Norman Steinberg, ‘Blazing Saddles’ Screenwriter, Dies at 83

Screenwriter also penned the ’80s comedies “My Favorite Year” and “Johnny Dangerously”

Warner Bros.

Norman Steinberg, screenwriter of the classic Mel Brooks comedy “Blazing Saddles,” has died at the age of 83, his family said through a statement by the Writers Guild of America East.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, and a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh law school, Steinberg sought to be a comedy writer after he felt dissatisfied with life as an attorney. That dream was something that he would regularly tell Brooks when he encountered him at the Chock Full ‘O Nuts cafe in Manhattan, which led the famed comedian and producer to tell Steinberg to write a script for the sitcom “Get Smart.”

Though “Get Smart” was canceled by the time Steinberg finished the script, Brooks enjoyed it and told him to pursue writing. He quit his job as a lawyer and got his start as a writer for the music magazine Cash Box. Like countless others, he moved to Hollywood with hopes of a showbiz career and ended up in the writers room of “The Flip Wilson Show” alongside future legendary comedian George Carlin, winning an Emmy for his work alongside his fellow writers.

Then, in the early 1970s, Brooks called in Steinberg to work with Richard Pryor on a script draft by Andrew Bergman called “Tex X.” That draft, after being polished by Steinberg, would go on to become the screenplay for “Blazing Saddles,” one of the most famous films of Brooks’ career.

After “Blazing Saddles,” Steinberg continued comedy writing with the 1980s films “My Favorite Year” starring Peter O’Toole and “Johnny Dangerously” starring Michael Keaton and Joe Piscopo.

Later in life, Steinberg became a mentor to future generations of writers as a professor at Long Island University, where he started a masters program called the TV Writers Studio. He led the program for more than a decade, and a scholarship fund was created at the university under his name.

He is survived by his wife, Serine Hastings; his son, Nik, and daughter, Daphne; daughter-in-law, Lilly, and son-in-law, Andreas; grandchildren, Oona, June, and Gus; sister, Joan Minsky; step-children Freja and Alex, their partners Danny and Caroline, and their children, Llewyn and Arthur; and his former wife and mother of his two children, Bonnie Strock.