Mel Brooks photographed in NYC in 1976, the year he directed and starred in 'Silent Movie'. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
How Columbia’s Stubbornness Cost The Studio Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein
When films transitioned to being shot predominately in color, black and white films suddenly became taboo with studios believing that audiences would reject them as old-fashioned. Because of this, Columbia Pictures insisted that Mel Brooks shoot his film “Young Frankenstein” in color, but Brooks stood his ground and took the movie elsewhere.
Given that “Young Frankenstein” pays tribute to the “Frankenstein” films of the ‘30s and ‘40s, the movie was meant to be filmed in black and white, and despite Mel Brooks’ success as a filmmaker, Columbia was wary. During a meeting, Brooks recalls, “… [When] I said, ‘I’m going to do this in black and white.’ Wow. Everything came to a halt,” and their tentative agreement fell apart.
After his meeting with Columbia, Brooks’ film was accepted at Fox almost overnight, yet, despite being a fully greenlit picture, Brooks still had to win over his cinematographer, Gerald Hirschfeld. As Hirschfeld recalls, “I balked at the decision to do the film in black-and-white… [but] I soon realized as I progressed more into the feeling of the film, that he was 100% correct.”
Brooks held tight to his idea because he knew that for the film to thrive as a comedy there had to be comedic tension throughout. The film’s black-and-white hue provides a serious and lush undertone that contrasts the light-hearted script and comedic acting, making the product that much funnier and a classic comedy for the ages.