The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Madeline Kahn

September 29, 1942–December 3, 1999

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Madeline Kahn until we are able to commission a full entry.

Madeline Kahn outside the Algonquin Club, Manhattan, New York City, November 25, 1977.
Courtesy of Bettmann/CORBIS.

Madeline Kahn acted in dramas and musicals on stage, film, and television, but she was best known for her comedic roles as Mel Brooks’s favorite female lead. Kahn earned a drama scholarship to Hofstra University and landed her first role in 1965, the year after she graduated, as part of the chorus in the revival of Kiss Me Kate. In 1973, she was nominated for both a Tony for In the Boom Boom Room and an Oscar for Paper Moon. The following year, she earned a second Oscar nomination for her role as Lili Von Shtupp in Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles, going on to play comic roles in a number of Brooks’s films, including Young Frankenstein and History of the World Part I, as well as Jonathan Lynn’s cult classic, Clue. In all, she acted in over forty movies, as well as a variety of plays and television shows. In 1993, she finally won a Tony Award for best actress for her performance as Gorgeous Rosensweig in Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig, choosing to play the character in ways that avoided stereotypes of affluent suburban Jewish women.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Madeline Kahn." (Viewed on December 2, 2023) <>.


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