Norman Steinberg, 'Blazing Saddles' Screenwriter, Dead at 83
Norman Steinberg, who collaborated with Mel Brooks on the 1974 classic Blazing Saddles, died on March 15. He was 83. Steinberg also co-wrote the underrated My Favorite Year and the outrageous crime movie parody Johnny Dangerously. He won an Emmy in 1971 for his work on Flip Wilson's variety series Flip.
"It's a sad day when Norman Steinberg leaves us," Brooks tweeted on Wednesday. "From Blazing Saddles to My Favorite Year, he was one of the best writers I ever worked with. I'm so glad I rescued him from a dull stable legal career because he always permeated the writers room with his infectious comic spirit."
Norman Steinberg (1939 – 2023) was a writer, teacher and friend. This is my favorite photo of him which was used as the invite for his 50th birthday party. Needless to say, 2023 will never be "My Favorite Year" now. pic.twitter.com/t8osSKtdam— Alan Spencer (@MrAlanSpencer) March 23, 2023
Steinberg was born in Brooklyn and studied law at the University of Pittsburgh. He started practicing law in New York but hated the job, his family said, reports Variety. After a chance meeting with brooks at a coffee shop, Brooks suggested he write a script for Get Smart. Brooks loved the script, and Steinberg quit his job as a lawyer the next day.
After writing for Cash Box and comedian David Frye, Steinberg moved to Los Angeles where he worked on Flip with George Carlin. When Brooks began working on Blazing Saddles from a draft by Andrew Bergman, he brought in Steinberg and Richard Pryor to finalize the script. The 1974 film is still considered one of Brooks' best films and was added to the Library of Congress's National Film Registry in 2006.
Steinberg also wrote the 1982 comedy Yes, Giorgio, starring Luciano Pavarotti. He worked with Brooks again on My Favorite Year, a hilarious comedy starring Peter O'Toole as an Errol Flynn-inspired actor who works with a young comedy writer played by Mark Linn-Baker. Brooks was an executive producer on the film, which Steinberg wrote with Dennis Palumbo. Actor Richard Benjamin directed. Although the movie wasn't a box office hit, it earned O'Toole an Oscar nomination.
Steinberg also received a story credit on Amy Heckerling's Johnny Dangerously, a 1984 comedy that parodied 1930s gangster movies. The film features a young Michael Keaton in the title role, alongside Maureen Stapleton, Danny Devito, Dom DeLuise, and Peter Boyle. Steinberg also co-wrote Brian De Palma's 1986 comedy Wise Guys and Leonard Nimoy's 1990 film Funny About Love starring Gene Wilder. Steinberg also created a master's program in television writing at Long Island University in Brooklyn.
Steinberg is survived by his wife, Serine Hastings; his son Nik and daughter Daphne; his sister Joan Misky; his former wife, Bonnie Strock; as well as grandchildren and step-children. A memorial service is played for this spring in New York. His family asks that memorial gifts in his name be made to The Norman Steinberg Scholarship Fund.