Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is That How Music Began?

Until June in 1981, I had always speculated about how music came to be. And then Mel Brooks told me.

Mel Brooks was responsible for some of my best belly laughs when I was a teenager. Those really were the days, my friend.

Even today, many years later, if I am asked to list my favorite movie comedies, that list is certain to include "Young Frankenstein," "Blazing Saddles," "The Producers" ... and "History of the World, Part I."

Those movies are more than funny to me. They bring back memories that mean a lot to me now.

Speaking of "History of the World," it made its debut on June 12, 1981.

There never was a Part II.

I always thought that was part of the joke. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote a book called "The Historie of the World, Volume 1," but he was executed before he could publish a second volume. I thought the movie's title was a play on that.

It may have been. Then again, Brooks may have intended to make a sequel and just didn't get around to it. At the end of "History of the World, Part I," there was a "trailer" for a sequel that promised to show stuff like Hitler on ice and Jews in space, but that may have been a gag.

"History of the World," like all Mel Brooks movies, was loaded with gags.

Like Brooks' version of the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

All the paintings I ever saw of that depicted Moses carrying two tablets bearing five commandments each. In the movie, Moses (played by Brooks, of course) carried three tablets — but he dropped one, and it shattered on the ground.

I guess you really didn't need music for that — unless it was the ominous kind that audiences always heard in thrillers.

(As Moses said when he dropped one of the tablets, "Oy!")

Or the light–hearted musical number for the Spanish Inquisition.

But it wasn't all music.

It was mostly Mel Brooks' brand of humor — zany, silly, at times predictable — and it often used music. But not always.

If music made the bit funnier in some way, then it was an important element — because what ultimately mattered in any Mel Brooks movie was the laughs.