Saturday, May 31, 2008

You will be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost-certain Academy Award nomination for the Best Supporting Actor.

This one gets me right in the guts. If there is one filmmaker I love on a primal, instinctual level from my childhood more than Steven Spielberg, then that man is Mel Brooks. Brooks, his writing collaborators and his actors created a secret club of jokes and gags and references and let the world in on the secret. Much of my sense of humor has been shaped by Brooks and unquestionably my favorite actor in his glorious comic stable was Harvey Korman. Korman tended to play villains in Brooks films. Korman villains reveled in their evil, Korman might as well have been bathing in it. Like most actors in Brooks' films he looked like he was having the time of his life. He was playing his heart out but always serving the scene and the other actors in it. I empathize with Korman's characters because they express a very human desire to cut loose and do their own thing but have the grand misfortune of being surrounded by incompetents who simply can't match his vision. No one gets amusingly angry like Harvey Korman. Korman was a master at wrapping himself around some of Brooks' most challenging fast paced dialogue and it appeared as though he relished every moment of it. I think the actors we end up liking the best are the one's we saw a lot of ourselves in and the way Korman played Hedy Lamar (That's HEDLEY!) in Blazing Saddles, well I could relate. Being an evil genius can be frustrating work, but damn if it's not enjoyable. Madeline Kahn scored an Oscar nomination for her work in the film but it doesn't tke much to notice that Korman was equally award worthy.

I'd be remiss to go without mentioning Korman's equally enjoyable turns as the nefarious Count de Money (de MONET!) in History of the World: Part One and as Dr. Montague in the charming Hitchcock send-up High Anxiety.
Korman is also known as a part of the legendary TV comedy institution The Carol Burnett Show. Korman's delightful comic egotistical persona got quite a work-out on the show as did his jaw muscles as Korman could frequently be seen breaking charcater and bursting out in laughter during sketches. Who could blame him?
Korman was also an accomplished voice actor, perhaps best known for voicing Fred Flintstone's alien companion the Great Gazoo. Which reminds me that Korman is also excellent as Wilma's father, Col. Slaghoople in the better than you think it is The Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas.
Mr. Korman, you will be missed, now go do that voodoo that you do so well.

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