Gene Wilder And Mel Brooks' Only Fight During Their Friendship

In the movie industry, the parody genre has largely been relegated to second-tier status these days. As No Film School reports, the genre basically died in the early 2000s, when spoof movies like "Epic Movie" were critical and commercial bombs. Not long after, the only studio that was even producing big-budget spoofs — Miramax — became a cultural hot potato when the details about Harvey Weinstein were revealed, and spoof movies died with the studio.

A couple of generations ago, however, there was a sort of "Golden Age" of spoof movies. The period between the late 1960s and the early 1980s saw some of the greatest spoof films ever made, including "Airplane!," "Monty Python's Life of Brian," and "Kentucky Fried Movie," among multiple others, sent audiences into stitches.

Perhaps no man is more closely associated with the spoof genre than Mel Brooks, whose famous parodies include "Blazing Saddles," "The History of the World Part 1," and "Young Frankenstein," among others. For three of Brooks' biggest films, he collaborated with and starred with Gene Wilder, leading to a yearslong friendship between the two men. And in fact, only once in their entire friendship did the two men have an argument with each other.

Young Frankenstein

Mel Brooks' 1974 spoof "Young Frankenstein" is one of those movies that gets parsed in film schools, and which is on many of the lists of movies you just have to see, published by various media outlets (such as Bravo, which ranked it #56 on its list of 100 funniest comedies of all time, via The Film Spectrum).

For those not familiar (and spoilers for a half-century-old movie follow), Gene Wilder plays Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the great-grandson of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who learns that he's inherited his family's Transylvania castle. As IMDb reports, he returns to his ancestral homeland, and comedic hijinks ensue.

A key moment in the film — and indeed, in all of comedic cinema history — occurs when Dr. Frankenstein (Wilder) and the monster (Peter Boyle) don tuxedos and perform a rendition of "Puttin' on the Ritz," with the monster making crude vocalizations rather than actually singing. It's a non sequitur, fourth-wall-breaking bit of comic absurdity that subverts the audience's expectations — and it was also the one thing that Wilder and Brooks ever fought about, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The Puttin' on the Ritz Scene

"Young Frankenstein" was co-written by both Brooks and Wilder, according to IMDb, and it was Wilder himself who put pen to paper to create the famed song-and-dance number with Frankenstein and the monster. "I would write all day, and then [Brooks] would come over after dinner and look," Wilder said, via The Hollywood Reporter.

When Brooks looked over Wilder's notes for the "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene, he wasn't thrilled. "He looks at the pages and says, 'You tap dance to Irving Berlin in top hat and tails with the monster? Are you crazy? It's frivolous,'" Wilder quoted Brooks as saying. The two argued about it for a solid 20 minutes, until "[Wilder] was at least red in the face," as he remembers. Then, just as suddenly as their argument began, it was over, with Brooks finally saying simply, "OK, it's in."

As to why Brooks so suddenly relented, Wilder says that the director explained that if Wilder hadn't advocated so strongly for the scene, then it obviously wouldn't have been right for the movie. But, since Wilder believed so strongly in it, Brooks allowed it.