Friday, September 02, 2016


The doctor assures his hunchback assistant, "I will not be angry." We know this isn't true, and not just because the assistant has carelessly switched the brain of renowned scientist Hans Delbruck for that of "Abby Someone." Abby Normal. We have already seen the doctor blow his top when a student carelessly mentioned the doctor's grandfather's work, to which the doctor asserts that "My grandfather's work was doo-doo!" He punctuates his momentary lack of composure by stabbing a scalpel into his thigh.
And just like that, the storm is past. Such is the frothing genius of Gene Wilder, who died this week at the age of eighty-three. It has been a long time since Mister Wilder has produced anything in the neighborhood of the hilarity I was afforded by his performance as Doctor Frederick Frankenstein. Frooderick Fronkensteen. And so on. Gene Wilder had the great good fortune to show up in a world that allowed him to work his magic with Mel Brooks, and the two of them combined to create a pair of the funniest movies of all time. Don't believe me? Ask Rolling Stone. I'll wait.
"Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" should provide the comedic cornerstone for any young person's life, and they certainly did for me. Toss "The Producers" on the top of that impressive foundation and you have a pyramid of comedy that has withstood the test of nearly half a century of usurpers and wannabes. Just to the left of that we find "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," where the mad genius was alternately treating and tormenting children as they stepped into a world of pure imagination. In the end, as young Charlie and his Uncle Joe attempt to understand how they could possibly have missed out on the big prize giveaway, Gene Wilder once again displayed his volcanic capacity to rise to fever pitch in just a few short breaths and then turn just as quickly to a moment of compassion. "I said good day!"
Gene also gets great huge points for falling in love with Gilda Radner and keeping her memory alive through Gilda's Club, a support group for people living with cancer. And he was in Silver Streak. And Stir Crazy. There were some others, but I was lucky enough to own the soundtrack album from Young Frankenstein, which included great long bits of dialogue from the film, before the days of on demand video and YouTube. I memorized it, and it enhanced or corrupted my DNA forever. I didn't learn "Puttin' On The Ritz" from Fred Astaire or Taco. I learned it from Gene Wilder.
Gene stomped on the Terra. He will be missed. Aloha. Give Gilda a hug for me.

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