Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Mel Brooks Directs a Desert Scene
"Blazing Saddles"

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Mel Brooks directs a desert scene in "Blazing Saddles," with producer Michael Hertzberg in the foreground and cinematographer Joe Biroc behind the camera. Warner Bros. publicity photo, 7.5x8.75 inches.

The shot appears to be at Vasquez Rocks County Park, which Brooks used extensively for exteriors, but he also used a location along the Mojave-Tropico Road in Rosamond for the opening scenes of railroad construction, the Count Basie scene, and the fake Rock Ridge.

Cutline reads:

MEL BROOKS GOES WEST directing his newest film "Blazing Saddles" for Warner Bros. The comedy western stars Cleavon Little and features Brooks in two roles. He also wrote the script with Richard Pryor, Andy Bergman, Norman Steinberg and Alan Uger. Producer Michael Hertzberg (foreground) assists in setting up a desert shot. Cinematographer Joe Biroc (behind camera) filmed in Technicolor and Panavision.

Nominated for three academy awards, director Mel Brooks' zany 1974 Western spoof "Blazing Saddles" was filmed on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, at Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, and at Rosamond.

Plot, from

A town where everyone seems to be named Johnson is in the way of the railroad. In order to grab their land, Hedley Lamarr, a politically connected nasty person, sends in his henchmen to make the town unlivable. After the sheriff is killed, the town demands a new sheriff from the governor. Hedley convinces him to send the town the first black sheriff in the West. Bart is a sophisticated urbanite who will have some difficulty winning over the townspeople.

Produced by Michael Hertzberg and written by Andrew Bergman, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg and Alan Uger from an original story by Bergman, "Blazing Saddles" was originally released toward the end of 1974 and it did even better at the box office when Warner Bros., lacking a summer blockbuster the following year, re-released it in mid-1975.

Brooks had wanted the raw stand-up comic Richard Pryor for the lead role of Sheriff Bart, but studio executives wouldn't allow it because of Pryor's reputed drug problems, according to Brooks' interview on the DVD version. So Brooks brought in Cleavon Little, a well-liked Broadway actor, whose theatrical skills are evident in skits and musical numbers like, "I get no kick from champagne." ("He had a sly, sweet way of delivering his lines," Brooks said.)

Brooks had also wanted an older actor to play the washed-out drunken ex-gunslinger, The Waco Kid. Old song-and-dance man Dan Dailey was Brooks' first choice, in part because Dailey could ride a horse, but Dailey turned it down because he was having health problems. John Wayne also declined, thinking the script too dirty. Brooks cast Gig Young, and the company started shooting — but after half a day's work, Young was rushed to the hospital when he went into convulsions from his real-life alcoholism. ("If you want an alcoholic, don't cast an alcoholic," Brooks later said. "Cast somebody who can play it, an actor who can play an alcoholic.") The talented genius Gene Wilder, a personal friend of Brooks, had read the script and wanted the part. He flew out from New York and stepped into the role without so much as a rehearsal. (Gig Young would die four years later, just shy of his 65th birthday, when he turned his gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide in which he allegedly killed his new, young bride.)

Also of note: 1930s-40s bombshell Hedy Lamarr sued Brooks and company for giving comedian Harvey Korman's evil bad-guy character the name of "Hedley Lamarr." According to Brooks, the real Lamarr was satisfied with an out-of-court settlement of only about $1,000.

Credited actors, in order, include Little as Sheriff Bart; Wilder as Jim, The Waco Kid; Slim Pickens as Taggart; Korman as Lamarr; Madeline Kahn — nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress category for her portrayal of the Marlene Dietrich spinoff, Lili Von Shtupp; Brooks as Gov. William J. Le Petomane, the Yiddish-speaking Indian Chief and an Aviator; Burton Gilliam as Lyle; professional football player Alex Karras as the giant Mongo; David Huddleston as Olson Johnson; Liam Dunn as Rev. Johnson; John Hillerman as Howard Johnson; George Furth as Van Johnson; Claude Ennis Starrett Jr. as Gabby Johnson; Carol (Arthur) DeLuise as Harriett Van Johnson; Richard Collier as Dr. Sam Van Johnson; Charles McGregor as Charlie; Robyn Hilton as Miss Stein, the governor's secretary; Don Megowan as a Big Man; Dom DeLuise as the producer, Buddy Bizarre; and Count Basie, as Himself, actually performing with his band in the dirt in Rosamond (although a recording was dubbed in).

LW3239: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2018 by Leon Worden.



Clip: Count Basie


Mel Brooks Directing


U.S. One-Sheet


French Half-Sheet


Interview: Stuntman
Jack Lilley 2017

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