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Mel Brooks in the Cultural Industries

Survival and Prolonged Adaptation

Alex Symons

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Which strategies has Mel Brooks used to survive, adapt and thrive in the cultural industries? How has he gained his reputation as a multimedia survivor? Alex Symons takes a unique, artist-focused approach in order to systematically identify the range of Brooks’s adaptation strategies across the Hollywood film, Broadway theatre and American television industries.

By combining a cultural industries approach together with that of adaptation studies, this book also identifies an important new industrial practice employed by Brooks - defined here as ‘prolonged adaptation’. More significantly, Symons also employs this method to explain the so far neglected way that Brooks’s adaptations have contributed towards changing production trends, changes in critical attitudes, and towards the ongoing integration of the cultural industries today.

An essential read for film students and scholars researching adaptation, this refreshing new approach will also be valued by everyone studying the cultural industries.

Contents

Introduction 1


A New Perspective on Mel Brooks 2


Mel Brooks: ‘Multimedia Survivor’ in the Cultural


Industries 7


Materials and Methods 12


1 Rethinking Adaptation Studies: Survival Strategies in the


Cultural Industries 20


Adaptations in the Modern Cultural Industries 21


Adaptation Terminology 28


Remediation 29


Hybridisation 30


Intermediality 32


Synergy 33


Prolonged Adaptation 35


Conclusion 41


2 From Sitcoms to ‘Parody-coms’: Writing for American TV,


1949–89 48


The Intermedial Origins of the American Sitcom,


1949–57 50


Get Smart: Reviving the American Sitcom, 1965–70 53


The Modern Transformation of the American Sitcom,


1975–89 60


When Things Were Rotten (ABC, 1975) 63


The Nutt House (NBC, 1989) 67


3 Prolonged Stardom: Audio Records, TV and Film, 1961–2004 79


Adapting the 2000 Year Old Man, 1961–83 83


Hollywood Film Actor, 1974–87 89


A Transitional Performance: Life Stinks (1991) 93


Comedy Legend and Sitcom Actor, 1995–2004 97


4 Recycled Hollywood for the TV Generation: The Rise of


Parody and the Fall of Mel Brooks the Director, 1974–95 110


vi contents


Rethinking New Hollywood: Intermedial Blockbusters in


1974 115


Blazing Saddles (1974) 118


Young Frankenstein (1974) 124


A New Film-Focused Strategy: The Fall of Mel Brooks,


1987–95 127


Spaceballs (1987) 130


Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) 136


Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) 141


5 The Integration of the Film and Theatre Industries: The


Producers, 1968–2007 154


The Producers (1968) 156


The Modern Revival of The Producers (1968) 161


The Broadway Adaptation: The Producers (2001) 163


Remade in Hollywood: The Producers (2005) 173


Conclusion 185


Bibliography 198


Index 217



 


Introduction


A New Perspective on Mel Brooks


Mel Brooks: ‘Multimedia Survivor’ in the Cultural Industries


Materials and Methods




  1. Rethinking Adaptation Studies: Survival Strategies in the Cultural Industries


  2. Adaptations in the Modern Cultural Industries


    Adaptation Terminology


    Remediation


    Hybridisation


    Intermediality


    Synergy


    Prolonged Adaptation


    Conclusion



  3. From Sitcoms to ‘Parody-coms’: Writing for American TV, 1949-1989


  4. The Intermedial Origins of the American Sitcom, 1949-1957


    Get Smart: Reviving the American Sitcom, 1965-1970


    The Modern Transformation of the American Sitcom, 1975-1989


    When Things Were Rotten (ABC, 1975)


    The Nutt House (NBC, 1989)



  5. Prolonged Stardom: Audio Records, TV, and Film, 1961-2004


  6. Adapting the 2000 Year Old Man, 1961-1983


    Hollywood Film Actor, 1974-1987


    A Transitional Performance: Life Stinks (1991)


    Comedy Legend and Sitcom Actor, 1995-2004



  7. Recycled Hollywood for the TV Generation: The Rise of Parody and the Fall of Mel Brooks the Director, 1974-1995


  8. Rethinking New Hollywood: Intermedial Blockbusters in 1974


    Blazing Saddles (1974)


    Young Frankenstein (1974)


    A New Film-Focused Strategy: The Fall of Mel Brooks, 1987-1995


    Spaceballs (1987)


    Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)


    Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)



  9. The Integration of the Film and Theatre Industries: The Producers, 1968-2007


The Producers (1968)


The Modern Revival of The Producers (1968)


The Broadway Adaptation: The Producers (2001)


Remade in Hollywood: The Producers (2005)


Conclusion


Bibliography


Index


About the Author

Dr Alex Symons was awarded his PhD by the Department of Culture, Film and Media at the University of Nottingham. Articles of his research have been published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television, the Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance, and in Celebrity Studies.

Reviews

This original study not only provides an informative discussion of Mel Brooks' career but also demonstrates how the engines of contemporary culture are fueled by the continual recycling and adaptation of familiar material.

- James Naremore, Indiana University