With the passing of funny-man Gene Wilder earlier this week, we got caught up reminiscing on how great of a comedian he is and how influential he was in our childhood. We’ll never forget watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or The Little Prince, and falling in love with the imagined characters he brought to life, ones that only existed in our heads while reading those stories. Or when we were “old enough” to watch Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, but still not understanding the humor, while Dads everywhere belly-laughed on living room couches.
Gene Wilder was a pure talent, brilliant in his comedic delivery yet personal enough, like Mr. Rogers—a dreamy, wistful, twisted Mr. Rogers—who could make you laugh; a gift that should never be underestimated. Watch on as we remember Gene Wilder's whimsy in some of our favorite scenes throughout his career.
Willy Wonka's Fake-Out
Yes, that one quote, "We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams," that one trippy boat scene, and the important life lesson learned at the end are crucial takeaways from this film, but the greatest of them all is this scene which Wilder wrote. He accepted the role of Willy Wonka based on one stipulation: a grand entrance in which he faked out little kids with a possible crippled leg before welcoming them to his mysterious Chocolate Factory. Is it all a lie, or is it the truth? Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination...
Mr. Fox's Secret
If you haven't read this book or seen this film, do it now, but only if you care to embrace the true wisdom of never losing your sense of wonderment. And, also, to learn such powerful revelations as, "It's only with the heart that one can see clearly. What's essential is invisible to the eye." Thanks be to Mr. Fox, Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, and Gene Wilder.
The Waco Kid
If you ever wondered what The Waco Kid's story would be like put to music, this one's for you. Thanks internet for introducing us to Brooklyn band Colburn Sound Express and their tune "Waco Kid" in this musical salute to Wilder's character. Enjoy.
It's pronounced Frahnkinsteen
Perhaps Mel Brooks' greatest film and Wilder's greatest screenplay, Young Frankenstein was a hit full of one liner's and memorable scenes like this one. It's definitely our favorite.
There were many scenes that Wilder pitched that were thrown out by Brooks, we're glad this wasn't one of them.
And this, because the best scenes come from the blooper reel.
An Excerpt from Kiss Me Like A Stranger
Here's an excerpt from Wilder's memoir on how he realized his purpose at just eight years old.
I used to be Jerry Silberman. When I was eight years old, my mother had her first heart attack. After my father brought her home from the hospital, her fat heart specialist came to see how she was doing. He visited with her for about ten minutes, and then, on his way out of the house, he grabbed my right arm, leaned his sweaty face against my cheek, and whispered in my ear,
"Don't ever argue with your mother. You might kill her."
I didn't know what to make of that, except that I could kill my mother if I got angry with her. The other thing he said was:
"Try to make her laugh."
So I tried. It was the first time I ever consciously tried to make someone laugh. I did Jewish accents and German accents and Danny Kaye songs that I learned from his first album, and I did make my mother laugh. Every once in awhile, if I was a little too successful, she'd run to the bathroom, squealing, "Oh, Jerry, now look what you've made me do!"
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Gene Wilder passed away Monday, August 29, 2016 surrounded by his wife and family as they sang this song to him. We could all be so lucky.
Mel Brooks remembers Gene on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Here is a great interview on Gene Wilder and his thoughts on love. If you have a Gene Wilder memory, share it with us.