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Mel Brooks was the 2013 recipient of AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Billy Crystal, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Cloris Leachman, David Lynch, Larry David, and Carl Reiner also honored the 86-year-old filmmaker at a private dinner at the Dolby Theatre last night.

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Among the luminaries who also honored the iconic director were folks who never worked him, including Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, and Martin Scorsese, who presented Brooks with his award. The evening had the feel of a roast, with good natured ribbing from Jimmy Kimmel, and on video… Gene Wilder. Others who offered their kudos on screen: Woody Allen, George Lucas, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, and Whoopi Goldberg. Scorsese put the Oscar and Tony winning talent in the same category as the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and Abbott and Costello.

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Brooks was honored for his obvious body of work, such as Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Blazing SaddlesSpaceballs, High Anxiety, and Silent Movie. However, most folks are unaware that his parent production company, Brooksfilms Limited, also produced critically acclaimed films: The Elephant Man, The Fly, My Favorite Year, 84 Charring Cross Road, and Frances.

When AFI was founded in 1967, one of its purposes was to ensure great accomplishments of the past are recognized to the end that the masters of film may take their deserved place in history beside leaders in other arts. This objective was clearly achieved through the AFI Life Achievement Award, which was established by the Board of Trustees in 1973. It honors an individual whose career in movies or television has greatly contributed to the enrichment of American culture. Other filmmakers honored have included Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, John Ford, Orson Welles, William Wyler, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Frank Capra,  Mike Nichols, David Lean, Robert Wise, Clint Eastwood, George Lucas, and Martin Scorsese.

Martin Short opened the program with a song-and-dance routine set to a medley of melodies from Brooks’ films. The 41st AFI Life Achievement Award tribute special will premiere on TNT on June 15th, with encores on its sister network, Turner Classic Movies.


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