A great talent, who never really got the due he should have for being a part of our film culture since 1967, Gene Wilder is probably best remembered for Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, The Producers and “Young Frankenstein, or as Gene would say…”FRAAAANKUN- STEEN.”
Gene was not just a subtle and unassuming funny guy, he was a writer, producer, and director. For a time he was married to one of the original Saturday Night Live “Not ready for Prime Time Players,” the very funny and lovable Gilda Radner, who left us way too soon at the tender age of 42 back in 1989.
Woman in Red was their most memorable joint effort. Gene and Gilda both starred in it. Gene wrote and directed the film which featured music by Stevie Wonder.
And now, what you were waiting for, (maybe):
MY TOP 3 GENE WILDER FILMS:
(3) SILVER STREAK (1976) Just one of FOUR films made with Richard Pryor, and by far, the best
(2) BONNIE & CLYDE (1967) One of the all time great crime films with an excellent cast including Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, and Estelle Parsons. In his first major film, Gene had just a short but very memorable role in this, as an undertaker! When Gene announced his occupation with a combination of both humor and creepiness. It forced Bonnie & Clyde, who themselves were murderers, to toss Gene out of their stolen car. Even murderers wanted no part of the likes of a mortician. Much like Jack Nicholson’s cameo in Easy Rider, when they tossed Gene out of the car…A STAR WAS BORN. That star was GENE WILDER!
(1) BLAZING SADDLES (1974) One of several collaborations with a true genius, Mel Brooks. BLAZING SADDLES is simply, to me,”THE FUNNIEST MOVIE EVER MADE.” I interviewed Mel 2-years-ago, and asked him how he was able to get such an offensive, no holds barred film made. His answer: “I showed Warner Bros executives ANOTHER print, that was toned down quite a bit, then released the version you know and love today.” Cleavon Little, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Slim Pickens and Dom DeLuise were all hysterically funny, but it would not have been the same film without the sardonic dry wit of Gene Wilder as “The Waco Kid.”
I can think of almost 20 Gene Wilder films that were funny enough to take your mind off the great loss of this very under-rated talent. I’m getting the DVD’s out right now.