Even at an early age, I possessed a rather good memory. After multiple viewings of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), I memorized his monologue in the creepy tunnel. “There’s no earthly way of knowing…” While watching this in my fourth grade class, I recited it, thinking everyone would think me cool. Instead, I am pretty sure I just creeped them out.
Gene Wilder, who passed away yesterday at the age of 83, was in many roles throughout his career, but I think is still cemented in film history as Willy Wonka. True, Johnny Depp did a good job in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), but Wilder was the first, and set the standard (he also was not a fan of the 2005 film, though he was fine with Depp as Wonka).
Wilder was known for other films as well, including a small (yet memorable part) in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). The same year, he was brought into the light with his Oscar nominated role as Leo in The Producers, which would not be the first movie he made with comedy icon Mel Brooks. It was in 1974 that they made two of the greatest comedies ever made: Young Frankenstein (“Fronkensteen”) and Blazing Saddles (“My name is Jim, but most people call me….Jim”.)
He was also known for his romance with the late great Gilda Radner (who passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989).
It was released recently that he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. When you think of it, it is only this dreadful sickness that could make us forget the talent of Gene Wilder.
His talent was sweet.
…like a Gobstopper.
A Gobstopper that, like Charlie did, is one I would gladly give “Mr. Wonka”back.