I watched Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory a couple months ago with my daughter on the big screen. It's one of my favorite movies, but this was the first time seeing it in a movie theater. It was one of those classics that TCM releases to the big screen once a month, with commentary before and after the movie. The technicolor was scrumptious, and there is so much subversive humor in that movie. Of course, Gene Wilder makes the movie. His Willy Wonka is charming, sarcastic, unpredictable, and just a tad...demented.
Today, while driving home from work, I had the song Veruca Salt sings in the movie playing in my head (I Want it Now) when I heard on the radio that Wilder had passed away.
Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles are also two of my favorite movies, and again - though they both had great ensemble casts - it was Gene Wilder that made those movies.
Whenever I lean in to kiss my wife, if she has recently put on makeup and shifts her head so that I don't smear it, I'll say to her "Taffeta, darling," quoting Madeline Kahn's line to Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein.
I was just telling her the other day one of my favorite lines from Blazing Saddles - Gene Wilder's character telling Clevon Little, "My name is Jim. But most people call me...Jim."
I enjoyed so many of his other movies, too. The World's Greatest Lover, Silver Streak, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, The Producers...these are fond memories of my childhood. And who can forget his scene in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But were Afraid to Ask?
Such a unique talent. Charming to beat all hell, able to go from soft and quiet to manic and everything in between. He had a great voice.
A while back, my dad gave me a copy of his book Kiss Me Like a Stranger; My Search for Love and Art, and after reading it, I liked the guy even more. It was touching, honest, painful...
He was 83, and I guess that's a pretty darn good age to live to.
Thanks for the memories and the smiles and the laughter, Mr. Wilder.