Tag Archives: Robert Ridgely

The Set of 400: #70 – My Favorite Horse Punch

Today! Because I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille –

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Directed by Mel Brooks (x5)

Starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder (x3), Harvey Korman (x3), Madeline Kahn (x6), Mel Brooks (x5), Slim Pickens (x2), Alex Karras, David Huddleston (x2), Dom DeLuise (x6), Burton Gilliam, John Hillerman (x2), Jack Starrett, Carol Arthur, Liam Dunn, Robyn Hilton, Count Basie, Robert Ridgely (x5), Charles McGregor

When people say “They wouldn’t make a movie like this today,” I find that they are normally talking about major studio output. Oh, they’d need a bigger star, they wouldn’t tackle this topic, it doesn’t have blockbuster potential. But in reality, someone somewhere would probably still make whatever movie they’re talking about, if they were able. Quality trumps a lot of financial obstacles, for just the right producer. All that being said, no one anywhere would make Blazing Saddles today.

It’s still funny, ballsy, and wonderful, but I can’t think of a movie aging more uncomfortably than this film. Case in point – you might watch this in your house and think “Oh, some of these jokes are a little rough, but overall it comes out okay.” However, a few years ago I saw this movie in a fairly crowded theater, and no one knew how to react. Was laughing at this wrong? But then why were we all there? It’s not an inherently racist movie, but my God, it goes to some dicey lengths. Richard Pryor’s work on the screenplay is pretty evident, but even at the time the studio was uneasy enough to vote against him also playing Sheriff Bart.

Cleavon Little does make a terrific Bart, though

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The Set of 400: #275 – My Favorite Bye Bye Blackbird

Today! Because they didn’t burn down Rome in one day – you got to keep pluggin’ –

Melvin and Howard (1980)

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Starring Paul Le Mat, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Michael J. Pollard, Gloria Grahame, Robert Ridgely (x2), Charles Napier, Jack Kehoe (x2), Pamela Reed, John Glover (x3), Dabney Coleman, Elizabeth Cheshire

A very deceptive movie in its marketing and general awareness, Melvin and Howard ostensibly is about when milkman and all-around blue collar shlub Melvin Dummar met billionaire/eccentric/nutcase Howard Hughes in the desert one night and gave him a lift home. This is the scene that opens the film, and then isn’t mentioned again, for about an hour. And because of the bookending of the film with constant Hughes intrigue, not only did that become the focus of the movie, but everyone tends to forget the middle hour, as we watch the daily employment and marital struggles of Melvin, which is the key to the whole story.

Grizzled!

Otherwise, what really are you left with? Sure, Robards makes a great Hughes, but he’s in the movie for about ten minutes, and then is just mentioned endlessly, making it feel like he’s a much larger character. In fairness, the movie should’ve been titled Melvin and Lynda, as Mary Steenburgen has far more and trickier acting to handle, and rightfully won an Oscar for her efforts. The spurious will and debate is intriguing, and knots the whole film together, but (and this shouldn’t be much of a spoiler) with Melvin never really having a chance at the Hughes fortune, the dramatic heart of the movie defaults to Melvin’s good-natured bouncing from one setback to another across the story. You might be more an American Graffiti fan, but for my money, this is Paul Le Mat’s best work. Melvin could come off as a doofus, or a con man, or just super pathetic, but Le Mat’s delicate balance between these shades make for more of an endearing character than he probably deserves. Steenburgen and Robards got the lion’s share of attention, but it’s Le Mat’s steady work that drives the movie. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #395 – My Favorite Medieval Malcolm X

Today! Because we didn’t land on Sherwood Forest, Sherwood Forest landed on us –

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Directed by Mel Brooks

Starring Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Dave Chappelle, Roger Rees, Tracey Ullman, Amy Yasbeck, Mark Blankfield, Patrick Stewart, Mel Brooks, Isaac Hayes, Dom DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, Robert Ridgely, Eric Allan Kramer, Megan Cavanagh, Matthew Porretta, Avery Schreiber, Clive Revill

While far from the best Mel Brooks outing, it is the last good movie he’d direct (in fairness, this was only followed by the thoroughly meh Dracula: Dead and Loving It), and it was on TV constantly in the early/mid nineties. But I’m not trying to make excuses for its inclusion here – there is a lot to like about Men in Tights. Cary Elwes was perfect for this sort of comedy – only really on display here and in Hot Shots! – and effortlessly carries the mayhem along. I also can never keep straight whether he appeared in Mel’s Dracula or Coppola’s Dracula that inspired it, so solid is he at both types of movies. Sure, it revels in the dated, Catskills-style jokes Mel would lean more and more into as the years wore on, but between Chappelle’s great early work here as Ahchoo, Tracey Ullman uglying it up as the witch Latrine, and Richard Lewis doing his best Richard Lewis impersonation as Prince Johnthere is plenty to enjoy. Does it have the laugh-out-loud highs of Mel’s early films? Not really, but it also pushes harder on parody, and really dials up the number of jokes per minute. So what if the success rate is 50/50? I still really enjoy Men in Tights. Continue reading

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