Monday, August 29, 2016

RIP, Wonderful Wilder

I just read that Gene Wilder passed away today. He was 83, older than I expected. For some reason I always supposed he wasn't much older than me, probably because the work of his I've mostly seen was from the 70s and 80s. I have the impression in later life, before he was assailed by Alzheimers, that he enjoyed a lovely retirement, playing the tennis he loved and visiting France or other favourite countries. Most of what I knew about this wonderful actor was through his late wife Gilda Radner's autobiography, It's Always Something (a line she used to great effect with her SNL character Roseanne Rosanneadanna, and a favourite line of mine). Anyway, in this memoir Gilda relates her battle with cancer, one she ultimately lost. She describes her initial attraction to Wilder, finding him funny, smart, athletic and handsome.

Yes, all those things. Those stunning blue eyes, that crazy hair. And the on-screen persona that veered between tender sweetness and barely contained hysteria that I found so irresistible.

According to his nephew's statement, Wilder didn't suffer the worst kind of Alzheimer's, but still he chose to keep his illness private, not wanting to deny his fans the memory of him at his best.

I loved The Silver Streak, and the not-so-well-known The Frisco Kid (with a very young Harrison Ford). One of my favourite films of all time is Young Frankenstein. It's beautifully filmed in black and white, wonderfully funny, with Wilder often playing his role quite straight, while the rest of the cast belongs on the vaudeville stage. What a contrast - thanks Mel Brooks!

I only saw The Producers a few years ago, well after discovering Young Frankenstein. One rather sexy afternoon, I watched it in bed with the man who introduced me to the film. Laughter is the best aphrodisiac. And Zero Mostel and Wilder were just... perfect.

There will have to be a tribute evening this coming Labour Day Weekend. I've got some delicious brisket from Montreal, a gift from some good friends. I think we'll steam that up and toast the wonderful Mr. Wilder.


phil said...

Hi, G!

Gene's in a wonderful vignette in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), as a doctor in love with a sheep. I will not disclose the final scene. It's too good.

R.I.P. you funny man.

G said...

Oh Phil, I know it. It was the first time I'd seen a bottle of Woolite and I had to have someone tell me why it was so funny. But the rest of it was so brilliant too.