The Story (continued)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
As he brushes Lamarr's back during a soap-sudsy bath, Taggart expresses upset that Mongo couldn't eliminate the sheriff: "I thought sure that Mongo would just mash him up into little-bitty sheriff meatballs. I just don't understand it." The attorney general hasn't given up and has a new creative plan to use his beautiful paramour to seduce Bart:
Lamarr: My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.
Taggart: Gol- darn it, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.
Lamarr: Shit - kicker. (A bright idea dawns) Wait a minute! That's it! Of course, and it will work.
Taggart: You bet it will. What'll work?
Lamarr: Elementary, cactus-head. The Beast has failed. And when the Beast fails, it's time to call in Beauty.
Lamarr: Yes, of course. She's never failed me before. She'll turn him into jelly. She'll bring him to his knees.
Mongo is chained to a wall in the jail. The old woman who greeted Bart with derision brings a freshly-baked apple pie to the sheriff, showing grudging respect for the sheriff as a "thank you for your ingenuity and courage in defeating that horrible Mongo." But with racist overtones, she cautions that he not reveal to anyone that she spoke to him. Bart realizes how he has saved the town:
Bart: I'm rapidly becoming a big underground success in this town.
Waco Kid: Gee, in another twenty-five years, they'll be able to shake your hands in broad daylight.
In Rock Ridge Saloon, the Teutonic Titwillow - Lili Von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn), a seductive saloon singer, is being presented by Hedley Lamarr. [The Teutonic singing prostitute, the lawyer's girlfriend, spoofs Marlene Dietrich's dance hall queen "Frenchy" of Destry Rides Again (1939) with a lisp. Her Yiddish name also has sexual connotations -- it means "to push" (also to 'f--k,' 'shag,' or 'screw'). The combination of Von with Shtupp implies high-class lineage or standing, so her entire last name literally means 'Royal Screw.']
Knowing that Lamarr has hired her for something other than the saloon job, she confronts him, learning that the plan is to seduce Bart and break his heart:
Lili: Come on, Lamarr, let's get down to brass tacks. What do you want me to do?
Lamarr: I want you to seduce and abandon the sheriff of Rock Ridge. Do you think you can do it?
On stage, Lili Von Shtupp performs "I'm Tired" off-key, parodying Marlene Dietrich's "Falling in Love Again" with a world-weary Germanic, monotoned accent and a lisp. The sultry singer reduces all the men in the audience to fools - in the lyrics, she asks one of the drooling cowboys:
Hello, handsome, is that a ten-gallon hat - or are you just enjoying the show?
[Her line is a variation of one of Mae West's most infamous pronouncements.] She sings about having her fill of sex, in both areas of her private parts: "I've had my fill of love, From below and above." To finish her sleepy act, she sings and yawns:
Tired, tired of playing the game. Ain't it a freakin' shame. I'm so? Let's face it. Everything below the waist is ka-put.
At a table in the back of the saloon, Bart is handed a note from Lili: "I must see you alone in my dwessing woom right after the show." When Lili hears a knock on her door, she responds with a Cabaret-inspired phrase: "Wilkommen, bienvenu, welcome, c'mon in." Bart presents her with a single red rose, and she thanks him, with her Elmer-Fudd accent:
Ooh, a wed wose. How womantic!
While she slips into something a little more comfortable, she suggests: "Why don't you loosen your bullets?" Immediately, she turns out the lights to seduce him. Momentarily interrupted by Lamarr, she describes her progress: "It's like wet sauerkraut in my hands. By morning, he will be my slave." In the dark next to him, she asks Bart if black men are "gifted," and goes investigating his physical endowments in the dark:
Tell me, schatzie [affectionate German nickname meaning sweetheart, little treasure or little dear one], is it twue what they say about the way you people are gifted? (A zipper opens.) Oh, it's twue. It's twue. It's twue. It's twue...
By morning, instead of seducing him, Lili has herself been seduced by Bart. At the breakfast table after their night of passion, Lili picks up a large sausage with tongs (with obvious phallic symbolism) and gestures toward Bart:
Lili: Would you care for another schnitzengruben?
Bart: No, thank you. Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben.
Lili: Well then, uh, how about a little, uh ... (she whispers in his ear)
Bart: Baby please. I am not from Havana. Excuse me honey. Besides, I'm late for work. I've got some heavy chores to do.
Lili: Will I, will I see you later?
Bart; Well, it all depends on how much Vitamin E I can get my hands on.
