|Height:||165 cm (5' 5'')|
|Birth Day:||June 28, 1926|
|Birth Place:||New York City, United States|
|#6||Florence Baum||Former spouse||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#11||Max Brooks||Son||$20 Million||N/A||48||Writer|
|#12||Anne Bancroft||Spouse||$20 Million||N/A||73||Actor|
|#13||Henry Michael Brooks||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
|165 cm (5' 5'')||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
As a teenager, he was taught the drums by the great Buddy Rich. In 1961, his comedy career took a big leap forward when he and fellow comic legend Carl Reiner created a comedy sketch called The 2000 Year Old Man.
Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, to Max (1895–1929) and Kate (née Brookman) Kaminsky (1896–1989), and grew up in Williamsburg. His father's family were German Jews from Danzig (present-day Gdańsk, Poland); his mother's family were Jews from Kiev, in the Pale of Settlement of the Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine). He had three older brothers: Irving, Lenny, and Bernie. Brooks' father died of kidney disease at 34 when Brooks was 2 years old. He has said of his father's death, "There's an outrage there. I may be angry at God, or at the world, for that. And I'm sure a lot of my comedy is based on anger and hostility. Growing up in Williamsburg, I learned to clothe it in comedy to spare myself problems—like a punch in the face."
Brooks was drafted into the United States Army in 1944. After scoring highly on the Army General Classification Test—a Stanford–Binet-type IQ test—he was sent to the elite Army Specialized Training Program at the Virginia Military Institute to be taught skills such as military engineering, foreign languages, or medicine.
Manpower shortages led the Army to disband the training program so Brooks returned to basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in May 1944.
After the war, Brooks started working in various Borscht Belt resorts and nightclubs in the Catskill Mountains as a drummer and pianist. After a regular comic at one of the nightclubs was too sick to perform one night, Brooks started working as a stand-up comic, telling jokes and doing movie-star impressions. He also began acting in summer stock in Red Bank, New Jersey, and did some radio work. He eventually worked his way up to the comically aggressive job of tummler (master entertainer) at Grossinger's, one of the Borscht Belt's most famous resorts. Brooks found more rewarding work behind the scenes, becoming a comedy writer for television. In 1949, his friend Sid Caesar hired Brooks to write jokes for the DuMont/NBC series The Admiral Broadway Revue, paying him $50 a week.
In 1950, Caesar created the revolutionary variety comedy series Your Show of Shows and hired Brooks as a writer along with Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, and head writer Mel Tolkin. The writing staff proved widely influential. Reiner, as creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show, based Morey Amsterdam's character Buddy Sorell on Brooks. Likewise, the film My Favorite Year (1982) is loosely based on Brooks' experiences as a writer on the show including an encounter with the actor Errol Flynn. Neil Simon's play Laughter on the 23rd Floor (1993) is also loosely based on the production of the show, and the character Ira Stone is based on Brooks. Your Show of Shows ended in 1954 when performer Imogene Coca left to host her own show. Caesar then created Caesar's Hour with most of the same cast and writers (including Brooks and adding Woody Allen and Larry Gelbart). Caesar's Hour ran from 1954 until 1957.
Brooks and co-writer Reiner had become close friends and began to casually improvise comedy routines when they were not working. Reiner played the straight-man interviewer and set Brooks up as anything from a Tibetan monk to an astronaut. As Reiner explained: "In the evening, we'd go to a party and I'd pick a character for him to play. I never told him what it was going to be." On one of these occasions, Reiner's suggestion concerned a 2000 year-old-man who had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (who "came in the store but never bought anything"), had been married several hundred times, and had "over forty-two thousand children, and not one comes to visit me." At first Brooks and Reiner only performed the routine for friends but, by the late 1950s, it gained a reputation in New York City. Kenneth Tynan saw the comedy duo perform at a party in 1959 and wrote that Brooks "was the most original comic improvisor I had ever seen."
In 1960, Brooks moved from New York to Hollywood. He and Reiner began performing the "2000 Year Old Man" act on The Steve Allen Show. Their performances led to the release of the comedy album 2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks that sold over a million copies in 1961. They eventually expanded their routine with two more albums in 1961 and 1962, a revival in 1973, a 1975 animated TV special, and a reunion album in 1998. At one point, when Brooks had financial and career struggles, the record sales from the 2000 Year Old Man were his chief source of income.
