Madeline Kahn


Madeline Gail Kahn (née Wolfson; September 29, 1942 – December 3, 1999) was an American actress, comedian and singer, known for comedic roles in films directed by Peter Bogdanovich and Mel Brooks, including What’s Up, Doc? (1972), with Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal, Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton, Sorrell Booke, and Michael Murphy; Young Frankenstein (1974), with Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Terri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Mars, and Gene Hackman; At Long Last Love (1975), with Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd, Duilio Del Prete, Eileen Brennan, John Hillerman, and Mildred Natwick; High Anxiety (1977), with Brooks, Harvey Korman, Leachman, Ron Carey, Howard Morris, and Dick Van Patten; History of the World, Part I (1981), with Gregory Hines, Carey, Mary-Margaret Humes, and Dom DeLuise; and her Academy Award–nominated roles in Paper Moon (1973), with Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum O’Neal; and Blazing Saddles (1974), with Cleavon Little, Wilder, Slim Pickens, Korman, Brooks, and Alex Karras.

Her other film in the 1970s included From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973), with Ingrid Bergman; Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), with Bruce Dern, Art Carney, Phil Silvers, Garr, and Ron Leibman; The Cheap Detective (1978), with Peter Falk, Louise Fletcher, Ann-Margret, Brennan, Stockard Channing, Marsha Mason, Sid Caesar, John Houseman, DeLuise, Abe Vigoda, James Coco, Phil Silvers, Fernando Lamas, Nicol Williamson, Scatman Crothers, Vic Tayback, and Paul Williams.

Films in the 1980s included Marshall Brickman’s Simon (1980), with Alan Arkin, Austin Pendleton, Judy Graubart, William Finley, Wallace Shawn, Jayant, Max Wright; Happy Birthday, Gemini (1980), with Rita Moreno, Robert Viharo, Alan Rosenberg, Sarah Holcomb, and David Marshall Grant; Wholly Moses! (1980), with Dudley Moore, Laraine Newman, James Coco, Paul Sand, Jack Gilford, DeLuise, John Houseman, David Lander, Richard Pryor, and John Ritter; First Family (1980), with Bob Newhart, Gilda Radner, Korman, Rip Torn, Pendleton, Fred Willard, and Richard Benjamin; Slapstick of Another Kind (1982), with Jerry Lewis, Feldman, Jim Backus, Merv Griffin, and Pat Morita; Yellowbeard (1983), with Graham Chapman, Boyle, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Peter Cook, Feldman, Martin Hewitt, Michael Hordern, Eric Idle, James Mason, and John Cleese; and Benjamin’s City Heat (1984), with Clint Eastwood, Reynolds, Torn, Irene Cara, Richard Roundtree, and Tony Lo Bianco.

Later films include Jonathan Lynn‘s Clue (1985), with Brennan, Colleen Camp, Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren; Betsy’s Wedding (1990), with Alan Alda (who also directed), Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Joey Bishop, Joe Pesci, Anthony LaPaglia, Burt Young and Catherine O’Hara; Nora Ephron‘s Mixed Nuts (1994), with Steve Martin, Robert Klein, LaPaglia, Juliette Lewis, Rob Reiner, Adam Sandler, and Rita Wilson; Oliver Stone‘s Nixon (1995), with Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, Annabeth Gish, Marley Shelton, Powers Boothe, J.T. Walsh, E.G. Marshall, James Woods, Paul Sorvino, Bob Hoskins, Larry Hagman, Ed Harris, Mary Steenburgen, and David Hyde Pierce; and Judy Berlin (1999), with Barbara Barrie, Bob Dishy, Edie Falco, Carlin Glynn, Aaron Harnick, Bette Henritze, Julie Kavner, Anne Meara, and Novella Nelson.

Kahn also did voice acting in My Little Pony: The Movie (1986), with Danny DeVito, Leachman, Rhea Perlman, and Tony Randall; Don Bluth’s An American Tail (1986), with Phillip Glasser, John Finnegan, Amy Green, Nehemiah Persoff, DeLuise, and Christopher Plummer; and Pixar’s A Bug’s Life (1998), with Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Hayden Panettiere, Phyllis Diller, Richard Kind, Pierce, Joe Ranft, Denis Leary, Jonathan Harris, Bonnie Hunt, Brad Garrett, Roddy McDowall, and John Ratzenberger.

Kahn made her Broadway debut in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1968, and received Tony Award nominations for the play In the Boom Boom Room in 1974 and for the original production of the musical On the Twentieth Century in 1978. She received a third Tony Award nomination for the revival of the play Born Yesterday in 1989, before winning the 1993 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the comedy The Sisters Rosensweig. She starred as Madeline Wayne on the short-lived sitcom Oh Madeline (1983–84) and won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1987 for an ABC Afterschool Special, Wanted: The Perfect Guy (1986), with Ben Affleck. TV movie roles included Harvey (1972), with James Stewart; For Richer, For Poorer (1992), with Jack Lemmon, Talia Shire, and Jonathan Silverman; and London Suite (1996), with Kelsey Grammer, Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, Kristen Johnson, Richard Mulligan, Patricia Clarkson, and Julie Hagerty.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • De Düva (The Dove) (1968) – directed by George Coe & Anthony Lover
  • What’s Up, Doc? (1972) – directed by Peter Bogdanovich
  • Harvey (1972) – directed by Fielder Cook – TV movie
  • Paper Moon (1973) – directed by Peter Bogdanovich
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1973) – directed by Fielder Cook – aka The Hideaways
  • Blazing Saddles (1974)** – directed by Mel Brooks
  • Young Frankenstein (1974)** – directed by Mel Brooks
  • At Long Last Love (1975) – directed by Peter Bogdanovich
  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975) – directed by Gene Wilder
  • Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) – directed by Michael Winner
  • Once Upon a Brothers Grimm (1977) – directed by Norman Campbell – TV movie – uncredited
  • High Anxiety (1977) – directed by Mel Brooks
  • The Cheap Detective (1978) – directed by Robert Moore
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)** – directed by James Frawley – cameo
  • Simon (1980) – directed by Marshall Brickman
  • Happy Birthday, Gemini (1980) – directed by Richard Benner
  • Wholly Moses! (1980) – directed by Gary Weis
  • First Family (1980) – directed by Buck Henry
  • History of the World: Part I (1981) – directed by Mel Brooks
  • Slapstick of Another Kind (1982) – directed by Steven Paul
  • Yellowbeard (1983) – directed by Mel Damski
  • Scrambled Feet (1983) – directed by John Driver
  • City Heat (1984) – directed by Richard Benjamin
  • Clue (1985)** – directed by Jonathan Lynn
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (1986) – directed by Michael Joens
  • Wanted: The Perfect Guy (1986) – directed by Catlin Adams – TV movie
  • An American Tail (1986) – directed by Don Bluth
  • Betsy’s Wedding (1990) – directed by Alan Alda
  • For Richer, for Poorer (1992) – directed by Jay Sandrich – TV movie – aka Father, Son and the Mistress
  • Mixed Nuts (1994) – directed by Nora Ephron
  • Nixon (1995) – directed by Oliver Stone
  • For Love Alone: The Ivana Trump Story (1996) – directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg – TV movie
  • London Suite (1996) – directed by Jay Sandrich – TV movie
  • A Bug’s Life (1998)* – directed by John Lasseter & Andrew Stanton
  • Judy Berlin (1999) – directed by Eric Mendelsohn