Lili grabs on to him and begs him not to go as he leaves, making "a German spectacle" of herself. He cooly dismisses her with: "Auf Wiedersehen, baby."
Back at the sheriff's office, Hedley Lamarr has had a writ issued to release Mongo - he is free to go, but since he has developed an affectionate likeness for his captors, he prefers to stay with Sheriff Bart: "Sheriff first man ever whip Mongo. Mongo impressed. Have these feelings for Sheriff Bart." From Mongo, they learn why a "high-roller like Hedley Lamarr" is interested in the town of Rock Ridge: "Got to do with where choo-choo go." Philosophically wondering about what it all means, Mongo muses: "Mongo only pawn in game of life."
The Waco Kid and Bart snoop around the chain gang site where the railroad track is being laid, and they learn that the railroad tracks are going to pass directly through the town. Suddenly, it dawns on them why Lamarr is involved in his evil scheme.
Taggart rides up with a group of cowboys, assailing the black man for wearing a sheriff's star:
Taggart: Well, Holy mother of pearl. It's that nigger that went and hit me on the head with a shovel. Now what the hell do you think you're doin' with that tin star, boy?
Bart: Watch that 'boy' shit, redneck. You're talkin' to the sheriff of Rock Ridge.
Taggart: Well, if that don't beat all. Here we take the good time and trouble to slaughter every last Indian in the West, and for what? So they can appoint a sheriff that's blacker than any Indian. I am depressed.
In a showdown with guns drawn, the cowboys threaten to shoot on the count of three, but the Waco Kid - with split-timing accuracy - shoots the guns from each of their hands.
Now that all of Lamarr's plans have backfired, he realizes that he can no longer be "Mr. Goodbar" and must act quickly to assault Rock Ridge. Lili understands why Lamarr has been defeated: 'Why don't you admit it? He's too much of a man for you. I know. You're gonna need an army to beat him. You're finished..." Hedley rebukes her with a slap: "Shut up, you Teutonic twat!"
Taking Lili's hint about an 'army,' Lamarr orders the simple-minded Taggart to round up "an army of the worst dregs ever to soil the face of the West...":
I've decided to launch an attack that will reduce Rock Ridge to ashes...I want you to round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the West. Take this down: I want rustlers, cut-throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nit-wits, half-wits, dim-wits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bush-whackers, horn-swagglers, horse-thieves, bull-dykes, train-robbers, bank-robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers, and Methodists!
Since Taggart has been fumbling for a piece of paper and pencil during the entire litany, he finally asks - as an anti-climax: "Could you repeat that, sir?"
When the townspeople of Rock Ridge learn of Lamarr's evil plan to recruit vicious criminals to assault their town (a poster reads: "Help Wanted: Heartless Villains For Destruction of Rock Ridge, $100 Per Day, Criminal Record Required, Hedley Lamarr, Equal Opportunity Employer"), they prepare to abandon the town, their homes, and their shops. Bart stops the exodus by pleading with the people [a scene that spoofs Gary Cooper's enlisting of the help of the churchfolk in High Noon (1952)]:
Bart: Just give me twenty-four hours to come up with a brilliant idea to save our town. Just twenty-four hours. That's all I ask.
The Townsfolk: No!
Bart: You'd do it for Randolph Scott.
The Townsfolk: (reverentially) Randolph Scott! (They remove their hats and place them over their hearts.) [Note: Randolph Scott was one of the most popular Western heroes of the 50s and 60s.]
Howard Johnson: All right, sheriff. Twenty-four hours.
A motley crew of men assemble to execute Lamarr's deadly plan. In a slow pan from right to left across the men, they range from normal cowpokes, to rough-looking backwoodsmen, Nazi stormtroopers, gang members, Hell's Angels, Mexican bandits, Arab terrorists on camels, and white-sheeted Ku Klux Klansmen (with a "Have a Nice Day" smiley face on the back). The men must register to be issued a badge for the assault scheduled for the next day at noon. Hedley reviews the qualifications of one of the applicants:
Applicant: Rape, murder, arson, and rape.
Lamarr: You said rape twice.
Applicant: (gleefully) I like rape.
Lamarr: Charming. Sign right here.
