This Day In History: February 7

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In one of Hollywood’s zaniest movie premiere stunts, Mel Brooks’ 1974 western spoof Blazing Saddles screens at the Pickwick Drive-In Theater in Burbank, California. Guests attend not in cars—but on horseback.

Attendees, many sporting cowboy hats, watched the movie from atop their steeds. Movie sound came through speakers attached to saddle pommels, and the studio set up a “Horsepitality Bar” where guests got “horse d’oeuvres.” Brooks, one of Hollywood’s most legendary comedic directors, was reportedly thrilled with the memorable publicity stunt, and wrote to Warner Bros.’ publicist, Marty Weiser, who came up with the clever idea. Its message: “You’re crazier than I am!”

The Blazing Saddles cast included Brooks, Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman and others. The wacky, sometimes raunchy, plot revolved around an attempt to ruin a Western town where everybody seemed to be named Johnson, by appointing a Black sheriff who becomes a corrupt politician’s formidable foe. The movie satirizes racism and features a lot of unprintable dialogue. Grossing more than $119 million, it topped 1974 box office sales, beating out Godfather II, Towering Inferno and Young Frankenstein, another Brooks comedy. Film critic Roger Ebert called Blazing Saddles a “crazed grab bag of a movie that does everything to keep us laughing except hit us over the head with a rubber chicken.”

As for the Pickwick, conveniently located near Burbank Studios, it sadly succumbed to changing times and it was torn down in October 1989.