Mel Brooks is one of the all-time legends of film comedy: his films including The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are hilarious classics that continue to crack up generation after generation.
And Brooks is still going strong decades later: today, he’s celebrating his 97th birthday! And on top of that, it was just announced that he will receive a major honor this year… an honorary Academy Award!
Brooks, born June 28, 1926, is one of the true living legends of showbiz with a career spanning 70 years. He got his start on TV writing for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows and co-creating Get Smart.
But he achieved his greatest fame and success as a film director and screenwriter, beginning with the Oscar-winning The Producers. The parodies Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein were both massive hits and frequently listed as two of the best comedies of all time. His other films include Silent Movie, History of the World, Part I, Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
The Producers was adapted into a smash hit Broadway musical in 2001, winning a record 12 Tony Awards, including three for Brooks. This year, Brooks was a writer and producer on the Hulu series History of the World, Part II, a sequel to his film.
On Monday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the recipients of this year’s honorary Oscars, honoring “four trailblazers who have transformed the film industry and inspired generations of filmmakers and movie fans,” academy president Janet Yang said in a statement.
Mel Brooks is among this year’s recipients, honoring his long and iconic career. “Mel Brooks lights up our hearts with his humor, and his legacy has made a lasting impact on every facet of entertainment,” Yang said.
Mel Brooks, US factor, film director and comedian, brandishing a sword and dressed in a style of a Roman centurion in a publicity portrait issued for the film, ‘History of the World, Part I’, 1981. The comedy, directed by Brooks who also starred in five roles: ‘Moses’, ‘Comicus’, ‘Torquemada’, ‘Jacques’, and Louis XVI’. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
This honor is usually given to influential figures who do not have their own Oscar statues, but Brooks previously won a competitive Academy Award in 1969 for Best Original Screenplay for The Producers.
American filmmaker, actor, comedian, and composer Mel Brooks, UK, 16th February 1984. (Photo by Larry Ellis/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
In 1975 he was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for Young Frankenstein and Best Original Song for the Blazing Saddles theme.
With four Emmy wins, three Grammy Awards and three Tony Awards, Brooks also holds the rare distinction of having won all four major entertainment awards (known as “EGOT.”)
Fellow recipients of honorary Oscars this year are film editor Carol Littleton, founding senior director of the Sundance Institute’s Artist Programs Michelle Satter, and screen legend Angela Bassett.
“Across her decades-long career, Angela Bassett has continued to deliver transcendent performances that set new standards in acting,” Yang said of the acclaimed actress, who was previously nominated for playing Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It? and last year’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
It’s a very exciting week for Mel Brooks, who is also celebrating his 97th birthday today! He reacted to all the hoopla in a very Mel Brooks way in a statement to People Magazine.
“First of all, I am very happy to still be alive!” he joked.
“But secondly, it is so nice to be recognized by my peers in The Academy over 50 years after my last Oscar,” he added.
The comedy legend also took the opportunity to reflect on his early days in show biz and says he has no regrets about how everything turned out.
“A long time ago I was given a choice: I had an offer to be working as an apprentice accountant or as a coffee runner in show business. I’m still glad I chose the coffee.”