Wilder Fought to Put on the Ritz

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While working on Blazing Saddles, Gene Wilder began fiddling with the idea of Young Frankenstein. Director Mel Brooks saw the title’s name on the actor’s notepad and inquired about it. After Wilder explained the basic plot, Brooks was all in and agreed to direct and help write the script.

Gene said, “I would write all day and then [Mel would] come over after dinner [and read it].”

The pair worked well together, and  with Wilder taking Brooks’ notes and making adjustments to the story to strengthen it.

But there was one scene which they butted heads over -- the "Puttin' on the Ritz" dance number.

“One night, he came over, and he looks at the pages and he says, ‘You tap dance to Irving Berlin in top hat and tails with the monster?’” Wilder said, recalling Brooks’ disapproving reaction.

For Mel, the bit was frivolous. However, Gene saw it as crucial to the script.

He said, “We had to convince the scientific members of Transylvania that with the procedure I was using on the creature, he could be taught to be a civilized human being… instead of a monster who’s going to kill their children.”

He argued to keep the scene in the script until, by his own admission, he turned red in the face. At which point, Brooks changed his mind and agreed it could stay.

When asked why, Mel explained that if he wasn’t willing to argue for it, then he knew it shouldn’t stay.