Maybe it's the state of affairs all around us, but I've been in a particularly sensitive mood these days...for so many days, it seems. Almost anything can make me bust out in tears - usually something beautiful; a song, a moment from a film, a memory. And when it comes to comedy, I simply can no longer abide the joke cloaked in meanness.
This time I'm doing something a little different.
First, let me bow down in awe of the great Mel Brooks. Almost all of my comedy gods are gone, some long gone before my time. But, praise whoever, Mel is still here with us and I firmly believe the world is a more joyful place because he is here (that goes for you, too, Jack Nicholson, but that's a whole 'nother story).
Here's the great man accepting his Oscar for Best Screenplay (after some shtick from Sinatra and Rickles -ah those were the days when the Oscars were fun).
The tale of 2 swindlers who give us "Springtime for Hitler" is a love letter to the comedy traditions of vaudeville, burlesque and early television. It is humor put forth with the adolescent's complete conviction about what is funny. And who is braver and freer than the adolescent before the world of adults infects him or her with self-doubt? I am so grateful Mel never grew up.
The secret ingredient here - and all great comedies have one of those, don't they? - is love. The important presence of Zero Mostel as Max is offered with love for all that he is here - and all that he went through in the past. His Max is outrageous, venal, a joyous liar and an entitled thief, but somewhere in there, there is love. Somehow, one feels he is loving the moment, no matter how perilous. There is also love between Zero and his Leo (Gene Wilder, so sweet in his first big role). Mel's humor is based in love. That is why we can laugh at Hitler. That is why we can laugh at 2 Jews ditching their swastika armbands in a trashcan after they secure the rights to Franz Liebkind's Nazi-fueled fever dream of a play. Deep in our hearts we want to believe love wins.
When our hearts are so broken by the world, it takes a loving heart to mend them. And a funny loving heart? Even better. Well, leave it to that great humanitarian Mel Brooks to give us so generously what we need. "The Producers" says come play with me, come revel in the bawdy, uninhibited humor that obliterates hipness and coolness. Cleverness is merely humor without humanity. Artificial Intelligence can be clever. It takes a human being to give us Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolph and Eva at Berchtesgaden.
This is my contribution to the Classic Movie Blog Association's Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogathon. Click here for more needed comic relief. And boy, do we need it!
I love this movie too. Your article shows your love for it, and after all, that is what your article is about? Love and incredible, intelligent humor that only intelligent people understand. I wasn't fond of the musical remake - I think it lost something important. Mel Brooks' original schtick and wonder and love can't be topped. This is one of your articles to be remembered. (I miss you, girl - it's been so long).
Oh, Becky, I miss you, too, and it is so great to see you here. I find I'm really getting down to the heart of the matter between me and film - and it all comes down to love. All that other stuff is just performance.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if at some time in the future, you find you have more to say about The Producers, and no one could say it better.
The best of Mel is the best of us who appreciate a heart filled with laughter.
Thank you for coming back to us and sharing.
Many thanks for the kind words, CW. Honestly, if I write about this film again it will only be because Mel Brooks personally asked me to do so. As for coming back, well, I got this call from Warner Brothers telling me my contract wasn't up yet..... :)
I've seen bits and pieces of The Producers, but never the whole movie from start to finish. Your post has inspired me to remedy that. Thank you!
I have never seen The Producers, but it looks like I now have something to look forward to. One of the best things about Mel Brooks has nothing to do with his films; I always admired his love for his wife, Anne Bancroft. (She happens to be a favorite film noir star of mine.) I can't remember if I watched something about his life on PBS or read it in a book, but his love for Anne really shone through.
Karen - you owe it to yourself to give yourself a good laugh!
Marianne - I cannot imagine not liking this film. As far as his marriage to Anne Bancroft - it is true he was crazy for her and was devastated when she died. I have a friend who lived in the same building as they did and she heard that for years he left things of hers untouched. That may or may not be true, but theirs was truly a wonderful love story.
Amazing review! Indeed, love is all we need - and although the blogathon is titled Laughter is the Best Medicine, we could say that love is a medicine as well. Your love and admiration for Mel Brooks and The Producers is visible in this article.
Thanks for the kind comment!
Thank you, Le. Yes - laughter plus love really is the very best medicine.
And you called ME crazy fir dreaming about Eric Blore?!
PLEASE, you can never ever stop blogging. You’re too damn enjoyable to read. I mean that. You’re one of my go-tos on those dreary days.
And now on your commentary… I agree with everything. Leave it to Mel to insert heart and Hitler and a hell of a lot of laughs in the same picture.
Oh Aurora - you warm my heart. Actually, I've been reinvigorated of late, so fingers crossed I'll be around to make sure you keep your hands off my Cary Grant.
I couldn't help but think of The Producers when I was writing about to Be or Not to Be for this blogathon. The lampooning of Nazis, of course, but also the underlying humanity the two films have in common. Lovely post that warmed my heart and made me smile. Thank you, m'dear.
Hilarious film and along with Young Frankenstein my favorite Mel Brooks film. Great selection.
Thank you, Petty. And yes, when I saw your post the connection between the 2 films struck me. What else is there to do in the face of such evil but laugh in the darkness?
Hi John - yes, it sure is a keeper. I love Young Frankenstein, too - maybe a better crafted film - but this one just perpetually tickles my funny bone.
Your beautiful tribute reminded me of the argument for humor in Sullivan's Travels. Your definition of cleverness is so dead on (in fact, it's a reason I never read a popular essayist--I don't think I can find wisdom from someone who doesn't have warmth). I've never seen this film (I know, I know), but given my love for Mel and how much I share your views here, I clearly should.
Count me among those few who hasn’t see this. The fact that you love it so much and wrote about it three times may be what I need to make sure I see it next time the opportunity comes up.
Thank you carygrantwon'teatyou. Sullivan's Travels is exactly the same kind of film - pure heart and comedy. If you need a good belly laugh, please check out The Producers. It will do you good.
Hi Jocelyn. Oy! You must check it out, if only to see Springtime for Hitler. How could it miss?
Great movie. The remake with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane was good too!
Wonderful film and a beautifully written article! Would love to see it in the theatre.
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