All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business Book Review

The word “genius” is often thrown around without anything to back it up. One of the few people who can legitimately be given that title is Mel Brooks. He has made audiences laugh for 70+ years, taking comedy in a direction that few have dared to.

His new autobiography, All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business, was released last November. The youngest of four boys, Brooks was born to a Jewish immigrant family in 1926. Raised in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn by his widowed mother, he grew up during the Great Depression and served his country during World War II. After the war, he joined one of the greatest comedy writing teams of all time as a co-writer of Sid Ceasar‘s Your Show of Shows.

Married to actress Anne Bancroft for five decades, Brooks directed (and in some cases starred in) such classics as Young Frankenstein, To Be or Not To Be, The Producers, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, History of the World: Part I, etc. Telling his story as only he can, Brooks reveals his heart, his humor, his work ethic, and his acute ability to use laughter to delve into topics that many would not dare to touch.

In his mid 90’s, he has more energy and gusto many are half his age. It was an incredible insight into a man who has made generations of audiences laugh. What I loved was the revelation of the man behind the jokes. He reminds me of someone’s old uncle who is not quite politically correct. They know that they are crossing the line. But it is not out of spite or to cause trouble. It’s to make the audience laugh and while they are laughing, perhaps think about the message behind the joke.

As I read the book, two things jumped out at me. The first was that there was no mention of his first wife and not a lot of time focused on his older children. The second is that he refers to almost every woman first by her looks and then by her talent. Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s a generational thing. I get that it could be construed as a compliment, but I would rather be known for my abilities first and my looks second.

Other than that, do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business is available wherever books are sold.

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Happy Birthday Mel Brooks

Today is the 90th birthday of the legendary comedian Mel Brooks.

Born in Brooklyn, New York on June 28th, 1925, Melvin Kaminsky would grow up to be one of the greatest comedians of the 20th century.

What can I say about this man? He is a comedic genius. His movies are completely quotable and his characters are outlandish. His characters say and do things that many writers and filmmakers would shy away from. There is no genre that remains untouched by his unique form of satire.

Mel Brooks has also had the good fortune to see two of his movies, Young Frankenstein and The Producers become hit Broadway musicals. Not bad for a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who was born right before the great depression.

I could go on and on, but I will let his movies do the talking.

Happy Birthday Mel Brooks, thanks for the laughter.

Throwback Thursday- Mel Brooks Double Feature- Young Frankenstein and To Be or Not To Be

Ask any comedian over the last forty years and they will probably tell you that Mel Brooks is a comedy g-d.

On this Throwback Thursday post, I’m going to talk about Young Frankenstein And To Be Or Not To Be

Young Frankenstein

Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is the grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein. After years of trying to remove himself from his familial past, he is pulled back in and attempts to re-create his grandfather’s work. Co starring the late Peter Boyle (the monster), Marty Feldman (Igor), Teri Garr (Inga) and the late great Madeline Kahn (Elizabeth).

What can I say about this movie? It is immensely quotable and beyond funny. Brooks retains the origins of Mary Shelley’s original novel  while putting his own stamp on the story.

And now for your viewing pleasure, the trailer for Young Frankenstein:

I’m also including Putting On The Ritz, it’s the funniest scene in the film.

To Be or Not To Be

To Be Or Not To Be is Brook’s 1983 remake of the 1942 original film starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard.

Just before World War II, a Polish acting troupe led by Frederick and Anna Bronski (Brooks and his late wife, Anne Bancroft) is preparing for their next production when they learn that it has to be scrapped. The Nazis are massing on the borders of Poland.  When Anna starts receiving flowers and visits from a young Polish officer (Tim Matheson), the entire troupe becomes involved in the war.

Brooks and his collaborators kept much of the original screenplay intact while putting their own spin on the film. As he did in The Producers, Brooks taking the sting out of the Nazis (as much as one can), while pointing out the absurdity of their beliefs.  This movie is perfect and funny and always enjoyable.

I recommend both films.

Movies Every Movie Lover Should See

Some movies were meant to be forgettable and are a waste of the movie-goers time.  But there are some that are classic movies and should be viewed over and over again.

I would like to share three of my favorite classic Hollywood movies and explain why these are worth watching time and again.

To Have and Have Not

This is one of my favorite movies from the 1940’s. It’s pretty typical World War II movie, where the Allies are the heroes and the Nazis are the villains.  The two leads, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall have this magnetic, sexual chemistry. It’s no wonder they were married for twelve years. This movie is a perfect example of creating sexual chemistry between characters without resorting to removing of clothes.

His Girl Friday

Now this is how a rom-com and a office comedy should be. Cary Grant is the editor of a newspaper. Rosalind Russell is his ex wife and ex-employee. She is getting married again and Cary Grant’s character is looking to find a way to keep her on the paper and in his life. If nothing else, just watch the opening scene.  An interesting aspect of this movie is that it was based upon a play, in which Rosalind Russell’s character was originally a man and changed to a female, which poses an interesting feminist twist, twenty years before the second wave of the feminist movement.

To Be or Not To Be

This movie is perfection. This movie should be required viewing for every filmmaker. Carole Lombard and Jack Benny are the lead performers in Polish theatrical troupe during World War II. They indirectly join the war when  they work with a soldier to track down a German spy. Like His Girl Friday, I highly recommend to watch the opening scene if you don’t see the entire movie. The comedy timing is perfect, Lombard is one of the greatest actresses and comedienne’s of her era. The irony of this movie is that Jack Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky) was Jewish.  It takes balls to make a movie of this type  during this period with a Jewish leading man.  There is also a re-boot, made in the early 1980’s by Mel Brooks. As much as I love the re-boot, which is most certainly a Mel Brooks movie, the original just stands the test of time.

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