WCW: Madeleine Kahn

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Madeleine Kahn (1942-1999), baby. She was gorgeous and she was deeply, DEEPLY funny. Note that I am literally sitting on my hands in order to not include any of her fabulous work with The Muppets.

 

Paper Moon (1973)

A con man is stuck with a precocious young girl who may or may not be his daughter, on a road trip through the Depression-era midwest. Kahn plays Miss Trixie, an exotic dancer at a carnival, who connects with the two.

1973 Paper Moon 1973 Paper Moon

 

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Mel Brooks’s Old West-set satire against racism. Kahn plays Lili von Shtupp, a German seductress-for-hire.

1974 Blazing Saddles

 

Young Frankenstein (1974)

I never think of this movie as period — it just seems to 1970s in its costumes! But I know y’all will kill me if I leave it out. Kahn plays socialite Elizabeth, fiance of Dr. FrankenSTEEN.

1974 Young Frankenstein 1974 Young Frankenstein

 

At Long Last Love (1975)

A musical comedy also starring Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd.

1975 At Long Last Love 1975 At Long Last Love

 

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)

Gene Wilder as Sherlock Holmes — I definitely want to see this! Kahn plays Jenny, a music-hall performer.

1975 The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother

In an 18th-century stage costume…

1975 The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975)

 

Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1975)

1930s-era spoof on Hollywood dog Rin Tin Tin.

1975 Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood

 

The Cheap Detective (1978)

A satire on 1940s detective movies.

1978 The Cheap Detective

 

Wholly Moses! (1980)

A Biblical spoof starring Dudley Moore.

Wholly Moses! (1980)

 

History of the World: Part I (1981)

Mel Brooks’ comic genius, which I enjoyed but didn’t think the costumes were really worthy of review! Kahn’s role is THE BEST PART: Empress Nympho chooses from a line-up of penises, singing “no” or “yes” depending on whether they’re worthy of a shag.

History of the World: Part I (1981) History of the World: Part I (1981) History of the World: Part I (1981) History of the World: Part I (1981)

 

Yellowbeard (1983)

Comedy spoof on pirate films, also starring David Bowie!

1983 Yellowbeard 1983 Yellowbeard

 

City Heat (1984)

Taking a total turn away from comedy, this is a 1930s-era crime film with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds.

City Heat (1984) City Heat (1984)

 

Clue (1985)

A cult classic based on the board game, Kahn plays Mrs. White, who has the one and only funny line in (as much of) the entire film (that I could get through. A more detailed review is forthcoming).

1985 Clue 1985 Clue 1985 Clue

 

Avonlea (1991)

Playing an actress in one episode of this Anne of Green Gables series. Huh.

1991 avonlea 1991 avonlea

 

Lucky Luke (1992)

A comedic TV series based in the Old West. Kahn plays “Esmerelda,” and the head necklaces are strong with this one.

1992 Lucky Luke 1992 Lucky Luke

 

Nixon (1995)

Oliver Stone’s biopic of former President Richard Nixon. Kahn plays Martha Beall Mitchell, wife of the attorney general. Really?

1995 Nixon

 

What’s your favorite of Madeleine Kahn’s historical roles?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

19 Responses

  1. krismcd59

    Don’t wait another minute to see “Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” — it’s a very silly movie, but Wilder and Kahn have amazing sexy-funny chemistry in it. I was also lucky enough to see Kahn in “On the Twentieth Century” on Broadway, where she played a 1920’s stage diva playing a 19th century chanteuse in a terrible musical. She was perfect, and so much missed.

    Reply
  2. ladylavinia1932

    Oliver Stone’s biopic of former President Richard Nixon. Kahn plays Martha Beall Mitchell, wife of the attorney general. Really?

    Yes, really. Kahn was rather funny as Mitchell’s eccentric wife.

    Reply
  3. Seanna

    Madeleine Kahn will always have a special place in my heart. History of the World was my FAVORITE movie as a kid (Mel Brooks being one of my first crushes. I was a weird kid) and it was so special to see someone so beautiful be so funny.

    Reply
  4. Megan

    Clue is my desert island movie, but the Madeline Kahn love is so strong with me I’ll forgive you (it’s a weird film, I know).

    Reply
    • Katie

      I love Clue. Its a deeply, deeply weird movie, but its also really funny. It and Oscar, another weird period piece that came out around the same time is also really funny.

      Reply
      • SarahV

        The movie a trove of snappy patter, lethal bon mots and screwball comedy, but the true jewel of the entire collection is Madeleine’s “flames… flames, on the side on my face!”

        I find myself using that in real life, to utter bafflement of those around me.

        Reply
  5. Charity

    I kept thinking, “She looks familiar somehow…” and then I got to the Avonlea pictures and went: AHA. I loved that show as a kid, and I remember most of her dramatics from that episode.

    Reply
  6. Kathleen Norvell

    And the (maybe) apocryphal lines in “Blazing Saddles” with Lili von Shtupp and the black sheriff when she says, “Is it twue what they say about your people? Oh! It’s twue! It’s twue!” And he replies “Pardon me, ma’am, but you’re sucking on my elbow.” Even if they never said that, they should have.

    Reply
    • Jamie Jo

      according to Mel, that scene was deleted. even HE thought it was to much and had no way of getting past the censors.

      Reply
  7. themodernmantuamaker

    Yay!!!! I want Madeleine Kahn to be my spirit animal! I haven’t seen all of these but have loved her in everything I have. I think Lilli Von Schtupp is probably my favourite but History of the World and Young Frankenstein (Frahnkensteen) are right up there! And I just love that I have the same birthday as her!

    Reply
  8. SarahV

    I loved Madeleine Kahn! When I learned that she died, I felt like I had lost a member of the family. What a great broad!

    Reply
  9. LoGirLoo

    I loved Avonlea as a kid, it was my favorite show, and it definitely formed the backbone of my fashion choices age 7-9 (ankle boots and all).
    Interestingly, while the show is loosely based on stories by LM Montgomery, and set in the village of Avonlea, it has next to nothing to do with Anne. Rachel Lynde and, later, Muriel Stacey were recurring characters, Marilla showed up once or twice, and when Colleen Dewhurst died they wrote it into the script and had Gilbert come back to settle her affairs, but it was very much it’s own show with its own characters; very little reference to Anne in the first place, with none at all after the second season. It’s a sweet show, a bit too episodic for me as I’ve gotten older, but still lovely, and with some amazing guest stars over the years. I’ll probably never stop wanting to marry Gus Pyke and live in his lighthouse.

    Reply

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