"It's pronounced, Fronk-en-steen."
And it was then I realized that Gene Wilder was just that good.
|Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein|
I don't remember the first time I saw Young Frankenstein, but I remember it was funny. Very funny. For a while even among us black college students if someone said "Blucher" someone else was expected to whinny. Or maybe it was just the group I hung out with. As a child from the seventies and teenager of the eighties, I just missed what might of been the last golden age of comedy. And now, as cable access and later the rise of the internet has opened up our world, our response our comedy seems to have shrunk itself, catering more and more to a specific audience. Comedy usually comes from shared experience, and what's funny to say, someone from New York, or country fans, or "urban professionals" doesn't resonate with the rest of us like it used to. We've become niche funny in a niche world.
But in the seventies and eighties, you had to be universally funny. Everyone had to get the joke. And Gene Wilder was genuinely funny. And the funny part of him being funny, the really funny part, is that he wasn't telling jokes. His talent was the reaction to a brilliant setup that left him with that prose taken out of context is just ordinary, but with him made funny. He was the straight man as funny. Wilder was the whole package: the writing, the timing, the looks he would give. We don't see that very much anymore.
He will forever be remembered as Willy Wonka, that magical man and his factory that still thrills children, and former children, to this day. He was brilliant in Blazing Saddles as the Waco Kid, his turn as the aforementioned Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-en-steen) or his turn as the accountant with a dream in The Producers with Zero Mostel. And then there is the stuff of film legend, his classic parings with Richard Pryor in Silver Streak and Stir Crazy. Pure Hollywood magic. Man but they were funny together. I hope they meet up in heaven. Well, I think Richard might be able to get day passes or something. (Richard was the greatest, but let's be real here.)
Mr. Wilder. We couldn't ask for more, and can't thank you enough.