Gene Wilder 1933-2016

Another star has been taken from us in the year 2016, which has sadly seen the departures of many icons from this earth. Gene Wilder, the comedic legend who had been immortalized on screen for Willy Wonka and his collaborations with director Mel Brooks, has passed away at the age of 83, from complications of Alzheimer's. He leaves so many great films and performances behind, most notably The Producers (1968), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (also 1974). All four of those classics have stood the test of time to be remembered today as iconic, and his Willy Wonka was so dominant a character that the original title of that book had to be renamed from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to accommodate who the true star was. Wilder was Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his turn in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, and was also known for his four films with Richard Pryor, most notably 1976's Silver Streak. His marriage to SNL star Gilda Radner in 1984 was well documented, as they starred in three films together and stayed married until her death from ovarian cancer in 1989, after which he stayed involved in promoting cancer awareness and founded a detection center and community organization both named after her. He was nominated for a second Oscar for co-writing the Young Frankenstein screenplay with Mel Brooks, and his last acting appearance was an episode of Will & Grace in 2003. He had an amazingly sweet, vulnerable, open screen presence that invited you in to see the bursts of manic energy and eccentricity hidden under the surface of his performances. He will be dearly missed.

It's really amazing to think that Gene Wilder essentially makes this movie work, as he was really the only compelling character in it. You can thank Wilder's inspired, magical performance for that entirely, epitomized in this song:

And if you haven't seen Young Frankenstein, please do so immediately. I think this was his greatest performance (although some would probably stick with Willy Wonka):