It’s well known that Mel Brooks has something of a Hitler obsession. His first directorial feature was The Producers, which centered around an irresistible ditty called “Springtime for Hitler.” In Blazing Saddles, set in the Wild West several decades before Hitler’s rise to power, Brooks managed to smuggle in the Nazis indirectly, via Lili von Shtupp, a Marlene Dietrich parody played by Madeline Kahn, as well as the Germanic baddies that show up to be part of Hedley Lamarr’s army of mercenaries. In 1983 Brooks remade the 1942 Ernst Lubitsch classic To Be or Not to Be, which revolved around actors pretending to be high-echelon Nazis, including a musical number in which Brooks’ Fredrick Bronski (dressed as Hitler) sings “A Little Peace,” a merry song of his own composition about invading every country in Europe.
The recent American Masters documentary on Brooks, Make A Noise, actually dedicates a section to Brooks’ recurring interest in Hitler and even bothers to ask Brooks if he can remember the first time he ever became aware of Hitler, a query Brooks describes as “crazy.”
David Letterman and Alan Oppenheimer as Dan Cochran and Miles Rathbourne
Brooks even played Hitler himself once, in a parody of 60 Minutes-style TV news magazines called Peeping Times, which ran on NBC on January 25, 1978. Four years before getting his own talk show on the same network, David Letterman played “Dan Cochran,” one of the show’s anchors. One of the segments purports to show recently unearthed footage of Hitler and Eva Braun in the mid-1930s. You can even hear Alan Oppenheimer’s Miles Rathbourne snort in voiceover, “He looks like Mel Brooks.” Naturally, Brooks plays Hitler for maximum silliness, dancing a little jig, getting spoon-fed by Eva like a small child, and complaining that the cameraman (Rudolf Hess) isn’t shooting the footage properly. Note that the fellow who cues up the footage is played by a young James Cromwell.