Mel Brooks
Birth Date:
June 28, 1926
Birth Place:
Brooklyn, New York, USA
5' 5" (1.65 m)
Famous for:
Writer of 'The Producers' (1967)
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Writer of The Producers


“You're young forever when you write. Alfred Hitchcock directed until the day he died. As long as you don't have any dementia or Alzheimer's, if you have your All-Bran every day and clear yourself out, I think your brains are gonna be all right.” Mel Brooks

American writer, director, comedian, actor, producer and composer Mel Brooks, born Melvin Kaminsky, distinguished himself by becoming one of seven entertainers to acquire all four prestigious entertainment honors, namely the Academy Award, the Emmy, the Tony and the Grammy. Starting out writing sketches for such noted comedy series as “Your Show of Shows” (1950-1954) and “Caesar’s Hour” (1954-1957), the latter of which brought Brooks three Emmy nominations, the legend scored a hit on his own with “Get Smart” ( NBC/CBS, 1965-1970), which he created with Buck Henry, and picked up an Emmy nomination for his work. The creator of the 1963 Oscar-winning short “The Critic” gained even more recognition with his feature film debut “The Producers” (1968), from which he received a Best Original Screenplay Oscar in addition to a Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award and a Golden Globe nomination. Other film credits include “The Twelve Chairs” (1970), “Blazing Saddles” (1974), in which he earned a WGA Award and an Oscar nomination for the title song, “Young Frankenstein” (1974), where he nabbed an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, “High Anxiety” (1977), “Spaceballs” (1987), “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993) and “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” (1995). Brooks savored another breakthrough when his first film “The Producers” was adapted into a multiple Tony Award winning Broadway musical in 2001. For his work, he took home three Tony Awards and two Grammy Awards. Brooks also adapted “Young Frankenstein” into a Broadway musical in 2007 and “Spaceballs” into an animated series (2007-2008).

Apart from occasionally having parts in his own movies, Brooks also worked for other people’s projects. Among his credits are Penelope Spheeris' “The Little Rascals” (1994) and Chris Wedge's “Robots” (2005). He was handed three Emmy Awards for playing the reoccurring role of Uncle Phil in the Danny Jacobson-created “Mad About You” (1996-1999).

One of People Magazine's “25 Most Intriguing People of 2001,” Brooks has been married twice. He was the husband of Florence Baum from 1951 to 1961 and screen beauty Anne Bancroft from 1964 until her death in 2005. Brooks has four children. On his late wife, he stated, “I'm married to a beautiful and talented woman who can lift your spirits just by looking at you.”

Of Russian descent, 5' 5” Brooks became a passionate fan of Russian literature, which he occasionally uses as references in his movies. Mel mentions 1937's “Grand Illusion” and 1948's “The Bicycle Thief” as his favorite films and George M. Cohan's “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as his favorite song.

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Childhood and Family:

Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, to Russian Jewish parents. His father, Max Kaminsky, a process server, passed away at age 34 of kidney disease. His mother, Kate, was a garment employee. Mel has three brothers: Leonard, Bernard and Irving.

Mel was educated in New York. He attended Public School 19, Francis Scott Key Junior High, and Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. A small, ailing young boy who was bullied by his peers, Mel joined the Army in June 1944 after high school. He was sent to the Virginia Military Institute and then to Fort Sill in Oklahoma for training before delegated to the 1104th Combat Engineers Group. He was later promoted to Corporal. In Germany, he was in charge of Special Services (entertainment). He ended his military service at Fort Dix in New Jersey.

In 1951, Mel married Florence Baum, but they later divorced in 1961. The marriage produced three children: daughter Stephanie (born in 1951) and sons Nicholas (born in 1952) and Edward (born in 1953). On August 5, 1964, Mel married actress Anne Bancroft, whom he met on the set of a TV talk show in 1961. Their only son, Maximilian, was born in 1972. On June 6, 2005, Mel lost his wife to uterine cancer. They had been together 41 years.

