Recently a barista friend of mine and I were discussing the wonderfulness that is Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. It was during this conversation that I uttered the words, “Gene Wilder is the best”. I mean, could you imagine a cinematic universe void of Gene Wilder? It’s not a pretty thought, right? With the tune to “If you want to view paradise” firmly stuck in my head, the conversation than shifted to how fantastic the Wild man was in all of his co-staring roles next to the great Richard Pryor, as well as his work with Mel Brooks. At some point in the conversation I realized that there were still many of this man’s filmography that I still haven’t seen and that perhaps my praise of him as a comedic great might be a little premature.
This feature serves one purpose; to honor one of my favorite actors of all time and to (re)acquaint myself with his entire body of work. Some films I may only have a paragraph or two worth of comments to make in discussing his performance, and other films I may have a short novel worth of observational musings.
Hit the jump to see my take on Gene Wilder in Arthur Penn‘s Bonnie & Clyde
There isn’t too much one could say regarding Wilder’s performance in this excellent film, and being that he had such a short role I think I’ll keep my musings on the man brief.
Gene’s first major film role is small, yet memorable. He plays an undertaker whose car gets stolen by Bonnie & Clyde and company, and soon thereafter finds himself kidnapped by them.
In the short screen time provided, Gene manages to find room to showcase his distinct voice and soon-to-be trademark frustrated pitch changing half-yell, even while being slightly out-acted by another Gene (Hackman). For those of you who have never seen this film before, all you have to do is take one look at Wilder’s expression (pictured at the top of the post) to know what I mean. With his fists clenched and neck stretched it’s hard not to hear his comically wavering frustrated pitch all but scream itself through that picture, is it not?