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The Madeline Kahn Bio

The Madeline Kahn Review –

by Nate Lee

Best Film:

Young Frankenstein

One of the five funniest films of all time, and Madeline more than contributes her share.

Great Performances You May Not Have Seen:
What's Up, Doc? (loses Ryan O'Neal to Barbra Streisand)
Nixon (Martha Mitchell)
A Bug's Life (the voice of Gypsy)
Harvey (the nurse)
High Anxiety (another brilliant partnership with Mel Brooks)
Clue (Mrs. White)
History of the World, Part One (the nympho queen)
Betsy's Wedding
Judy Berlin (her last film) 
Young Frankenstein
Blazing Saddles (Oscar-nominated performance)
Paper Moon (Oscar-nominated performance, in which she loses Ryan O'Neal to Tatum O'Neal)
The Muppet Movie
The Real Madeline Kahn:
Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks was savvy enough to put Madeline's second-best talent, singing, to work for her. In the case of "Young Frankenstein," it's singing out her orgasm at the "hands" of the monster. With the Oscar-nominated Lili von Schtupp in "Blazing Saddles," her parody of Marlene Dietrich, Madeline's theatrical, singing, comedic, seemingly improvised performance, and her strange speaking voice, all work together so delightfully that you know she had the most fun of all.
Acting Style:
A successful Broadway actress who at one time had considered a career in the opera, Madeline Kahn never felt compelled to reduce her huge style for the camera (at least not until many years after her film debut). So, it's a good thing she started out with two over-the-top directors, Peter Bogdanovich and then the most over-the-tippy-tip-tip-top, Mel Brooks.

Whether it was the mannerisms, the nasally voice, or her roles, Kahn had a gift for making her characters (perhaps with the exception of Lili) thoroughly obnoxious. Though one would be hard-pressed to "like" any of them, the blustery comedienne behind them was irresistible.
Bits and Quirks:
She not only brought new quirks to every role, she pushed them forward so we wouldn't miss them. She would squeeze her nostrils like a rabid bunny, seemingly to make the nasal tone yet more nasally. The interjections of baby talk, especially with the slightest of lisps. The variety of inappropriately large smiles and gestures. And, then, of course, the false breathlessness.
Great Scenes:
Young Frankenstein

> Making love to the monster
> the end, with the monster reading in bed like some yuppie
> saying good-bye to Gene Wilder at the train station, and too afraid of messing up her lipstick to kiss him.


> Lili von Schtupp, musical parody of Marlene Dietrich.

What's Up Doc?

> Treats Ryan O'Neal, her fiancé, like a butler. Her startling feature debut was something nobody could ignore.

High Anxiety

> Mel is on the other end of a phone conversation, being strangled, while Madeline thinks it's an obscene phone call (which she, of course, loves).

History of the World, Part One

> The Princess, chooses her "male escorts" for the orgy.


> Mrs. White's confession.
Go to the... Madeline Kahn Bio