Who is the Only Surviving Cast Member of 1974’s ‘Blazing Saddles?’

Blazing Saddles Cleavon Little, Mel Brooks, Harvey Korman, 1974
Everett Collection

Blazing Saddles is one of those iconic comedies that would probably never work in today’s culture. Released in 1974 (50 years ago!), Blazing Saddles is a satirical take on the Western genre, directed and co-written by the irreplaceable Mel Brooks. Cleavon Little starred as Sheriff Bart, the first Black sheriff in the town of Rock Ridge. Gene Wilder played his partner Jim, and the cast was rounded out by Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, and Slim Pickens. Brooks appears in the film in three roles: a Howard Hughes-esque character, a Yiddish-speaking Native American chief, and Governor William J. Le Petomane.

Sadly, Brooks is the only surviving member of the main cast at 97 years old as we lost Little, Wilder, Kahn, Korman, and Pickens throughout the years. While the film has been deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress, was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, and was ranked sixth on the AFI’s list of the top 100 funniest movies in American cinema, it has become clear that the film would likely never be made today.

Blazing Saddles Cleavon Little, 1974

Everett Collection

Brooks even confirmed this and once said that Hollywood’s goal of political correctness is “the death of comedy.” He added, “It’s OK not to hurt the feelings of various tribes and groups. However, it’s not good for comedy. Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks. It’s the lecherous little elf whispering in the king’s ear, telling the truth about human behaviour.” Despite being led by a Black man, Blazing Saddles is full of racist jokes and one particular racist slur, since the fictional town is not that open to a Black shereiff.

Blazing Saddles Mel Brooks, Cleavon Little on poster art, 1974

Everett Collection

While Brooks is clearly not afraid to go there in many of his comedies, he did confirm one subject that he would never joke about. He explained, “I personally would never touch gas chambers or the death of children or Jews at the hands of the Nazis. In no way is that at all useable or correct for comedy. It’s just in truly bad taste.” However he added, “Everything else is OK.”

Blazing Saddles David Huddleston, Cleavon Little, John Hillerman, Liam Dunn, 1974

Everett Collection

While many talk about how Blazing Saddles wouldn’t be made in today’s times, there was still some controversy when it was released in 1974. While it is now one of those classic comedies everyone has to see at least once, it wasn’t always that way. Some critics and fans didn’t like the jokes or racist slurs back then either. Now, tell us your opinions about the film! Love it or hate it?


1974 (50 Years Ago)
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1974 (50 Years Ago)

January 2024

In this time capsule issue of ReMIND Magazine we look back 50 years ago to 1974!

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