Blazing Saddles is the latest film to get a video disclaimer on HBO Max. The newly-launched streaming service had previously added a similar intro to Gone with the Wind, which attempts to provide historical context for some of its outdated portrayals of race. The intro itself is done by the University of Chicago professor and TCM host Jacqueline Stewart.
"This movie is an overt and audacious spoof on classic westerns," Stewart says, via Deadline. "It's as provocative today as it was when it premiered back in 1974." She goes on to give some context to the characters that director Mel Brooks plays and the uniquely satirical nature of his comedy, citing other Brooks films, including Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety and Spaceballs. She continues the prelude pointing out the "racist language and attitudes" throughout the old west comedy. "Those attitudes are espoused by characters who are explicitly portrayed here as narrow-minded, ignorant bigots. The film's real and much more enlightened perspective is represented by the two main characters."
Stewart also talks about some behind-the-scenes trivia, including the fact that Richard Pryor initially was intended to play the lead role of Black Bart, but was deemed uninsurable by the studio. Pryor maintained his screenwriting credit. However, she notes that the combination of his knack for calling out racism, combined with Brooks' wild comedic antics, made for the film's bluntly honest, yet still entertaining criticism.
Stewart also provided the intro for Gone with the Wind, where she talked about producer David O. Selznick, who said he "was well aware that Black audiences were deeply concerned about the film's handling of the topic of slavery and its treatment of Black characters." She added, "the film's treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality."
Still, Stewart was quick to decry the film's portrayal of slavery, as well as the fact that the Black cast wasn't not allowed to attend the movie's premiere thanks to Georgia's Jim Crow laws. There's also Hattie McDaniel, who was the first African-American person to ever win an Academy Award for her portrayal of the servant Mammy but was not allowed to sit with her white castmates at the Oscars.
Blazing Saddles, incidentally, is getting a remake of its own. Blazing Samurai will replace the old west setting and place it in the time of the samurai. It will also pit dogs against cats, making it more palatable for younger audiences.