Brooks was involved in the creation of the Broadway musical All American which debuted on Broadway in 1962. Brooks wrote the play with lyrics by Lee Adams, and music by Charles Strouse. The show starred Ray Bolger as a southern science professor at a large university who uses the principles of engineering on the college's football team and the team begins to win games. The show was directed by Joshua Logan, who script-doctored the second act and added a gay subtext to the plot. The show ran for 80 performances and received two Tony Award nominations.
Brooks was married to Florence Baum (1926–2008) from 1953 to 1962, their marriage ending in divorce. They had three children: Stephanie, Nicky, and Eddie. Brooks married stage, film and television actress Anne Bancroft in 1964, and they remained together until her death in 2005. They met at a rehearsal for the Perry Como Variety Show in 1961, and were married three years later on August 5, 1964, at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau. Their son, Max Brooks, was born in 1972, and their grandson, Henry Michael Brooks, was born in 2005.
The Producers was so brazen in its satire that major studios would not touch it, nor would many exhibitors. Brooks finally found an independent distributor who released it as an art film, a specialized attraction. At the 41st Academy Awards, Brooks won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film over fellow writers Stanley Kubrick and John Cassavetes. The Producers became a smash underground hit, first on the nationwide college circuit, then in revivals and on home video. Brooks later turned it into a musical, which became hugely successful on Broadway, receiving an unprecedented twelve Tony awards. The film would premiere to a limited audience in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on November 22, 1967 before achieving a wide release in 1968.
With comedy writer Buck Henry, Brooks created a comedic TV show titled Get Smart about a bumbling James Bond-inspired spy. Brooks explains: "I was sick of looking at all those nice sensible situation comedies. They were such distortions of life... I wanted to do a crazy, unreal comic-strip kind of thing about something besides a family. No one had ever done a show about an idiot before. I decided to be the first." The show stars Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86. The series ran from 1965 until 1970, although Brooks had little involvement after the first season. Get Smart was highly rated for most of its production and won seven Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series in 1968 and 1969.
Brooks then wrote an adaptation of Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, but was unable to sell the idea to any studio and believed that his career was over. In 1972, Brooks met agent David Begelman, who helped him set up a deal with Warner Brothers to hire Brooks (as well as Richard Pryor, Andrew Bergman, Norman Steinberg, and Al Uger) as a script doctor for an unproduced script called Tex-X. Eventually, Brooks was hired as director for what became Blazing Saddles (1974), his third film.
In 1975, at the height of his movie career, Brooks tried TV again with When Things Were Rotten, a Robin Hood parody that lasted only 13 episodes. Nearly 20 years later, in response to the 1991 hit film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Brooks mounted another Robin Hood parody with Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). Brooks' film resurrected several pieces of dialogue from his TV series, as well as from earlier Brooks films.
By 1980, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert had referred to Mel Brooks and Woody Allen as "the two most successful comedy directors in the world today ... America's two funniest filmmakers." Released that year was the dramatic film The Elephant Man directed by David Lynch and produced by Brooks. Knowing that anyone seeing a poster reading "Mel Brooks presents The Elephant Man" would expect a comedy, he set up the company Brooksfilms. Brooksfilms has since produced a number of non-comedy films, including Frances (1982), The Fly (1986), and 84 Charing Cross Road (1987), starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft, along with comedies, including Richard Benjamin's My Favorite Year (1982), which was partially based on Mel Brooks' real life. Brooks sought to purchase the rights to 84 Charing Cross Road for his wife, Anne Bancroft, for many years. He also produced the comedy Fatso (1980) that Bancroft directed.
In 1981, Brooks joked that the only genres that he had not spoofed were historical epics and Biblical spectacles. History of the World Part I was a tongue-in-cheek look at human culture from the Dawn of Man to the French Revolution. The film was written, produced, and directed by Brooks with narration by Orson Welles. This film was another modest financial hit, earning $31 million. It received mixed critical reviews. Critic Pauline Kael, who for years had been critical of Brooks, said: "Either you get stuck thinking about the bad taste or you let yourself laugh at the obscenity in the humor as you do Buñuel's perverse dirty jokes."
The second movie Brooks directed in the 1980s came in the form of Spaceballs (1987), a parody of science fiction, mainly Star Wars. The film starred Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, Joan Rivers, Dom DeLuise, and Brooks. In 1989, Brooks (with co-executive producer Alan Spencer) made another attempt at television success with the sitcom The Nutt House, which featured Brooks regulars Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman and was originally broadcast on NBC, but the network only aired five of the eleven episodes produced before canceling the series. During the next decade, Brooks directed Life Stinks (1991), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995). People magazine suggested, "anyone in a mood for a hearty laugh couldn't do better than Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which gave fans a parody of Robin Hood, especially Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."
