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Gene Wilder 1933-2016

Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder was always one of my favorites when I was young. I remember my parents letting me watch his movies when they were on TV (which, now that I think about it, might have skewed my ideas of how much fun prison might be). To this day though I love to watch him as Victor Frankenstein every year around Halloween, and I still like to hang out with my dad and watch him as the fastest gunslinger in the west, the Waco Kid.

With the recent passing of this comedic genius, the world lost one of its most beloved entertainers. Fortunately his brilliance lives on in the many comic performances he committed to film. If you want to celebrate his life’s work, you can always do so with one of the DVDs from our collection or a biography of the life of Gene Wilder.

 

Books:

Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad by Brian Scott Mednick
Also: Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art

These biographies tell the story of the life of Gene Wilder from his career as a comedian to his friendships with other comedy giants Mel Brooks (The Producers) and Richard Pryor (The Wiz), to his life with wife Gilda Radner (It’s Always Something). Worth a read if you want to know more about the man behind the laughter.

 

If you just want to sit down and watch some of the great movies he starred in though...
 

Movies:

Silver Streak

Gene Wilder made some of his best films with another talented funny man, Richard Pryor. The first was Silver Streak, a crime comedy on a train. In this tale of art forgers and murder, Wilder’s character, book editor George Caldwell, ends up chased by criminals, tossed in jail, and eventually on the run with petty criminal Grover Muldoon (Pryor). Of course from there hilarity ensues.

From crime to prison, a case of mistaken identity leads the team of Wilder and Pryor to prison in the 1980 film Stir Crazy. Filled with silly antics involving other criminals and a crooked warden, Wilder’s Skip Donahue eventually ends up the new star attraction for the upcoming prison rodeo.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

One of the more subtly creepy roles of his career, Gene Wilder plays the title character, eccentric candy maker Willy Wonka in this film from 1971. Memorable characters, great songs, oompa loompas, and of course chocolate abound in this story based on the book by Roald Dahl. If you haven't seen this classic in the realm of weird children’s movies, go out and check it out ASAP.

Young Frankenstein

In this twist on the classic Frankenstein story, Gene Wilder plays a scientist named Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-en-steen) who follows in the footsteps of his grandfather and, along with the help of his assistant Igor (pronounced Eye-Gore), creates a monster made of spare parts. Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr, Marty Feldman, and Cloris Leachman also turn in classic performances. If nothing else this one is worth watching just for the song and dance duet Wilder performs with Frankenstein's monster (who I only realized recently was Peter Boyle from Everybody Loves Raymond), which in my opinion is the best version of "Puttin’ on the Ritz" ever recorded.

Blazing Saddles

As a kid I remember watching my father’s favorite movie, a western comedy spoof starring Cleavon Little as the new sheriff in a desperate town in the Old West and Gene Wilder as his sidekick, quite possibly the quickest draw in movie history, The Waco Kid. This movie has it all: comedy, satire, gun fighting, and even a song and dance number. And as with any good western, in the end our heroes ride off into the sunset.

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