming mines…and rebutting Nazi loudspeaker propaganda—by blaring some Al Jolson music right back at ‘em.

And he hasn’t stopped mocking Nazis ever since.

But here’s the thing about Brooks: Many have tried to duplicate his success in the field of cinematic parody.  And with the possible exception of the Zucker Brothers, all have failed.  (And even there…well, I guess I’m one of the few who’s not nearly as impressed with Airplane! as most folks.)

Yes, I know about individual films, like the great Galaxy Quest.  I’m talking about the scope of Mel’s success, here….

So what’s Mel’s secret?  Well…consider that beautiful opening theme, sung by Frankie Lane himself:

Notice something?  It’s doesn’t come across like a comedy theme!  It could’ve just as easily fit in a Western played straight.  (In fact, Brooks famously didn’t tell Lane it was for a comedy—presumably for this exact effect.)

Same for the sweeping cinematography across vast landscapes—the sets—the gunfights and horse riding.  Alldone with the skill of a master—because Mel understood something few others apparently do:

To spoof a genre, you must first love the genre—and that means you have to know how to play it straight.  And what’s more: do it well.

Dittos for any kind of experimentation in art: In order to “break the rules” well…you first have to master followingthem.


Mel Brooks is clearly a fan of Looney Tunes—even without the “telegram for Mongo” gag.  Really, Bart essentially isBugs Bunny in human form.  A clever master of improvisation—quick on his feet, observant of anything he could possibly turn to his advantage.  And the glint in Cleavon Little’s eyes lets us in on Bart’s thoughts, his awareness of the craziness of the situation—and the idiots around him.

For example, there’s that moment where he pulls a gun on himself.

Is it just the townspeople being stupid?  Or does he know as well as they do that if a sheriff commits suicide on his first day on the job, as opposed to “dying in the line of duty”, it’d cause a LOT of scrutiny that’d make the town’s already bad situation worse…?

Laid back, chill, and natural.  None of the by-default ham that so many actors seem to lunge for, in comedy.  An up-and-coming Broadway star when Brooks cast him, Little’s severely underrated as a film actor.  No denying it.


The funny thing about The Waco Kid: Mel Brooks started off wanting an older actor for the part.  The idea was supposed to be an old, seen-it-all veteran gunfighter imparting the wisdom of experience onto Bart.

Upon encountering John Wayne, Mel noted he would love him in the role.  The Duke turned it down—the humor was a bit too dirty for his image—but he loved the script to death, and was quick to add, “I’ll be first in line to see it!”  Frankly, dirty or no, it would’ve been awesome for Wayne to lend that kind of “genre authenticity” to the film.  Alas…

So, all the older actors Mel looked at weren’t available—and so, he went for Option Two: Go younger, with an actor he trusted to carry the role, age or no.  And Gene Wilder—who ironically had lobbied for the role from the very beginning—doesn’t disappoint.  Frankly, just listen to his voice: It really seems like he’s invoking The Duke a bit.  Just a bit, or it’d sound like a parody…but it’s there.  And much as we know Wilder as a comedic actor—this performance alone shows his dramatic chops, too—weather-beaten, weary, seen-it-all, and wry.

Incidentally, that speech he gives to Bart about the “simple” townspeople ends with an ad-lib that Cleavon Little did not expect: Bart bursting into chortles in response was not acting.


The giant.  The horse-puncher.  “If you shoot him, you’ll just make him mad.”  One gets the feeling that much of the modern characterization of The Incredible Hulk comes from Mongo—he may be big, and he may come off as dumb, but…

He’s got heart, to boot.


The great Madeline Kahn—staple of Brooks’s regular entourage—channels Marline Dietrich to the max as Lilli Von Schtupp.

Another Brooks staple, Harvey Korman, plays the cultured yet childish Hedley Lamarr.

Famously hammy cowboy actor Slim Pickens plays Lamarr’s bumbling top enforcer, Taggart.

Oh…and Dom DeLuise plays the director of the gay singers and dancers.  In case you’re wondering, the credits list the character’s name as “Buddy Bizzare”.


Amid all the laughs—amid all the satire…it’s pleasantly surprising how much warmth can be found in Blazing Saddles.  We see it throughout, with the friendship between Bart and Waco.  There’s the fact that Mongo declares his intent to switch over to Bart’s side out of respect for the one man who ever beat him.  There’s the apple pie the crusty old lady baked for Bart—as in, “It’s as American as…”

And a scene that always has me smiling: The moment where Bart shows up at the railroad again, after having become sheriff—reuniting with his old friends.  The music, the camera work, the acting—the emotion of this moment’s all authentic and true.

And lest we forget: The simple fact that the townspeople—initially so eager to reject this black sheriff…soon come to accept him, and follow his lead in saving their town.


This one’s…weird.  Suddenly there’s no notion of there being a world of the movie—as the characters—or are they actors now?—no, suddenly it’s the final duel between Bart and Lamarr, and—oh, whatever….

And if they’re filming the movie, why are they screening it at the Chinese Theater, and…?

It’s insane—the entire trope of breaking the fourth wall brought to its height—or depth…or whichever you like.

There was a film professor of mine at USF who had a theory: This whole climax has an important point to it.  See, it emphasizes that, as easy as it may be to look at movies (or TV shows) featuring the prejudice of the past and go, “Oh, that’s all in the past—look at how far we’ve come!  We’re so progressive, and they were so backwards!” (see: Mad Men or Agent Carter)…the truth is, can we really be so self-righteous?

By taking the battle out of the Old West and into the (then-) present day, Brooks is shattering that Pretentiousness Of Hindsight—and forcing us to look in the mirror, and question ourselves.

Well played, Mel.  Well played.


When Gov. Mel Brooks gives a fourth-wall-shattering kickoff to the running gag about Hedley Lamarr’s name, about how “This is 1874: You’ll be able to sue her!”…it’s a reference to Hedy Lamarr having threatened to sue Brooks for using her name without her permission.  (Presumably she’d gotten hold of an early draft of the script, or something.)  Upon watching the movie, and getting to that punchline, Ms. Lamar conceded that Brooks’s retort was well played, sir.  Well played.

The whole gag about Mel Brooks also playing an Indian chief—speaking Yiddish, of course—refers to the old Mormon theory that the American Indians were actually descendants of the Hebrews from the time of the Exile.  (Brooks isn’t the only one to mine that for humor in a Western….)

While Richard Pryor wrote most of the stuff about Mongo, it’s a pretty good bet Brooks wrote the giant’s most famous moment—the punching out of the horse.  It’s a reference to an incident involving Brooks’s mentor, the legendary Sid Caesar of Your Show Of Shows.  See, a horse once threw Sid’s wife off its back, and…

Speaking of Pryor, the legendary stand-up comedian was also Brooks’s first choice to play Bart.  Literally none of the powers that be would have it—he’d already had a reputation as a cokehead, and therefore, risky.  He wasn’t yet “big” enough to make it “worth it”.

In case you’re wondering, Randolph Scott was a legendary leading man of classical Westerns.

Oh, and the exact line “Badges?!  We don’t need no stinking BADGES!” doesn’t come from The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre.  It comes from this flick—to spoof the longer, less-memorable line that was in Sierra Madre.


Buy/rent the movie here.  And stay film-friendly, my friends.