An Unlikely Leading Man Passes: Gene Wilder Remembered

Written by | Entertainment

Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder will always be remembered for his portrayals of sardonic chocolatier Willy Wonka and the wild-haired grandson of monster-maker Victor Frankenstein (“that’s FRONK-En-Stein,” he would want to say), but there was so much more behind this clever comedian.

Actor Gene Wilder died today at age 83. He was not only by all accounts a sweetheart in real life, but managed to laugh at many of life’s adversities – including the 1989 death by ovarian cancer of his wife, Saturday Night Live alumnus Gilda Radner.

Wilder was also a creative force behind the camera, and was responsible for basically working out the plot of Young Frankenstein with director Mel Brooks over a long evening of giddy improvisation. Alongside Zero Mostel, Wilder starred in the original ’60s film version of The Producers, a show that has gone onto far greater fame as a Broadway musical starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane.

No one really remembers it, but Wilder put in a delightful cameo in Bonnie and Clyde, from 1968. Here he is, alongside Estelle Parsons, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman, who have just appropriated his car for a getaway:

A decade later, Wilder was a star in his own right and starred in several films with Richard Pryor, not the least of which was Silver Streak, a screwball comedy/thriller in which Wilder’s character kept inadvertently being ejected from a moving train. An unforgettable (and no longer PC) Wilder/Pryor moment follows:

His gentle spirit and wit will be missed.

Last modified: December 6, 2017