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By Phil Hall | May 8, 2013

Robert Trachtenberg’s documentary, which was broadcast as part of PBS’ “American Masters” series, offers a celebration of Mel Brooks’ six decades in entertainment. The film traces Brooks’ rise from Borscht Belt joker to Sid Caesar’s gag writer to his own stardom opposite Carl Reiner in the popular 2000 Year Old Man comedy record series.

Brooks’ entry into filmmaking with “The Producers” (1968) came by default – the original story was rejected as a novel and a stage play – and his back-to-back hits “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein” (both released in 1974) briefly made him Hollywood’s most successful filmmaker. Brooks also quietly managed to secure a niche as the producer of offbeat films including “The Elephant Man” (1980), “My Favorite Year” (1982) and “84 Charing Cross Road” (1987), the latter starring his second wife Anne Bancroft. In 2001, after a skein of flop films, Brooks re-emerged with the Broadway musical version of “The Producers,” which snagged a record 12 Tony Awards.

Although bevy of collaborators including Cloris Leachman, Joan Rivers and Nathan Lane offer lavish praise of Brooks’ accomplishments, the film carefully avoids dwelling too long on Brooks’ personal and professional setbacks – including a failed first marriage, the significant decline in the quality of his later films and the failure to turn “Young Frankenstein” into a hit Broadway musical.

Brooks, despite his brash and often crude screen persona, emerges an erudite raconteur, and his insight into the entertainment world is both amusing and intriguing. Indeed, this film offers a side of Brooks that rarely emerged before: the modest and intellectual charmer.

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  1. Thies says:

    There is a realy long interview online where Mel Brooks talks openly about nearly all aspects of his career:
    One episode later Marc Maron also got the chance to talk to Carl Reiner. Catch it while you can!

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