Only Mel Brooks would tell his laugh-packed tale about a silent movie - as a silent movie - with one word of dialogue. Joining him in his outrageous, non-stop parade of sight gags are Marty Feldman, Dom Deluise, Sid Caesar, Harold Gould, Bernadette Peters, and Ron Carey. As the ruthless conglomerate Engulf and Devour targets a floundering movie studio, has-been director Mel Funn (Brooks) convinces the paranoid studio chief (Caesar) to make a star-studded silent picture. Aided by his sidekicks (DeLuise and Feldman), the devious Funn actually manages to sign some of the biggest names in Hollywood: Paul Newman, Liza Minnelli, Burt Reynolds, Anne Bancroft, and James Caan.
SILENT MOVIE is director Mel Brooks's comic tribute to the golden days of the silent screen. A movie within a movie, SILENT MOVIE stars Brooks as Mel Funn, a filmmaker who has seen better days--for one thing, he's just come out of a bout with the bottle. When his best friends (Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise) rescue him from despair and convince him to make another attempt at moviemaking, Mel comes up with an idea--a silent picture. Alas, this is the 1970s, and in order to get backing from wacky, frazzled studio chief Sid Caesar, the three pals have to get lots of celebrities to agree to be in their silent picture. SILENT MOVIE is, in fact, silent, and all the celebrities play themselves (or parodies of themselves). Funny, warm, and packed with sight gags galore, the film evokes the days of Chaplin, Keaton, and Pickford and Fairbanks while remaining oddly, and wondrously, contemporary. There is hardly a funnier scene than when Burt Reynolds--vainly admiring himself in the mirror while showering--is talked-up about the movie by DeLuise, Brooks, and Feldman, all in the shower together.
A director and two of his stooges convince a studio head that the only way to save themselves from being swallowed up by the voracious Engulf and Devour Corporation is to go back to the days of Garbo and Gilbert...in other words, make a nontalking picture.
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Screenwriter Ron Clark, who conceived the film, said he thought there were only two directors who could make it: Brooks and Woody Allen.
Engulf & Devour, the corporation that's trying to buy up the studio in the film, was a swipe at Gulf & Western, who bought Paramount around the time the film was written.
Clark said he thought of the whole film at once, "the sets, the plot, even all the cameos," and he at once set about getting each celebrity who actually ended up appearing in the film.
Attention: Spoiler! Marcel Marceau broke a famous vow of silence (as a mime) and uttered the only word in SILENT MOVIE.