Oscar Justice: Madeline Kahn

Welcome to Season 3 of Oscar Justice, a weekly feature at IceCream4Freaks.  It’s a simple concept: I give an Oscar to someone who rightfully deserved it, then I follow the repercussions down the line until I am satisfied.

This week on Oscar Justice: Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles

OSCAR HISTORY

1973 Best Supporting Actress, Paper Moon – Lost to Tatum O’Neal, Paper Moon
1974 Best Supporting Actress, Blazing Saddles – Lost to Ingrid Bergman, Murder on the Orient Express

BACKGROUND

As a young college student, Madeline Kahn worked at a Bavarian restaurant in New York’s Hudson Valley as a singing waitress. Not only did she sing musical comedy, she learned opera songs to earn tips from a prominent customer. From there, Kahn headed to Broadway in the 60s and 70s.

She caught the eye of Peter Bogdonovich who cast her in What’s Up, Doc? in 1972 followed by another Bogdonovich collaboration in 1973 with Paper Moon. She earned her first Oscar nomination. Kahn began a partnership with Mel Brooks with roles in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, and History of the World – Part I. For her role in Blazing Saddles, she was again nominated for an Oscar, but came up empty again. Few actresses have mastered comedy acting better.

Kahn didn’t limit herself solely to film, as she earned Tony nominations for In the Boom Boom Room, On the Twentieth Century, and Born Yesterday. She finally won her first Tony in 1993 for The Sisters Rosensweig. She also won an Emmy for an ABC Afterschool Special in 1987.

She never stopped working on television, on stage, or in film through the remainder of her life, until her death from ovarian cancer in 1998 at the age of 57.

OSCAR JUSTICE 

Madeline Kahn defeats Ingrid Bergman at the 1974 Oscars for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

WHY THIS JUSTICE?

Blazing Saddles is a stone-cold classic for a lot of reasons. The non-stop jokes, the cultural commentary, and every performance is perfect. Comedy never gets the appreciation in critical circles, but if anyone should be lauded, it should be Kahn.

It’s not subtle and it’s not quiet, but it’s unbelievably hilarious. Kahn’s Marlene Dietrich impression of a seductress-for-hire is introduced by utilizing both her comedic and musical skills.

Kahn nails the role of an exhausted enchantress. Not only that, he complete commitment to what Brooks asks of her is evident in her confident line deliveries and exaggeratory body control. Watching her slink sluggardly across the stage or throw herself on Cleavon Little’s Black Bart and attempt to do the same. It’s a masterwork.

The Academy rarely gives purely comedic performances the time of day, but they rightly gave Kahn a nomination for her side-splitting performance. The Oscars generally love super-serious performances, but it doesn’t have to be the case 100% of the time. Few comedic performers are more talented than Kahn, and no film gives her a better showcase.

THE REPERCUSSIONS

If you are a regular reader, you know how much I love to spread the wealth. One of the things I look for in this series is someone who has more than one Oscar. Sometimes, it’s hard to take some away (like the two that Daniel Day-Lewis still has). Other times, like in the case of Ingrid Bergman, this one was a cinch.

Bergman is rarely bad. But, her role in Murder on the Orient Express is unremarkable. The woman who has given some of the most indelible on-screen performances in Casablanca and Gaslight gets a third Oscar for a film with such a small cultural footprint. Bergman has two Oscars before this, so sh

OVERVIEW 

Madeline Kahn wins Best Supporting Actress in 1974 over Ingrid Bergman

Next time on Oscar Justice

The standout of an ensemble gets her Oscar for her lone nomination

All Oscar Justice category fixes

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