Composer and jazz bandleader Count Basie was born on this day in 1904. You can hear his performances in a number of movies -- not just Woody Allen fare like Hannah and Her Sisters, either, but a range of films including Pearl Harbor, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Get Shorty, and Malcolm X. He's also appeared briefly in various movies, from Stage Door Canteen in 1943 to the Jerry Lewis vehicle Cinderfella in 1960.
But when I think of Count Basie and movies together, the first thing that leaps to mind is his delightful cameo in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles. You might remember the scene ... Bart (Cleavon Little), having been appointed Sheriff of Rock Ridge, rides to the town in his fancy new clothes, with his Gucci saddlebags, while swinging music plays in the background. And as he rides across the barren Old West, suddenly we see the source of the background music ... the entire Count Basie orchestra, dressed to the nines, in the middle of the sagebrush. Count Basie cheers on Bart as he rides by. Blazing Saddles contains a number of different types of humor, but I particularly like its surreal touches like the one mentioned above. Basie died in 1984 but I doubt we've heard the last of his music in films.