BLAZING SADDLES (1974)

   Cleavon Little, Slim Pickens, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks (director)
   By 1974, many were seeing Westerns as a fading cinema genre. The classic era of John Ford had passed by. John Wayne’s career appeared virtually over, and he had lost credibility with the American public due to his conservative political views. The time was ripe for making fun of the staid old out-of-fashion Western, and Mel Brooks took advantage of it. Blazing Saddles became one of the most influential Westerns of the 20th century.
   In the film, the governor sends a new sheriff (Little) to police a small southwest town, hoping that the townspeople will reject their new black sheriff. Fortunately, Sheriff Bart teams up with the former Waco Kid (Wilder), now an alcoholic, to tame the town and overcome its prejudices, all with laughs aplenty. Little, especially, brings out the inherent racism in Westerns by spoofing first the classic comic Negrocharacter and then the B Westerncowboy hero, decked out in gaudy costumes and riding colorful show horses. Never again would black actors in Westerns be relegated to submissive roles based solely on their race. With its German saloon singer, the film also spoofs Westerns like Destry Rides Again (1939) (this time the singer is Madeline Kahn, not Marlene Dietrich).
   See also AFRICAN AMERICANS.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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