By Nick Gambino
Gene Wilder was one of those performers who people would refer to as “one of a kind” and it wasn’t a cliché. This is so much the case that nobody else has ever even tried to be like him. Think about it. When was the last time you saw someone do a Gene Wilder impression?
The legendary actor passed away on August 29th at the age of 83 from complications due to Alzheimer’s.
In honor of him, I decided to re-watch three of my favorites: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.
Though his performance in each of those movies was distinctly different one to the next, they were all Wilder-esque. He had this quiet insanity just below the surface which threatened to erupt at any moment. He was always a step away from madness.
Sometimes though, he would take that step. For reference take a look at the scene in Willy Wonka when he blows up at the end – “I SAID, ‘GOOD DAY, SIR!’”
Or take a gander at Stir Crazy when he has a full blown break from reality when he arrives to prison.
Though he seemed a step away from losing it altogether it was his cool, sweet demeanor that perfectly contrasted these flawed personalities he played. In both of the scenes I reference above, mere seconds later he was charming and kind causing us to fall in love with him all over again.
It seems this sweetness and infectious energy translated into real life as well. When I was 12 years old I listened to the audiotape of “It’s Always Something” which was the memoir of Gene’s late wife, Gilda Radner. In that memoir she says of meeting him, “It felt like my life went from black and white to Technicolor.”
That’s a beautiful way of describing her life with him but is also an apt description of what he brought to the screen, as anyone who has ever had the honor of watching him in action can attest to. He colored all his performances with an energy and earnest that we all wish we could tap into.
We’ll miss you, Gene, but at least we’ll find solace in knowing you left behind gems for us to gaze upon whenever we need.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.