Get Smart


Brooklyn-born Mel Brooks developed a love for comedy by entertaining his family. After serving in the military during World War II, he worked as a jazz drummer, handyman, social director and stand-up comedian at a Catskills resort. It was during this period that he adopted his stage name in order to avoid confusion with trumpeter Max Kaminsky. Brooks' writing career started in 1949 with “The Admiral Broadway Revue,” a Broadway-style variety show that featured the impressive comic talents Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. He went on to work for Caesar in his popular comedy series, “Your Show of Shows” (1950-1954), where he teamed up with several budding comics like Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbar and Mel Tolkin, and its follow-up, “Caesar’s Hour” (1954-1957), from which he jointly nabbed three Emmy nominations in the category of Best Comedy Writing (1956, 1958) and Best Writing for a Variety or Situation Comedy. (1957). In addition, Brooks wrote sketches for the Leonard Sillman Broadway smash-hit “New Faces of 1952” (1952), which was adapted into a big screen movie of the same name in 1954, and co-penned the book for Broadway’s musical “Shinbone Alley” (1957), which starred Eartha Kitt.

Also writing the book for the Broadway musical “All-American” (1962), which starred Ray Bolger, Brooks joined Carl Reiner in the early 1960s to create “The 2000 Year Old Man Albums,” which they also performed. They earned Grammy nominations for Best Spoken Word Comedy for 1961's “2000 Years with Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks,” Best Comedy Performance for 1961's “2000 and One Years 2000 Years with Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks” and 1962's “Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks @ the Cannes Film Festival.” In 1963, Brooks created and narrated “The Critic,” a 4-minute cartoon film directed by Ernest Pintoff. The film went on to win an Academy Award for Best Short Subject and a BAFTA for Best Animated Film. He revisited the small screen two years later with the hit comedy series “Get Smart” (1965-1970), which he created with Buck Henry. Starring Don Adams as secret agent Maxwell Smart, the series brought the two a 1966 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy.

Brooks' huge breakthrough came with the 1968 motion picture “The Producers,” in which he made his debut as writer-director. A full comedy starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, the film originally received poor reviews and was even discarded by Embassy Pictures. Thanks to Peter Sellers' ad in Variety, Brooks went on to receive extensive accolades, most notably an Oscar and Writers Guild of America (WGA) for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe nomination in the same category. He also composed a song titled “Springtime for Hitler” for the movie.

Multi-faceted Brooks returned to the director's chair for the 1970 comedy “The Twelve Chairs,” which he also wrote and acted in alongside Frank Langella and Ron Moody. He was nominated for a WGA Award in 1971 in the category of Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium. “Blazing Saddles” followed in 1974. He directed, co-wrote with Andrew Bergman and Richard Pryor, among others, and starred in the Western parody and was handed a WGA for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen and a BAFTA nomination for Best Screenplay. He also contributed to the lyrics of the title song, which won an Oscar nomination for Best Music, Original Song. Brooks then wrote and directed the horror movie spoof “Young Frankenstein,” starring Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle. For his efforts, he picked up a Golden Scroll for Best Director at the 1976 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, a Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Writing at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. In the challenging “Silent Movie” (1976), he cast himself as a film director named Mel Funn and Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise as his cohorts. He co-wrote the script with Ron Clark, Rudy De Luca and Barry Levinson. Brooks made his debut as a film producer with the comedy “High Anxiety” (1977), which he also directed, co-wrote and starred in. Playing Dr. Richard H. Thorndyke, he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy.

In the mid 1970s, at the peak of his film career, Brooks briefly returned to television with “When Things Were Rotten” (ABC, 1975). The series, however, was largely ignored by audiences and was axed after 13 episodes. Almost two decades later, he released 1993's “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” starring Cary Elwes in the title role.

