Fans of satire and slapstick comedy got a dose of cultural commentary in the Mel Brooks film Silent Movie.
Co-written, directed and starring Mel Brooks, Silent Movie is a parody of the silent film era, and starts Brooks as Mel Funn, a Hollywood director who is trying to overcome his recent past as an alcoholic.
He appeals to The Chief, the studio big boss played by Sid Caesar along with his two sidekicks, Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise) and Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) to make the first silent film in 40 years.
Going after stars to make this a big picture, Funn approaches Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, Anne Bancroft, James Caan, Marcel Marceau and Paul Newman, while always taking time to subtly and not so subtly skewer the evolving film industry.
Craziness happens, including a mix-up with two German shepherds, the flirtatious advances of Vilma Kaplan (Bernadette Peters) and the fear that Funn’s silent film project could actually happen, saving the big studio and making it unaffordable for the two villains, Engulf and Devour (Harold Gould and Ron Carey).
Released in June 1976 by 20th Century Pictures, this film made for US $4 million went on to make US$36 million and earn three Golden Globe nominations for Brooks, Peters and Feldman.
As the first film that Brooks was the lead, it added to his canon of films and solidified his new role as not just writer and director, but comedic actor.