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HomeCommunityEventsCast and Crew of Young Frankenstein Regale Academy for Film’s 40th Anniversary

Cast and Crew of Young Frankenstein Regale Academy for Film’s 40th Anniversary


From left: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, event moderator Leonard Maltin, Teri Garr, Mel Brooks, Cloris Leachman and producer Michael Gruskoff at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif. for the 40th anniversary of Young Frankenstein.
A sold-out Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theater in Beverly Hills was treated to an entertaining night on Sept. 9 for the 40th anniversary of the comedy classic, Young Frankenstein. Moderated by Leonard Maltin, the onstage guest panel included actresses Teri Garr and Cloris Leachman, producer Michael Gruskoff and co-writer/director Mel Brooks. Notably for its zaniness combined with loving homage to the Universal Studios’ Frankenstein films (specifically the original 1931 Frankenstein, 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein, and 1939’s Son of Frankenstein), Young Frankenstein offered viewers an equal share of 1970s edgy satire and accurate spoofs of the aforementioned watershed horror films, only possible through careful study.

As Brooks explained, Wilder, a friend from their work in 1968’s The Producers, had brought him the project in treatment form with the idea that Brooks would direct. Both The Producers and The Twelve Chairs, Brooks’ first two films, were not box office successes, so he was idle for a period in the early 1970s. Set up at Columbia then at 20th Century Fox, for Young Frankenstein, Brooks gained the partnership of Gruskoff who shepherded the film through production. Gruskoff explained how agent (and future Tri-Star/Columbia studio chief) Mike Medavoy helped the project get a green light, and represented actors Wilder, Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman, the latter two of whom would star as the Monster and Igor, respectively.

Young Frankenstein
Young Frankenstein

Additionally, Madeline Kahn was cast from her work on Brooks’ previous film, Blazing Saddles, which Brooks was editing during the day while working on the Young Frankenstein script with Wilder at night. Garr, a go-go dancer, was introduced to Brooks who cast her almost on the spot. Garr noted that she picked up her German accent used in the film from a guest who was on The Sonny and Cher Show with her just prior to her audition.

Leachman, who played Frau Blucher (whose very name would elicit panic in horses throughout the film) served as a counterpoint to Brooks throughout the evening. Now 88, Brooks lucidly remembered everything about making YoungFrankenstein, including Wilder’s penchant for breaking up on set. In fact, Leachman recalled how 15 takes were required for one scene since Wilder kept spoiling line readings with laughter. Brooks underscored the memory, noting that the crew also often broke up.

Maltin read additional comments from absentees Wilder, now retired from performing, and Gene Hackman. In point, Maltin read how, over a friendly tennis match, Hackman had asked Wilder if he could do a part in the film, no matter how small. Subsequently, Hackman’s turn as the blind hermit provided the movie with one of its most classic scenes.

LR-Marty_Feldman_Young_FrankensteinNot only was the blind hermit a perfect send-up of a scene from Bride of Frankenstein, most of the material in Young Frankenstein came straight from the original trilogy of Universal Frankenstein projects. Among the film’s other hysterical roles included Kenneth Mars’ portrayal of Inspector Kemp, which is a parallel spoof of Lionel Atwill’s Inspector Krogh from Son of Frankenstein. Kahn, who plays Wilder’s fiancée, Elizabeth provided a sumptuous spoiled 1970s ingénue mixed with Elsa Lanchester’s 1935 Bride of Frankenstein character in Young Frankenstein’s epilogue. Clearly, both Wilder and Brooks held the 1930s films and their notable characters in high regard to so richly present them in new comedic form.

One official inanimate holdover from the 1931 and 1935 Universal films which appears in Young Frankenstein is the electrical laboratory equipment, provided by Kenneth Strickfaden in the original film and again in the spoof 43 years onward.

Finally, Brooks offered an anecdote that was telling about the filmmaking process in virtually any era. He stated that the first family-friends screening of the film on the Fox lot was only partly received as a riotous comedy. At the time, YoungFrankenstein ran 165 minutes; by the time John Howard and Brooks cut it to its most funny moments, it ran at a lean 91 minutes which is how it remains today.

Though Young Frankenstein is currently available as a 40th anniversary Blu-ray set, at the Academy, following the lively discussion, the audience was treated to a screening of a film print which accentuated the lush original black-and-white cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld.

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