In Memorium: Gene Wilder


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eliBy Eli Sanchez
Guest Contributor
Silver Screen Capture

In Memoriam: Gene Wilder 1933-2016

If you were a child of the 1970’s and you had a single parent who had a hard time finding a sitter, you ended up going to a lot of movies that most children would not normally be allowed to attend. That brings me to Gene Wilder. When my mom was attending San Jose State while I was a child, the student union there would frequently run cheap double features on weekends. The double feature I recall playing a great deal was Silver Streak and Blazing Saddles, or sometimes it was Silver Streak and Young Frankenstein. At 3-4 years old, I was fascinated with trains; but then of course, I was also into westerns. And being my mother’s child, I was also into old monster movies. There was something to appeal on all levels with those films. So at a very young age, I was introduced to the strange, neurotic nuance that was Gene Wilder. If it wasn’t the harried would-be hero George Caldwell of Silver Streak, he was the drunk Waco Kid hanging upside down in a jail cell sharing a joint with Cleavon Little. If he wasn’t playing one of those, he was the half-crazed genius Froederick Frahnkenshteen or the clinically certifiable Leo Bloom. If ever there were a clinic on frenetic comedy, those films started that road to ruin for me. I knew who Gene Wilder was before I knew who Mel Brooks was. And of course through three films with Brooks (The Producers included) and his various partnerships with Richard Pryor, he and a cast of dozens made me laugh again and again as I got older and socially more aware and mature enough to handle the humor. In other words, his films never get old. There was Willy Wonka in possibly his creepiest role, and then there was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother as the lesser known younger brother of the great detective. I am forever thankful for that humor and that inspiration that helped me through those awkward years of my youth when you’re at the height of being misunderstood. Those films and Wilder’s antics appealed to many, I’m sure. I can’t think of one line that ultimately sums up what Gene Wilder meant to me, but I do think the closing line of Blazing Saddles is very appropriate:

Waco Kid: Where you heading, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Waco Kid: Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there!

Trust me, Gene, you were definitely always “somewhere special” to me.

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I've reviewed films for more than 20 years. Current movie reviews of new theatrical releases and direct-to-video or streaming films are added weekly to the Silver Screen Capture movie news site. Many capsule critiques originally appeared in expanded form in my syndicated Lights Camera Reaction column.

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