Katharine Hepburn: The Untold Story and Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flaps

It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks

James Robert Parish, Author . Wiley $25.95 (325p) ISBN 978-0-471-75267-7

Parish, author of many books including Katharine Hepburn: The Untold Story and Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flaps ), here traces the life and career of mirthmaker Mel Brooks from the Borscht Belt to Broadway. Born Melvin Kaminsky, he grew up as a Brooklyn classroom clown, honing his stage skills in the Catskills before arriving in WWII France as an army combat engineer. The bombastic Brooks clawed his way into early television as a writer for Sid Caesar: "I was aggressive. I was a terrier, a pit bull terrier. I was unstoppable. I would keep going until my joke or my sketch was in the show." Caesar's shows were a launchpad, catapulting Brooks into a multifaceted comedy career that embraced theater (Shinbone Alley ) and sitcoms (Get Smart ), recordings (the 2000 Year Old Man series) and acting (Mad About You ). He began directing in 1968 with The Producers , followed by the equally hilarious Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein . Along the way, he picked up Emmys, Tonys, a Grammy, an Oscar and Anne Bancroft, whom he married in 1964. Brooks's probing self-insights and clever quotes abound. While his sense of timing, delivery and charming goofiness may not always translate to the written page, readers will be satisfied with the details unearthed by Parish's exhaustive research. 16 b&w photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 02/01/2007
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