A gum-chewer (Don Megowan) in the line, who has all the proper qualifications ("arson, armed robbery, mayhem") is shot point-blank by Hedley for not sharing. The Waco Kid witnesses the cold-blooded killing: "Boy, is he strict." To get closer to the line and see what's happening, the Waco Kid yells out to the two KKK members in the line: "Hey, boys! Look what I've got here." To entice them to leave the line (so the duo can steal their white robes and hoods), he holds up Bart as bait from behind a large rock, as Bart calls out with a mock-dumb (racially-stereotyped) taunt:
Hey! Where are the white women at?
The two white-sheeted members are quickly subdued off-screen behind the boulder. In a line stolen (and improperly quoted) from the classic film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), a Mexican bandit in line rejects his badge during registration: "Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!" [The original lines were: "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!"]
Bart and the Waco Kid, now disguised as the two KKK members, try to infiltrate Lamarr's army, but fail when Bart's hands reveal during the signing that he is black. The Waco Kid tries to cover up for Bart, obliquely referencing the film Gone With the Wind (1939) in the process:
Why, Rhett, how many times have I told you to wash up after weekly cross-burnin'?
A suspicious Taggart throws off Bart's hood. Bart's second impression - to rapidly get away - is to impersonate track star Jesse Owens: "And now, for my next impression: Jesse Owens." Lamarr fires his pistol into the air as Taggart screams into his ear:
Taggart: Mount up, men! We'll head 'em off at the pass.
Lamarr: 'Head them off at the pass?' I hate that cliche. (He fires his pistol into Taggart's left foot)
Later that evening, Bart and the Waco Kid enlist the aid of the chain gang's black laborers to "round up all the lumber, canvas, paint and nails" that they can lay their hands on, so they can build an exact replica of Rock Ridge - three miles due east of the actual town: "Every building, every store front, every rock and every tree, right down to the orange roof on Howard Johnson's outhouse." Their plan is to lure Taggart's gang into destroying the fake town instead of the real one. They will duplicate the town overnight with the assistance of the railroad workers (including everybody: "the niggers," "the chinks" - and "the Irish"), who have agreed to help them. In Bart's words, "They've agreed to help us make our dream come true, and all they ask in return is a little plot of land they can call their own to homestead." The minister prays for guidance by lifting his eyes to heaven:
Oh Lord! Do we have the strength to carry on this mighty task in one night? Or are we just jerking off? (The people respond, "Amen.")
By dawn, the people realize that they have succeeded in creating a second, bogus Rock Ridge. To his own mob of supporters, Lamarr delivers a pep talk:
Men. You are about to embark on a great crusade to stamp out runaway decency in the West. Now, you'll only be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor!
[Ironically, it was Madeline Kahn who earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination.] Lamarr asks everyone to raise their right hand for the pledge (of allegiance to Hedley Lamarr), but some of the "schmucks" don't know which hand to hold up. After everyone has pledged allegiance to "the evil for which he [Hedley] stands," they are exhorted to ride off: "Now go do that voodoo that you do so well."
Back at Rock Ridge, Bart realizes that they're in trouble because they left out the people - however, they still have half an hour to manufacture people: "We forgot one little detail...We just made a perfect copy of Rock Ridge. Now all we got to do is make perfect copies of ourselves...we got to start workin' fast. Now you men start workin' on the dummies." To slow down Taggart's gang "to a crawl," Jim, Mongo, and Bart set up a toll booth outside of the fake town with a red and white striped gate crossing, and a sign which reads: "Gov. William J. Le Petomane Thruway. Toll 10 cents." It even has an Exact Change Lane, but none of the gang have dimes, so Taggart orders: "Has anybody got a dime? Somebody's gotta go back and get a shitload of dimes." Each one of the riders waits patiently as they proceed through the booth - one at a time. Of course, neither Taggart or his men notice that the toll booth is in the middle of the expansive desert and that they could easily ride around the gate crossing.
The gang is fooled by the cardboard cutouts of the townspeople which are positioned on the streets of the duplicated town. As Taggart's gang rides through the town, Bart plunges down on a dynamite detonator while warning:
Now here we go. Hold your ears, folks. It's SHOWTIME!
[The line recalls what Broadway choreographer Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) spouts in the later film, All That Jazz (1979): "It's Showtime, folks."] But it fails to explode the cache. Taggart realizes the town is a fake: "We've been suckered in," he yells to his men, but it's too late. A crack-shot from the Waco Kid's gun sets off the blast and bodies of horses and men fly into the air. Bart, the Kid, the townspeople, Mongo, and the chain gang laborers swoop down into the town to 'wipe 'em out' with clubs and hand-to-hand combat.
