Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SO SHINES A GOOD DEED IN A WEARY WORLD:  Gene Wilder celebrates his 80th birthday today. Between his work with Mel Brooks (The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein, the last of which he conceived of and co-wrote), his four with Richard Pryor, and his wonderfully bitchy performance as Willy Wonka which yields new joys every time I rewatch it, my goodness are we in his debt. (I've been told I need to see The Frisco Kid.)

The former Jerome Silberstein has basically been retired from acting for the past twenty years. As he has told several interviewers in recent years, "I don't like show business. I like show! I just don't like the business."

related: Ten Retired Film Stars Who Deserve A Comeback. Also, a Brooks-Wilder anecdote I feel compelled to add, below the fold:

Brooks, 2010: "I was in the middle of shooting the last few weeks of "Blazing Saddles" somewhere in the Antelope Valley, and Gene Wilder and I were having a cup of coffee and he said, I have this idea that there could be another "Frankenstein." I said not another – we've had the son of, the cousin of, the brother-in-law, we don't need another Frankenstein. His idea was very simple: What if the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein wanted nothing to do with the family whatsoever. He was ashamed of those wackos. I said, "That's funny."
"The biggest fight we had, honestly, shame on me, was he said to prove the monster was more than mechanically able to walk or move, he wanted the monster to do Irving Berlin's "Putting on the Ritz." I said, "Having the monster sing and dance is just going to be silly." He said maybe you're right, but can we try it? So we shot it and I said, "This is the best thing in the movie.""


  1. Matt Brown10:05 PM

    YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is one of those films I wish I could wipe from my memory and see again over and over, because I laughed hysterically the whole time the first time I saw it. It's still funny seeing it now, don't get me wrong, but nothing like the first time.

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  3. Tosy and Cosh9:17 AM

    My kids have been on a Willy Wonka tear and I have been reminded that Wilder in that is really giving one of the great film performances. The line readings are pitched so perfectly. My favorite moment may be when he plays absentmindedly with Mike Teevee's hair while singing "Pure Imagination."

  4. Jason Carlin9:57 AM

    There was a terrific 2008 TCM special with Alec Baldwin interviewing Gene Wilder, and it's just funny and sweet and unguarded. The first part is here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuJ_PHMccEA

  5. Adam C.11:25 AM

    You do need to see The Frisco Kid. Wilder is great, and it's nice to remember that there was a time when Harrison Ford could have fun in a role.

  6. One of the many nice things in 42 is that Ford seems to be having fun for the first time in a good while. (He's also decent in Morning Glory.)