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The Only Actors Still Alive From The Cast Of Blazing Saddles

While comedy has always been a place of escapism, it also has the potential to comment on the world unlike any other genre out there. Such is the case for Mel Brooks' 1974 black comedy, "Blazing Saddles," a film that's hardly lost an ounce of its wildly hilarious quality — and potently relevant commentary — in its 50 years of entertaining audiences. 

Taking place in 1874, "Blazing Saddles" follows Black railroad worker Bart (Cleavon Little) as he is appointed to be the new sheriff of a town by corrupt politicians in hopes of causing friction among its bigoted citizens. It all backfires, however, as Bart, with the help of Jim the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder), works to make the town and its people stronger than ever. The film's wild anachronisms and vulgar humor serve a story that unabashedly mocks racism for all its lunacy, providing a kind of satire unlike anything audiences had seen at the time. Brooks' daring Western spoof paid off, as the film became a box office hit, was nominated for three Academy Awards, and was inducted into the National Film Registry for its cultural significance in 2006. 

Sadly, a majority of the talented performers who helped make "Blazing Saddles" an era-defining classic are no longer with us, including Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, and Madeline Kahn. Only two of the film's main cast are still around today, so let's round them up and find out what they've been up to in recent years. 

Mel Brooks: Governor William J. Le Petomane/Native American Chief

As with many of his films, Mel Brooks not only directed and co-wrote "Blazing Saddles," but gave himself some appearances in the movie, as well. Among these parts is that of Governor William Le Petomane, Rock Ridge's dim-witted government official who is convinced by Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) to bring Bart in as the town's sheriff. Later — in a role you definitely wouldn't see nowadays — he appears as a Yiddish-speaking Native American chief who spares Bart and his family from a Sioux attack in a flashback scene. 

"Blazing Saddles" would be Brooks' third directorial effort and his biggest box office success at the time. Following in the trailblazing satire's footsteps would be other fan-favorite parodies, such as "Young Frankenstein," "Silent Movie," "Spaceballs," and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." Following the disappointing reception of 1995's "Dracula: Dead and Loving It," Brooks' creative energy has been put into producing plays based on his movies and voice acting in numerous projects, including "Robots," "Mr. Peabody and Sherman," and the "Hotel Transylvania" franchise. In 2022, he acted as a co-writer, executive producer, and voice performer in "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank," a loose animated remake of "Blazing Saddles." Having taken home several Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards, the 97-year-old entertainer is one of the few EGOT winners still alive today. 

Burton Gilliam: Lyle

Burton Gilliam is fondly remembered by fans of "Blazing Saddles" for his part as Lyle, one of the men in charge of the railroad construction. Lyle is well-known for being quite possibly the first movie character to make a fart joke during the film's infamous scene where the cowboys sit around a fire while consuming beans and coffee. Gilliam was initially uncomfortable with blurting out many of the film's racial slurs, constantly apologizing to and getting reassurance from Cleavon Little whenever he'd have to use such language. 

Gilliam later appeared in such movies and TV shows as "Charlie's Angels," "Back to the Future Part III," "Honeymoon in Vegas," and "Walker, Texas Ranger." Gilliam's latest credit was in the 2017 sci-fi action film, "The Lucky Man." Since then, the 85-year-old has lived a laid-back lifestyle in Dallas, Texas, but is still regularly recognized by fans. The actor is more than happy to take pictures and quote lines alongside those viewers. 

Like many Gilliam doesn't think a movie as unapologetic as "Blazing Saddles" will be made again, telling the Dallas Observer, "We wouldn't release the movie as is today, no way. It's been 50 years and we've evolved in the wrong direction. Stay on this same trajectory ... in another 50 years we'll all be afraid to talk to each other. A country of saints and mutes. No thanks."