The film ends with an absurd brawl between the good guys and the bad guys. The film parodies itself when the camera pulls back to show that the film is being shot on a present-day Hollywood set in the middle of Los Angeles. In an adjoining soundstage on the lot, a pseudo-Busby Berkeley musical number ("The French Mistake") with an all-gay cast of men in black tuxedos and top hats is being directed by an effeminate choreographer named Buddy Bizarre (Dom DeLuise). The song they sing is overtly gay, and hints at anal sex:
Throw out your hands
Stick out your tush
Hands on your hips
Give 'em a push
You'll be surprised
You're doing the French Mistake!
Bizarre yells "Cut" and "Wrong!" He criticizes the dancers and demands that they watch his own flawed demonstration: "Just watch me. It's so simple, you sissy Marys! Give me the playback! And watch me, faggots." The cast responds with a lisp: "Yessssssssssssssssss!" to which Buddy replies: "Sounds like steam escaping."
The chaotic fighting from the Blazing Saddles set bursts through the wall, bringing two conflicting film genres together. Buddy Bizarre yells for the action to stop:
Bizarre: Cut! What in the hell do you think you're doing here? This is a closed set!
Taggart: Piss on you. I'm workin' for Mel Brooks. [He cocks his fist back.]
Bizarre: Not in the face! [Taggart punches him in the stomach.]
The fighting degenerates with both casts getting into the act. The brawl is about to spill over into the studio's commissary where bikini clad actresses, a Hitler-look-alike (Ralph Manza), and others are eating. The Adolph Hitler character responds to a question about how many days he has left: "They lose me right after the bunker scene." As the place erupts in fighting (sped-up frantically), every actor and extra at the studios soon joins in the 'great pie fight' - a massive food fight [pie fights were typical of the classic slapstick comedies of early cinema]. When Taggart is slid down the commissary food counter, he becomes covered in food - and is charged by the cashier for everything splattered on him:
Yankee bean soup, cole slaw, and tuna surprise.
The mob of brawlers at the studios of Warner Bros. Pictures empties into the streets of Los Angeles. Still dressed as Hedley Lamarr, Harvey Korman (with a white-face of pie cream) hails a yellow taxi to escape the mob of fighting cowboys. As he jumps in, he asks the cabbie: "Drive me off this picture." Cleavon Little, still dressed as Bart, follows close behind in pursuit on horseback.
Lamarr is driven to Grauman's Chinese Theatre [in downtown Hollywood - famous for the cement footprints of film celebrities] where the marquee flashes the current film Blazing Saddles. To hide and escape from Bart, he pays for one full admission to the film after failing to convince the attendant that he is a student. A female tourist remarks to her husband as she tries out the footprints of actress Hedy Lamarr: "Look, Herman, I'm in Hedy Lamarr's shoes!" Hedley corrects her as he passes by: "Hedley." In the lobby of the theatre are noisy, bleating cattle as he purchases Raisinettes at the candy counter.
As the film begins to play with the familiar opening song, Lamarr suddenly realizes that he is going to be viewing Blazing Saddles and he exits in disgust. Outside, he is outdrawn in a gunfight with Bart and shot in the groin. As Lamarr falls and dies in front of the theatre, he studies the cement imprints (hand and feet) of Douglas Fairbanks:
How did he do such fantastic stunts with such little feet?
He lands in fresh cement - before he expires, he scratches out his own name followed by a dollar sign in the wet cement for his own epitaph. Bart and the Waco Kid enter the theatre to see the end of the film, both wishing for a happy ending.
Back on the screen (in the film within a film), the film does end with a happy conclusion as the people of the saved town of Rock Ridge say goodbye to their black sheriff. Bart bids them goodbye with the obligatory farewell speech:
Bart: Work here is done. I'm needed elsewhere now. I'm needed wherever outlaws rule the West, wherever innocent women and children are afraid to walk the streets, wherever a man cannot live in simple dignity, wherever a people cry out for justice.
The Townspeople: (in unison) Bullshit!
Bart: All right, you caught me. Speaking the plain truth is getting pretty damn dull around here.
As he rides off, Bart tells everyone: "Keep the faith, brothers!" Around the corner, a snoozing Waco Kid asks if he may join Bart:
Waco Kid: Where ya headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Waco Kid: Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on.
They both ride into the sunset toward "Nowhere Special." In fact, outside of town they climb off their horses and jump into a chauffeured Cadillac limousine - to be driven into the sunset.
Also Worth Your Attention...
AMC Filmcritic's Review of Blazing Saddles