Gene Wilder, one of the greatest comedic actors of the 20th century, has died at the age of 83, a wonderfully advanced age.
To grow up loving movies in the 70s and 80s is to grow up loving Gene Wilder. A constant presence, Wilder was in movies that I watched again and again and again growing up. His Mel Brooks collaborations were classics. His Richard Pryor buddy movies were foundational for me. The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silver Streak, The Frisco Kid, Stir Crazy are all classics, and many of his lesser known films, like Start the Revolution Without Me and Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin in the Bronx are worth revisits and reappraisals.
What made Wilder so special was the sense of decency inside every one of his characters. The drunk Waco Kid was kind, even tortured Dr. Frankenshteen (spelled phonetically) was loving on the inside. But that kindness made his frazzled qualities all the more fun - his characters, when pushed to the edge, were hilarious and nobody did a freak out like Wilder (hell, Leo Bloom redefined the freak out with his blue blanket). There was a constant sensitive intelligence that Wilder had running under the surface at all times.
I don't believe in the afterlife, but I'm tempted to change my tune just this once so I can imagine Gene reunited with Gilda Radner, the love of his life, on the other side.