Yesterday I got the sad news that we had lost comic actor, screenwriter, director and author Gene Wilder. The actor, real name Joel Silberman, died on Monday due to complications with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.
Wilder’s film career spanned 24 years, from playing a hostage in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde to playing a former mental patient and pathological liar in 1991’s Another You together with four time co-star and legendary funny man the late Richard Pryor. He also did television work from 1966 to 2003 before going in to semi-retirement.
In my small tribute today I will remembering Wilder through four films and revisiting some of the wonderful and hilarious characters he brought to life:
#4 See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)
As mentioned above Wilder paired with Pryor for four films: Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil Hear No Evil (1989) and Another You (1991). Of these films the one I remember the most was See No Evil which saw Wilder as a deaf man named Dave Lyons and Pryor as a blind man named Wallace “Wally” Carew who become friends and foil a trio of murderous thieves using their other enhanced senses.
Wilder was great at playing and the understated straight man and mixed perfectly with the loud and brash Pryor. This flick is a light little caper with lots of comedy though it is unlikely it would be made in this time of political correctness overload.
#3 Young Frankenstein (1974)
The first of two collaborations with comedy director Mel Brooks to make this list Young Frankenstein is a parody of the classic Frankenstein films. Wilder co-wrote this flick with Brooks and plays Dr Frederick Frankenstein, a descendant of the infamous Dr Victor Frankenstein.
While not the funniest from either Wilder or Brooks Young Frankenstein oozes charm and a wonderful air of whimsy. And Wilder is fun in his turn as the neurotic doctor and works well with female leads Teri Garr and the late Madeline Kahn, and especially with Peter Boyle’s bumbling monster.
#2 Blazing Saddles (1974)
Wilder and Brooks hit comedy gold with the Western satire Blazing Saddles which is ranked number 6 on the American Film Institute “100 Years…100 Laughs” list. And this movie is a laugh-a-minute romp perfectly blending quippy dialogue, slapstick, non-sequiturs and fourth wall breaking before it was cool.
Wilder plays recovering alcoholic gunslinger Jim aka “The Waco Kid” and he is equal parts smooth and ridiculous. He partners with railroad worker turned black sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little). If you want to see Wilder in his comedic prime you need to check him out in this parody masterpiece.
#1 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Though best known for comedy Wilder’s most beloved role is the eccentric Willy Wonka in musical fantasy film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, based on the eponymous 1964 novel by Roald Dahl.
As the flamboyantly dressed Wonka he takes four children and their guardians on a wild adventure in his chocolate factory and not so subtly teaches lessons about bad behaving kids. Wilder’s Wonka is odd, charming and just a little creepy especially that maniacal boat speech. But he seems to be having a blast in the role and as a child watching the film really opened up my imagination. Thank for you this Mr Wilder, and thank you for all the laughs over the years.
So what is your favorite Gene Wilder movie? Feel free to comment below and if you enjoyed this post feel free to share with your peeps. Sharing is caring.
For my tribute to late R2-D2 actor Kenny Baker you can click here and for more from Mel Brooks you can check out my Top 10 Ludicrous Moments from Spaceballs here. And for more bittersweet movie lists you can check back redmangoreviews for new posts Monday to Saturday and you can also follow me on Twitter @suprememango012 for updates.
Julien is outie like a navel. l8rs