This is the main bio page for Mel. Thanks so much to Wikipedia, whose
bio I couldn't easily top, but I will try and add information as i see
If you would like to see something in here, please
You can also click on the links at
the top and bottom of the page for lots of information on the subject of Anne.
Born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York, to Polish-Jewish parents Maximillian
Kaminsky and Kate "Kittie" Brookman. Brooks' grandfather, Abraham Kaminsky, was
a herring dealer who immigrated in 1893. He and his wife Bertha raised their
ten children on Henry Street on the Lower East Side of New York City.
His father died of kidney disease at age 34. A year later, in 1930, Kittie
Kaminsky and her sons Irving, Leonard, Bernard and Melvin were living at 365
S. 3rd St. in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.
As a child, Mel was a small and sickly boy. He was bullied and picked on by
his peers. By taking on the comically aggressive job of Tummler in various
Catskills resorts, he overcame his childhood of bullying and name calling.
He went to school in New York. For elementary, he went to Public School 19
(Williamsburg). For middle school, he went to Francis Scott Key, Jr. High
(Williamsburg). Brooks graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School (New York).
In June 1944, Brooks enlisted in the Army. He had basic training at Virginia
Military Institute and finished up at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. He was shipped
off to war in February of 1945 where he initially served as forward observer
for the artillery. Shortly thereafter, Brooks was reassigned to the 1104th
Combat Engineers Group. Several months later, Germany had surrendered and Brooks
was promoted to corporal. He continued to serve in Germany for another four
months in charge of Special Services (entertainment). Brooks completed his
service at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
He started out in show business as a stand-up comic, telling jokes and doing
movie-star impressions. He found more rewarding work behind the scenes, becoming
a comedy writer for television. He joined the hit comedy series Your Show of
Shows with Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner.
In 1960, an attack of gout (and the aftermath of the surgery done to relieve it)
left him allegedly feeling like a 2000-year-old man. This became the persona of
The 2000 Year Old Man, the focus of ad-libbed comedy routines and comedy records,
with Carl Reiner as his straight man.
Mel Brooks later moved into film, working as an actor, director, writer, and
producer. Brooks' first film was The Critic (1963), an animated satire of arty,
esoteric cinema, conceived by Brooks and directed by Ernest Pintoff. Brooks
supplied running commentary as the baffled moviegoer trying to make sense of
the obscure visuals. The short film won an Academy Award.
With Buck Henry, Brooks created the successful TV series Get Smart, starring
Don Adams as a bumbling secret agent. This series added to Brooks' reputation
as a clever satirist.
Brooks' first feature film, The Producers, was a black comedy about two
theatrical partners who deliberately contrive the worst possible Broadway
show. The film was so brazen in its satire (its big production number was
"Springtime for Hitler") that the major studios wouldn't touch it, nor would
many exhibitors. Brooks finally found an independent distributor, which
released it like an art film, as a specialized attraction. Despite horrible
reviews ("thoroughly vile and inept") and disappointing box office returns,
the film received an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. The film 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 one of the
most popular Broadway shows.
His two most financially successful films were released in 1974: Blazing Saddles
(co-written with Richard Pryor, Andrew Bergman, Norman Steinberg and Alan Uger),
and Young Frankenstein (co-written with Gene Wilder). He followed these up with
an audacious idea: the first feature-length silent comedy in four decades. Silent
Movie (1976) featured Brooks in his first leading role, with Dom DeLuise and Marty
Feldman as his sidekicks. The following year he released his Hitchcock parody High
Anxiety, which was the first movie produced by Brooks himself.
Brooks developed a repertory company of sorts for his film work: performers
with three or more Brooks films to their credit include Gene Wilder, Dom
DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Ron Carey and Andréas
Voutsinas. Dom DeLuise has appeared in six of Brooks' 12 films, the only
person with more appearances being Brooks himself.
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, Brooks mounted another Robin Hood parody with Robin Hood: Men
In 1980, Brooks became interested in producing the dramatic film The Elephant
Man (directed by David Lynch). 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 David Cronenberg's The Fly, Frances, and 84 Charing Cross Road,
starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft, as well as comedies, including
Richard Benjamin's My Favorite Year.
The 1980s saw Brooks produce and direct only two films, the first being
History of the World Part I in 1981, a tongue-in-cheek look at human culture
from the Dawn of Man to the French Revolution. As part of the film's soundtrack,
Brooks, then aged 55, recorded a rap entitled "It's Good to Be the King",
sending up Louis XVI and the French Revolution; it was released as a single,
and became an unlikely US disco hit. His second movie release of the decade
came in 1987 in the form of Spaceballs, a parody of Star Wars. Both films
featured him in multiple roles. He also starred in the 1983 remake
To Be or Not to Be.
Brooks' most recent success has been a transfer of his film The Producers to
the Broadway stage. Brooks also had a vocal role in the 2005 animated film
Robots. He is currently working on an animated series sequel to Spaceballs.
Spaceballs: The TV Series is expected to premiere June 1st, 2008 on G4 TV.
Brooks is one of the few who have received an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy.
He was awarded his first Grammy award 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 soundtrack
to 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. He 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. He won his three Tony awards in 2001 for his work on the musical,
The Producers. He won Tonys for Best Musical, Best Original Musical Score, and
Best Book of a Musical. Additionally, he won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award
for Young Frankenstein. In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was
voted #50 of the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.
Three of Brooks' films are on the American Film Institute's list of funniest
American films: Blazing Saddles (#6), The Producers (#11), and Young Frankenstein (#13).
Brooks and his wife Anne Bancroft acted together in Silent Movie and To Be or
Not to Be, and Bancroft also had a bit part in the 1995 film Dracula: Dead and
Loving It. Years later, the Brooks' appeared as themselves in the fourth season
finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm, spoofing the finale of The Producers. It is
reported that Bancroft encouraged Brooks to take The Producers to Broadway where
it became an enormous success, as the show broke the Tony record with 12 wins,
a record that had previously been held for 37 years by Hello, Dolly! at 10 wins.
Such success has translated to a big-screen version of the Broadway adaptation/remake
with actors Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane reprising their stage roles, in
addition to new cast members Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell. As of early April
2006, Brooks had begun 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 most historic theatre (originally built
as a movie palace), The Paramount Theatre, between August 7, 2007, and
September 1, 2007 after which it opened on Broadway at the Hilton Theatre,
New York, on October 11, 2007.
In interviews broadcast on WABC radio, Brooks has discussed with NYC radio
personality Mark Simone the possibilities of turning other works from his
creative oeuvre (such as the movie Blazing Saddles) into future musical
productions. Specifically, in a conversation airing March 1, 2008, he and
Simone speculated on what show tunes might be incorporated into a theatrical
adaptation of the Get Smart property.
Brooks was married to Florence Baum from 1951 to 1961. Their marriage ended in
divorce. Mel and Florence had three children, Stephanie, Nicky, and Eddie. More
famously, he was married to the actress Anne Bancroft from 1964 until her death
from uterine cancer on June 6, 2005. They met on rehearsal for the Perry Como
Variety Show in 1961 and married three years later, August 5th. They had one son,
Maximillian, in 1972.