Brooks is one of the few people who have received an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, and a Grammy. He was awarded his first Grammy for Best Spoken Comedy Album in 1999 for his recording of The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000 with Carl Reiner. His two other Grammys came in 2002 for Best Musical Show Album for the cast album of The Producers and for Best Long Form Music Video for the DVD "Recording the Producers – A Musical Romp with Mel Brooks". He won his first of four Emmy awards in 1967 for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Variety for a Sid Caesar special and went on to win three consecutive Emmys in 1997, 1998, and 1999 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his role of Uncle Phil on Mad About You. Brooks won his Academy Award for Original Screenplay (Oscar) in 1968 for The Producers. He won his three Tony awards in 2001 for his work on the musical, The Producers for Best Musical, Best Original Musical Score, and Best Book of a Musical.
The musical adaptation of his film The Producers to the Broadway stage broke the Tony record with 12 wins, a record that had previously been held for 37 years by Hello, Dolly! at 10 wins. This success led to a big-screen version of the Broadway adaptation/remake with actors Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Gary Beach, and Roger Bart reprising their stage roles, in addition to new cast members Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell in 2005. In early April 2006, Brooks began composing the score to a Broadway musical adaptation of Young Frankenstein, which he says is "perhaps the best movie [he] ever made." The world premiere was performed at Seattle's Paramount Theater, between August 7, 2007, and September 1, 2007, after which it opened on Broadway at the former Lyric Theater (then the Hilton Theatre), New York, on October 11, 2007. It earned mixed reviews from the critics.
Brooks won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for Young Frankenstein. In a 2005 poll by Channel 4 to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted No. 50 of the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.
Upon its release, Blazing Saddles was the second-highest US grossing film of 1974, earning $119.5 million worldwide. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a success with younger audiences. It was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Madeline Kahn, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Original Song. The film won the Writers Guild of America Award for "Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen" and in 2006 it was deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Brooks has said that the film "has to do with love more than anything else. I mean when that black guy rides into that Old Western town and even a little old lady says 'Up yours, nigger!', you know that his heart is broken. So it's really the story of that heart being mended."
Like Brooks' other films, it is filled with one-liners and even the occasional breaking of the fourth wall. Robin Hood: Men in Tights was Brooks' second time exploring the life of Robin Hood, the first, as mentioned above, having been with his 1975 TV show, When Things Were Rotten. Life Stinks was a financial and critical failure, but is notable as being the only film that Brooks directed that is neither a parody nor a film about other films or theater. (The Twelve Chairs was actually a parody of the original novel.) In the 2000s, Brooks worked on an animated series sequel to Spaceballs called Spaceballs: The Animated Series, which premiered on September 21, 2008, on G4 TV. Brooks has also supplied vocal roles for animation. He voiced Bigweld, the master inventor, in the animated film Robots (2005), and in the later animated film Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014) he had a cameo appearance as Albert Einstein. He returned, to voice Dracula's father, Vlad, in Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015) and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018).
On December 5, 2009, Brooks was one of five recipients of the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 23, 2010 with a motion pictures star located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard. American Masters produced a biography on Brooks which premiered May 20, 2013, on PBS. The AFI presented Brooks with its highest tribute, the AFI Life Achievement Award, in June 2013. In 2014 Brooks was honored in a handprint and footprint ceremony at TCL Chinese Theatre. His concrete handprints include a six-fingered left hand as he wore a prosthetic finger when making his prints. On March 20, 2015, Brooks was awarded a British Film Institute Fellowship from the British Film Institute.
Brooks joked about the concept of a musical adaptation of Blazing Saddles in the final number in Young Frankenstein, in which the full company sings, "next year, Blazing Saddles!" In 2010, Mel Brooks confirmed this, saying that the musical could be finished within a year. No creative team or plan has been announced.
In 2010, Brooks credited Bancroft with having been "the guiding force" behind his involvement in developing The Producers and Young Frankenstein for the musical theater, saying of an early meeting with her: "From that day, until her death ... we were glued together."
Currently, Mel Brooks is 96 years, 11 months and 13 days old. Mel Brooks will celebrate 97th birthday on a Wednesday 28th of June 2023.
Find out about Mel Brooks birthday activities in timeline view here.