Tag Archives: producers

DVR Alert: Mel Brooks Night on TCM, 7/24

24 Jul

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One of the prime comic Voices In My Head, along with Phil Silvers, Jack Benny Groucho Marx and Spike Milligan (among a select few others) is that of Mel Brooks. There are lines spoken by/written by Mel Brooks that simply are not funny if the wrong people say them. But in the right hands, or larynges, or whatever, Golden Magic. Many will be said tonight.

Tonight (July 24)  at 8:00 p.m., TCM will broadcast the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award/ Salute to Mel Brooks (and again at 12:30 a.m.), as well as a few of the high points of his career, including the underappreciated The Twelve Chairs at 9:30 p.m., the can-never-be-appreciated-enough Young Frankenstein at 2:00 a.m., and the already-appreciated-on-this-site The Producers at 4:00 a.m.

In amongst those glories, TCM  has peppered the evening with pleasant little surprises like a Carson interview at 11:15 p.m. (promoting To Be or Not To Be, I think, if the date is any hint), a documentary on the 2000-Year-Old Man recordings with Personal Hero Carl Reiner at 11:30 p.m. (a picture of these two hangs in my studio, near a pair of pictures of Bert Lahr that are better explained at another time), and an hour-long Dick Cavett interview at 5:30 a.m.

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The Producers (1968)

1 May

I think I first saw The Producers (which will air on TCM Sunday, May 5 at 1:30 p.m.) when I was about sixteen. The rest of the major Mel Brooks canon was a) more readily available b) more recent c) bawdier in an understandable way to a generation of regionally-defined kids who had never seen a Broadway show and knew nada from Nazis compared to, say, Westerns, simplified race relations, monster movies and a complete misread of World Civ. class. Also, it wasn’t on cable much, unlike some of the others.

Which is to say my friends and I already knew The Campfire Scene, “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “It’s good to be the king” and “Can’t you see that man is a ni-?,” a line the comic brilliance and social depth of which I will perhaps deconstruct at another time. But this wasn’t on our radar. I even saw The Twelve Chairs before I saw this, I kid you not.

And then I saw this.

The Producers (1968)

Heeeelp!

 

Ostensibly, if you’re reading this, you’ve either never seen it before (because if you have  – and this is probably true most of this blog – your own opinion is sufficient and the Internet is chock full o’pinions already) or you love to talk about this stuff like I do and don’t mind repetition so long as it’s individualized.

So rather than recap my favorite lines/scenes/moments (or even just the first ten minutes, which beat out Raising Arizona’s for sheer comic hit-the-ground-running gut exhaustion), I’m going to state the importance of this movie in my comedy upbringing by saying that every time I hear the single word “Thursday,” I hear it said by Zero Mostel.

It’s not even part of a joke. I’m spoiling nothing for a Producers Virgin by saying that in the first ten minutes of the film, Mostel’s character postpones an appointment – or let’s say “assignation” – until Thursday. In an effort to hustle his fellow assignee out of the room, one of his lines is simply, “Thursday. Thursday.”

I think most movie lovers have these, these movies that you’ve seen so many times you can almost literally press play in your mind and tick through line by line. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but my memory has always been heavily auditory. And I hear inflections and fairly exact pauses when I do the Brain Playback. Am I alone here?

Regardless, Zero Mostel’s every breath, every tick of his comic machine fills me with joy (yes, I’ve even watched Great Catherine, which isn’t that good but provides room for him to Zero up a storm as Patiomkin and which for that reason, I repeat words I’ve used before because I have no others, fills me with joy). Small wonder, then, that even the non-howlers, the tiny moments of tiny choices (though little he does is tiny), are lodged in the deepest humor folds of my brain. They are How Things Should Work. I am entirely dissimilar to him in type (hand to heaven, may I ever be so; I try to stay in shape), but my theft from him as a performer, or at least a sense of WWZMD? that is so ingrained as to be unconscious (pace Phil Silvers and Groucho Marx, the other primary Voices in My Head), is inestimable. It cannot be estim-ed.

 So, yes, there are funnier – MUCH funnier – moments in The Producers, but the tiny tip of the funny iceberg that is Mostel’s not-even-part-of-a-joke utterance, “Thursday. Thursday,” is…I mean, do you know how often people use that word? A lot! I don’t have the stats in front of me, but ponder that my head doubles that usage among people I encounter.

And I haven’t said a single word about Gene Wilder! Who looms as large. I could almost find/replace and make this about him.

This is probably also inadvertently a post about why I sleep so poorly.

You should watch The Producers. The 1968 Producers.