Today, at the age of 83, the world lost one of the most iconic actors of his time – Gene Wilder. Wilder is most well-known for his role as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, but was also in The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein where he played Dr. Frankenstein.
Wilder, who was born as Jerome Silberman, had his first major role in The Producers where he played Leopold Bloom. Directed by Mel Brooks the film won an Oscar for Best Writing, Story, and Screenplay and was a breakout role for Wilder who was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Wilder’s next big role was (in my opinion) one of his best. Being cast as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory made Gene Wilder a household name. I remember watching Willy Wonka as a child and just being in awe of the colors and characters and the imagination. At the time the movie garnered a lot of criticism from parents because of the harsh endings that happened to some of the characters. However, with the Oscar nominations it gained enough attention to become popular long after it’s release.
Because of his relationship with Mel Brooks, Wilder was then cast in Blazing Saddles which is also considered somewhat of a cult classic. A satire on the Western genre, the movie was nominated for three different Oscars but did not win any.
Wilder’s next major role was in Young Frankenstein where he played Dr. Frankenstein. Also directed by Mel Brooks, the
movie was a huge success and was also nominated for an Oscar but lost to The Godfather II. The movie was shot in black and white to keep to the old horror movie style and most of the props were from the 1930s Frankenstein film. According to AFI’s 100 Funniest American Movies of All Time, Young Frankenstein is listed as number 13.
And who could forget his partnership with Richard Pryor? Together they made four movies – Another You, See No Evil Hear No Evil, Stir Crazy, and Silver Streak. According to the January 2006 edition of Jet Magazine, Wilder and Pryor are considered Hollywood’s first successful interracial comedy duo.
Wilder was 83 and passed away in his home in Connecticut from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. RIP Gene Wilder – the dreamer of dreams.