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Comedian, Actor, Writer, Producer
Talk about getting prepared to handle anything life brings your way: actor, writer, producer, director, comedian Mel Brooks joined the Army at the age of 17 and became a combat engineer, one of whose many assignments was defusing landmines.
Mel Brooks is known as the grand master of movie satire and is one of Hollywood's most successful filmmakers. He was born Melvin Kaminsky to a Russian Jewish family in Brooklyn, NY.
Brooks' career began in the forties in the military. While serving as a combat engineer in the US Army, he was known to respond to German propaganda broadcasts by doing an Al Jolson imitation of "Toot Toot Tootsie."
After completing his military service, Brooks began his career as a stand-up comedian in a string of resorts in the Catskills. Brooks was known for his odd antics, including performing on-the-spot monologues and routines, pretending to insult both his co-workers and the guests.
After years of stand-up comedy, Brooks turned to television. As a writer for Sid Caesar's classic television variety program "The Admiral Broadway Revue" which later became "Your Show of Shows," and much later "Caesar's Hour," Brooks worked with such greats as Neil Simon, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner. At this time he received his first major commendation - a Writing Emmy for "The Sid Caesar, Imogen Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special."
In the mid-fifties Brooks moved on to produce three plays throughout the fifties and sixties - New Faces of 1952 (1952), Shinbone Alley (1957), and All-American (1962). In the 1960's Brooks teamed up with Carl Reiner for their best-selling "2000 Year Old Man" routines, which graduated into a hit record and numerous TV appearances.
Brooks received three Grammys for the 2000 Year Old Man role, which also earned him a reputation as a spontaneously funny comedian. Brooks then teamed up with Buck Henry to develop "Get Smart"- a satirical spy sitcom for comedian Don Adams, which ran successfully from 1965 through 1970.
After doing everything from stand-up to television, Brooks decided to move into films. His first film was The Critic, which poked fun at abstract modern art, and won an Oscar. In 1968 his first major film, The Producers earned Brooks another Academy Award, for "Writing, Story and Screenplay." The has gained a reputation as one of the most funny comedies of all time, and Brooks' favorite. As a result of The Producers, Brooks discovered the talent of Gene Wilder, who would go on to star in future Brooks films.
Brooks' next film, The Twelve Chairs (1970-71), was the story of a Russian family who discovers that their family jewels have been hidden in a set of twelve chairs, and their hunt to find the chairs. Brooks directed, co-wrote, and starred in the film.
Brooks convinced Warner Brothers to finance a comedy about a black western sheriff. Directed, co-written and co-starring Brooks, Blazing Saddles was one of the biggest moneymakers of 1974. Brooks was nominated for a Best Music Score Academy Award for Blazing Saddles.
Brooks then went on to create Young Frankenstein in 1974, Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977), both of which he directed, co-wrote, and starred in. Brooks then directed, wrote, produced, and starred in History of the World: Part One (1981). In 1983 Brooks starred in and produced To Be Or Not to Be.
Spaceballs, 1987, was Brooks' next success. Brooks again directed, co-wrote, produced, and starred in the film.
In 1991, Brooks brought us Life Stinks, and in 1993, Robin Hood: Men in Tights Then in 1995, Brooks directed, starred in, co-wrote and produced Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
Mel Brooks' production company, Brooksfilms, not only produced his own films but also produced many other notable movies: The Elephant Man (1980), The Fly (1986); Frances (1982), My Favorite Year (1982), 84 Charing Cross Road (1986).
Mel Brooks returned to television, and made cameo appearances on numerous television shows including "Mad About You" (for which he won an Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series), as himself (voice) on "The Simpsons," as Tom (voice) in "Frasier" and as "Bernard Schlanger" on "The Tracey Ullman Show."