RIP Gene Wilder: Remembering the legend of Willy Wonka and The Waco Kid
Comedy legend Gene Wilder passed away at the age of 83 on Monday after a three year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, as reported by the Associated Press.
Though Wilder started his acting career on stage, his claim to fame was his numerous collaborations with director Mel Brooks on films like Young Frankenstein, The Producers and Blazing Saddles.
The Producers landed him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1968. Young Frankenstein, which was written by Wilder and Brooks together, earned the pair an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
"Gene Wilder, one of the truly great talents of our time, is gone," Brooks tweeted on 29 August 2016. "He blessed every film we did together with his special magic and he blessed my life with his friendship. He will be so missed."
Whether Wilder was trying to be 'black' in the 1976 film Silver Streak or conjuring up 'Pure Imagination' as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), the bug eyed and frizzy-haired comedic genius kept audiences laughing through decades of legendary performances.
Here's a look at some of the best Gene Wilder moments in from his films:
Young Frankenstein (1974)
This was the beginning of a series of collaborations with director Mel Brooks, which also garnered the pair an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Wilder plays the titular role of the mad scientist Frankenstein, and the film's top-hats-and-coattails 'Puttin' on the Ritz' routine is extremely memorable for Wilder's brand of comedy.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
The not-politically-correct Blazing Saddles is one of Mel Brooks' funniest, crudest and most popular films. It is a blatant spoof of all the cliches of the time-honoured genre of a western clubbed together for maximum effect.
Wilder plays the aging alcoholic gunslinger Jim, better known as 'The Waco Kid' whose comical antics light up the screen every time he shows up.
In this classic scene, the sheriff has Wilder's Waco kid behind bars. "Are we awake?" asked the Sheriff.
"Yes, But we are very puzzled", retorted a very groggy Jim. "I think I better straighten myself out," he said, referring to the fact that he is hanging upside down.
Silver Streak (1976)
A murder on a Los Angeles-to-Chicago train journey pairs book editor George (Wilder) with career thief Grover (Richard Pryor) in this hilarious mystery film.
The pair would go on to work together in three more films and their chemistry was instantly apparent, the perfect balance of hot and cool.
The scene where Wilder goes incognito by donning blackface can be considered racist in modern context, but the easy back-and-forth between the two actors is what makes the scene (and film) worth watching.
The Woman in Red (1984)
Wilder's beloved wife, fellow actor and Saturday Night Live veteran Gilda Radner, shared the screen with her spouse in this spoof of a romantic comedy that he wrote and directed.
Though this film was never considered one of Wilder's best films, it did feature funny bits like this scene, where Wilder's character fakes outrage when a friend tries to get him out of his house, as his wife (played by Judith Ivey) has a gun trained on his crotch.
Here's the best for the last:
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Wilder was at his mischievous best in his role as the enigmatic chocolate factory chief Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka's lure had this film selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, and Wilder was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
Here is the iconic 'Pure Imagination' from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: