Gene Wilder's 5 greatest performances
Posted September 1, 2016
COMEDY VALHALLA — The entertainment world lost an icon as we received the news that Gene Wilder had died. The 83-year-old actor had a storied career that started with gusto and ended on his own terms.
Wilder starred in some of the most classic comedies of all time and will always be known as one of the greats. His comedic timing was impeccable, his professionalism praiseworthy and roles iconic.
In remembrance of this comedy giant, we have put together a list of five of Wilder’s best performances:
Skip Donahue — “Stir Crazy”
Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor starred in four films together. All of them were funny and special in their own way. No, not all of them were their best work, but they managed to get a laugh out of you.
With all of their outings, it could be easily argued that the pair’s funniest film was “Stir Crazy.”
The movie about two men who are wrongfully accused of a bank robbery and end up in a Texas prison and on the prison-rodeo circuit is absurd and hilarious. Both Wilder and Pryor are laugh-out-loud funny, but there is something brewing just under the surface that makes Wilder’s performance even more impressive.
At the time, Pryor was dealing with a serious cocaine addiction and was often too out of it to make any sense of the scenes he was shooting. It was up to Wilder to make the scenes work, and he did.
“Stir Crazy” is a testament to Wilder’s professionalism and work ethic.
Leo Bloom — “The Producers”
Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks go together like peanut butter and jam. The two compliment each other so well, and together, they made some of the funniest movies of all time.
The first time these two worked together is still one of the best.
“The Producers” weaves the tale of two Broadway producers who have a scheme to make a fortune off of a sure-fire flop, “Springtime for Hitler.”
The movie is all sorts of ridiculous and Wilder showed us for the first time that he’s a star.
The Waco Kid —“Blazing Saddles”
The 1974 film “Blazing Saddles” is another Brooks/Wilder film and is one of their funniest. The story of a corrupt political boss who hires a black sheriff in the hopes of ruining the town finds out that the new sheriff is now his biggest adversary.
There are so many memorable characters in this absurd western, but Wilder’s Waco Kid is one of the best. His “shaky hand” bit shouldn’t be funny but is and he seems so out of place that it just makes everything work.
Dr. Frankenstein — “Young Frankenstein”
It’s hard to pick a favorite Brooks/Wilder film for many people, but not me. I really enjoy a lot of them, but “Young Frankenstein” takes the cake for me.
The movie has some of the most quotable lines of all time and Wilder’s Dr. Frankenstein is just the right amount of straight man and mad scientist. I have seen this film a thousand times, and I’ll likely watch it a thousand more and continue to laugh every single time.
The supporting cast of Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachamn, and Marty Feldman is fantastic, but for me, it’s really Wilder that makes this movie hilarious. Yes, these side characters, specifically Feldman and Boyle steal the show, but their jokes land because of Wilder’s reactions.
This role proves that Wilder was a master of his craft and one of the best comic performers of all time.
Willy Wonka —“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”
When most people hear “Gene Wilder” the first thing that comes to mind is “Willy Wonka.” Wilder’s portrayal of the chocolatier is one of the most iconic performances of all time. Wilder is Wonka and no matter how many Johnny Depp’s step into the role, it will always belong to the frizzy-haired comedian.
Wilder played Wonka with the right amount of humor, mischievousness, innocence, and egotism to make him the most odd and endearing characters of all time. Even if you don’t like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” because it’s just a little too “strange,” you can’t deny that Wilder nailed the part.
Even as I read the book and Wonka was described much differently, I couldn’t get Wilder out of my head. I kept thinking, “Roald Dahl was wrong when he described Wonka. He should have described him more like Gene Wilder.”
“Willy Wonk and the Chocolate Factory” isn’t my favorite Wilder film, but it is my favorite Wilder performance.
Gene Wilder will forever be one of the greatest comedic actors to ever live and we’re lucky to have enjoyed the performances he gave. I look forward to revisiting them for years.
Thanks for the laughs Mr. Wilder. You will be missed, but not forgotten.
John has been writing about movies, news, sports and pretty much anything awesome for more than five years. John is the co-host of the Flix Junkies podcast and will always entertain you with his stories.