Wilder dead at 83
I will always remember him from Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein.
Gene Wilder, Star of 'Willy Wonka' and Mel Brooks Classics, Dies at 83
"In 1963, the Milwaukee native appeared on Broadway opposite Anne Bancroft in Jerome Robbins’ Mother Courage and Her Children. The actress introduced Wilder to Brooks, her future husband, and the couple invited him to Fire Island, where he got a look at the first 30 pages of a screenplay titled Springtime for Hitler.
“Three years went by, never heard from [Brooks],” Wilder told Larry King in a 2002 interview. “I didn’t get a telegram. I didn’t get a telephone call. And I’m doing a play called Love on Broadway, matinee, taking off my makeup.
“Knock-knock on the door, I open the door. There’s Mel. He said, ‘You don’t think I forgot, do you? We’re going to do Springtime for Hitler. But I can’t just cast you. You’ve got to meet [star] Zero [Mostel] first, tomorrow at 10 o’clock.’
“[The next day] the door opens. There’s Mel. He says come on in. ‘Z, this is Gene. Gene, this is Z. And I put out my hand tentatively. And Zero grabbed my hand, pulls me to him and kisses me on the lips. All my nervousness went away. And then we did the reading and I got the part. And everything was fine.”
Springtime for Hitler, of course, would become The Producers (1968), written and directed by Brooks. For his portrayal of stressed-out accountant Leopold Bloom in his first major movie role, Wilder earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
Brooks cast Gig Young for the part of the washed-up gunfighter The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles (1974), but the actor, who was an alcoholic, got sick playing his first scene and had to be taken away by ambulance.
“I called Gene and said, “What do I do?” Brooks recalled in a 2014 interview with Parade magazine. “Gene said, “Just get a horse for me to try out and a costume that fits and I’ll do it.” And he flew out and he did it. Saved my life.”
While working on Blazing Saddles, Wilder fiddled with an outline he had written for Young Frankenstein and asked Brooks to do it with him. Wilder played Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who creates a monster just like his grandfather did, and he and Brooks shared a screenplay Oscar nom for the 1974 classic, released in theaters just 10 months after Blazing Saddles.
(It was Wilder’s idea to have Frankenstein and his monster (Peter Boyle) do the song-and-dance number, “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”)
Said Brooks in a statement: "Gene Wilder, one of the truly great talents of our time, is gone. He blessed every film we did together with his special magic. And he blessed my life with his friendship. He will be so missed.'"
Two trailers to wet your whistle for this weekends movie viewing!