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HBO Max adds racist-language disclaimer to Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks' 1974 Western spoof gets a new introduction, as already happened with Gone With the Wind.

Actor Cleavon Little played Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles.
Video screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

Blazing Saddles, the 1974 Western-movie spoof from legendary director Mel Brooks, is getting a three-minute introduction that contextualizes language and characterizations related to race for today's audience. HBO Max has added an intro from Jacqueline Stewart, University of Chicago cinema professor and Turner Classic Movies host, discussing the race-related issues in the movie, much as the streaming service recently did with 1939 Civil War epic Gone With the Wind.

Stewart acknowledges that many people think of the movie as "one of the greatest comedies of all time." She also states the obvious -- that "the issue of race is front and center," noting that "racist language and attitudes pervade the film." 

Stewart goes on to point out that the racist characters are portrayed as ignorant and small-minded, and that the characters played by Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder give a more enlightened perspective.

Stewart also discusses the film's casting history, noting that comedian Richard Pryor was considered for Little's role as the Old West town's black sheriff, but that his offscreen issues with drugs and his controversial standup routines made Warner Bros. consider him too much of a risk. 

Representatives for HBO and TCM didn't immediately respond to a request for information about when the introduction was added. The Hollywood Reporter quotes an HBO Max spokesperson as saying, "The intro was added to ensure that the film was put into the proper social context."

Gone With the Wind was briefly pulled from HBO Max on June 10 due to "racist depictions" and returned to the service later that same month with a contextual introduction from Stewart. HBO Max has also added a video of a panel discussion called Gone with the Wind: A Complicated Legacy.

A representative for director Mel Brooks didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.