I was numb for a few minutes when I read that Madeline Kahn died. It's sort of a brief yet powerful sorrow. It's hard when someone who makes you laugh is gone. Belushi, Hartman, Radner, Farley, Candy, and now Kahn. Damn, she was funny. Let's check the movies.
Instead of working chronologically, as I normally do, it's easier to divide Madeline Kahn's work up into specific categories:
Good (non-Mel Brooks) Movies: OK, this is easy. Paper Moon, that's it. She's young and cute and damn funny as Trixie Delight. She was an Oscar-nominee here. See Paper Moon.
Cameos & Voices: (Everyone has to pay the rent) The Muppet Movie, An American Tail, A Bug's Life, and of course My Little Pony: The Movie.
Bad Movies: (No disrespect here, but check THESE out!) Won Ton Ton: The Dog who Saved Hollywood (monumentally and historically abysmal), At Long Last Love (almost bankrupted a studio), The Cheap Detective, Simon, Happy Birthday Gemini, Wholly Moses (ACK), First Family (ACK ACK), Slapstick of Another Kind (with Jerry Lewis and prosthetic foreheads---murder me), Yellowbeard (NOOO!), City Heat (DEAR LORD), Clue (Ok, I like Clue too), Betsy's Wedding (puke), Mixed Nuts (oh please make it stop), and Nixon (sorry, I just didn't think Nixon was funny).
OK, so that's a lot of crappy-ass movies, right. Well, that's one of the great things about movie-lovers. One or two perfect performances and we will forgive a career of junk. Mel Brooks should be grateful he ever met her.
High Anxiety and History of the World Part 1 are pretty entertaining but inconsistent movies, yet she steals every scene she's in. She had some kind of old-school vaudeville vibe or something because she could make you laugh with just her eyebrows. She will most likely be remembered for her roles in Brooks' two finest films:
In Blazing Saddles, Madeline plays Lili Von Shtupp, a cabaret singer with the best speech impediment ever done for laughs. ("Ooooh. It's TWOO! It's TWOO!") Watching her sing "I'm Tired" is just comedic bliss, I'm not kidding. She was also pretty sexy for someone so silly. Oh, and she was also Oscar-nominated for this one, too. I love when actors get nominated for comedy. A lot.
Then there's Young Frankenstein. She has a relatively small role as Gene Wilder's fiancee, Elizabeth, but she may be the best thing in a brilliant movie. When she calls Peter Boyle's Creature "Zipperneck", I almost cry. After an affair with the monster, she displays the most hysterical jealous fit. One can only wish she had more scenes here. She is such a perfect fit for satire like this; she knows how just far the joke needed to go. She was often silly and sometimes raunchy, but she was never dumb. Everyone was in on her jokes; What she lacked in subtlety, she made up for in balls. Even in the worst movies, she was impossible to hate. That's just me though; I grew up laughing at her.
Ah well, another funny one, gone. It's a little comforting to have these performances, though. My kids will love her as much as I did.
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originally posted: 12/06/99 05:57:39
last updated: 04/19/00 16:46:27