Best known for her Oscar-nominated roles in the smash hits Paper Moon and Blazing Saddles , Madeline Kahn (1942-1999) was one of the most popular comedians of her time--and one of the least understood. In private, she was as reserved and refined as her characters were bold and bawdy.Read more...
Best known for her Oscar-nominated roles in the smash hits Paper Moon and Blazing Saddles, Madeline Kahn (1942-1999) was one of the most popular comedians of her time--and one of the least understood. In private, she was as reserved and refined as her characters were bold and bawdy. Almost a Method actor in her approach, she took her work seriously. When crew members and audiences laughed, she asked why--as if they were laughing at her--and all her life she remained unsure of her gifts.
William V. Madison examines Kahn's film career, including not only her triumphs with Mel Brooks and Peter Bogdanovich, but also her overlooked performances in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother and Judy Berlin, her final film. Her work in television--notably her sitcoms--also comes into focus. New York theater showered her with accolades, but also with remarkably bad luck, culminating in a disastrous outing in On the Twentieth Century that wrecked her reputation on Broadway. Only with her Tony-winning performance in The Sisters Rosensweig, fifteen years later, did Kahn regain her standing.
Drawing on new interviews with family, friends, and such colleagues as Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Gene Wilder, Harold Prince, and Eileen Brennan, as well as archival press and private writings, Madison uncovers Kahn's lonely childhood and her struggles as a single woman working to provide for her erratic mother. Above all, Madison reveals the paramount importance of music in Kahn's life. A talented singer, she entertained offers for operatic engagements long after she was an established Hollywood star, and she treated each script as a score. As Kahn told one friend, her ambition was "to be the music."
- ISBN-13: 9781617037610
- ISBN-10: 1617037613
- Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
- Publish Date: April 2015
- Page Count: 336
Series: Hollywood Legends
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-03
- Reviewer: Staff
Madison, a former CBS News producer, gives comedian Madeline Kahn (1942–1999) the star treatment and provides fans with an in-depth, heartfelt look into her too brief life. Kahn died far too young at age 57, having enjoyed an early meteoric rise and earned back-to-back Oscar nominations for her work in the films Paper Moon and Blazing Saddles. For years, Kahn's professional and personal decisions were defined by her tumultuous childhood, specifically the fallout from having an undiagnosed mentally ill mother whom she looked after financially, and a father and stepfather who both left her mother. Kahn attended Hofstra on a drama scholarship but gave it up over the roles she was assigned and transferred to the music department. She worked in cabarets and made her opera debut in La Bohème. Realizing she couldn't keep up with singing's physical demands, she found herself in the enviable position of being directed by Peter Bogdanovich and Mel Brooks in career-defining roles. However, Kahn, who was a serious, earnest actor, worried about how audiences perceived her and struggled with the comedic, spacey parts she was often given. Madison offers a warm portrait of Kahn, and ends on an upbeat note, observing that Kahn experienced overdue romantic and professional fulfillment in her last years, including winning a Tony award and acting in the award-winning Judy Berlin for her final film. B&w photos. (May)