Tuesday, June 23, 1970

Musical Artist - Wilder, Gene

Wilder as Frederick Frankenstein
in the movie Young Frankenstein
Gene Wilder was an American actor, director, and writer who is probably best known for his performance in the role of Willy Wonka in the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. After a bit part in Bonnie and Clyde, Wilder's career really got going when he appeared in the Mel Brook's comedy The Producers, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This was the start of a fruitful era of collaboration between Brooks and Wilder that saw the pair work together to create the classic comedies Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. Wilder also worked with Richard Pryor to create four movies, including Silver Streak and Stir Crazy.

In addition to being a magnificent comedic actor, Wilder was a director and screenwriter. He directed several of the movies he appeared in, including The Woman in Red, The World's Greatest Lover, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. He also wrote many of the movies he appeared in, most notably Young Frankenstein. He also wrote his own memoir in 2005 and three novels.

I first saw Wilder in the movie The Little Prince, where he played the role of the Fox. Despite having a very talented cast that included Bob Fosse, Richard Kiley, Donna McKechnie, and, of course, Wilder, the movie is kind of a mess, and was nearly incomprehensible to when I saw it at the age of six. I do remember Wilder's performance though, and in a way, I think that's a metaphor for Wilder's life. No matter what project he was in, be it good or bad, he stood out, not just because of his radiant talent, but because his warmth, gentleness, and fundamental goodness shone through. I have seen Wilder in bad movies, but I never saw Wilder turn in a bad performance.

Wilder was married four times, the third time to fellow actor and comedian Gilda Radner, who died in 1989, just five short years into their marriage. He was married to his fourth wife, Karen Boyer, for twenty-five years from 1991 until his death in 2016.

Musical Monday Selections:

08/29/16: Pure Imagination

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