In 1979, Brooks made a cameo appearance in “The Muppet Movie,” as Professor Max Krassman. Helmed by James Frawley, the movie starred Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt. Also that same year, he founded a production company called Brooksfilms Ltd, which would later produce several of the most eminent films in America, including David Lynch's “The Elephant Man” (1980), which earned an Oscar for Best Picture, Graeme Clifford's “Frances” (1982), Richard Benjamin's “My Favorite Year” (1982), David Cronenberg's “The Fly” (1986) and David Jones' “84 Charing Cross Road” (1987).

Brooks played various characters in “History of the World: Part I” (1981), a comedy/musical he also wrote, directed and produced. He produced and starred in Alan Johnson's “To Be or Not to Be” (1983), which also starred wife Anne Bancroft, was cast in the “Star Wars” parody “Spaceballs” (1987), which he also produced, directed and co-wrote, helmed, penned and starred in the forgettable comedy “Life Stinks” (1991), executive produced the Bill Paxton failed “The Vagrant” (1992), and appeared as Mr Welling in the movie adaptation of “The Little Rascals” (1994). He then directed, produced and cowrote “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” (1995), where he was cast as Dr. Abraham Van Helsing.

On the small screen, Brooks appeared in a 1993 episode of NBC's “Frasier,” and an episode of the Fox hit animated series “The Simpsons” called “Homer vs. Patty and Selma.” He then landed a recurring role on the popular NBC sitcom “Mad About You.” As Uncle Phil, he won three consecutive Emmys from 1997 to 1999 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, and two American Comedy awards for Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series (1997 and 2000). In 1997, Brooks rejoined Carl Reiner to write the book “The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000” and released an album of the same name. The album won a 1999 Grammy for Best Spoken Word: Comedy.

Another notable moment arrived when Brooks adapted his hit “The Producers” into a Broadway musical in 2001. The play, which starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, was a smash hit and created history for collecting an impressive 12 Tony Awards and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. He took home additional Grammys for a long form video, “Recording The Producers – A Musical Romp with Mel Brooks.” “The Producers” returned to the silver screen in 2005 with Susan Stroman directing and Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprising their roles of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, respectively, and Will Ferrell starring as the huffy Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind. The film was nominated for four Golden Globes and a Grammy for Best Original Song for “There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway.” Also in 2005, Brooks' voice could be heard in the animated feature “Robots.”

2007 saw Brooks unveil another Broadway musical, this time based on his 1974 film, “Young Frankenstein.” The same year, he also adapted his 1987 sci-fi spoof “Spaceballs” into an animated series, “Spaceballs: The Animated Series,” in which he voiced President Skroob. A movie version of his hit TV series “Get Smart” was released in 2008. It was directed by Peter Segal and starred Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99.


  • Laurence Olivier: Best New Musical, 2005

  • Writers Guild of America (WGA): Laurel Award, Screen Writing Achievement, 2003

  • Grammy: Best Long Form Music Video, for: Recording “The Producers”: A Musical Romp with Mel Brooks,” 2002

  • Grammy: Best Musical Show Album, “The Producers,” 2002

  • Tony: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Musical Score, “The Producers,” 2001

  • American Comedy: Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series, “Mad About You,” 2000

  • Grammy: Best Spoken Word: Comedy, “The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000,” 1999

  • Emmy: Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, “Mad About You,” 1999

  • Emmy: Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, “Mad About You,” 1998

  • Emmy: Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, “Mad About You,” 1997

  • American Comedy: Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series, “Mad About You,” 1997

  • American Comedy: Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy, 1987

  • Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: Golden Scroll-Best Director, “Young Frankenstein,” 1976

  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: Nebula Award, Best Dramatic Writing, “Young Frankenstein,” 1976

  • Writers Guild of America (WGA): Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen, “Blazing Saddles,” 1975

  • Oscar: Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen, “The Producers,” 1969

  • Writers Guild of America (WGA): Best Written American Original Screenplay, “The Producers,”1969

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Mel Brooks Was Run Over By A Car In His Youth
SP_COP - April 05, 2013 -
Actor Mel Brooks has credited his older brother with saving his life after he was run over by a limousine in his youth.The Blazing Saddles star was skating in the street near his home in Brooklyn, New...
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© Universal Pictures
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© Universal Pictures