"So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it." - Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka
I find myself faced with writing another blog in remembrance of one of my favorite comedic icons. First Robin Williams.. and now Gene Wilder. His performances in "Blazing Saddles," "Young Frankenstein," "Silver Streak," and "Stir Crazy" rank among my all time favorites. His seemingly effortless comedic style was one to be both envied and emulated. And, as the train wreck remake proved, the world loves and knows only one, true Willy Wonka. Sadly, the world lost Jerome Silberman late Sunday night.
"Well, my name is Jim, but most people call me... Jim." - Gene Wlder in Blazing Saddles
Gene's first film credit came in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde. But don't feel bad if you didn't know that. Most people remember him for his breakout role of Leo Bloom once The Producers came out later that year. That brought Gene into the world of Mel Brooks and brought the world a comedy pairing that would make iconic films for years to come. And Brooks, like the rest of us, took to social media to grieve his passing. Here's what Mel wrote on his Twitter feed:
"Gene Wilder-One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship."
But what made Gene Wilder so damn good? Timing? Sure. Fearlessness? Absolutely. But I would argue it was his true commitment to the craft of comedy that made him great. He said in interviews he didn't want to do Hamlet... he wanted to do comedy. And did it he did. As I write this, I can hear the multitude of quotes rattling in my head from his films.... You get Nothing! Oh, I don't know. Play Chess. Screw It's pronounced Fronkenstein. Harry, Harry... I'm freaking A pussy, huh? Can we go now? I see him with Richard Pryor.... and Cleavon Little..... Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn. All of those greats are gone, too. But we thank them all for sharing their gifts. And... I can think of no better way to end this farewell to Gene Wilder than to let him (as Willy Wonka) have the last word of inspiration:
"Invention, my dear friends, is 93 percent perspiration, 6 percent electricity, 4 percent evaporation and 2 percent butterscotch ripple."
Rest in Peace, Gene. I'm sure Gilda missed you. - MO