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 Bud Yorkin‘s Start The Revolution Without Me
Gene, having just starred in his first Oscar nominated performance in The Producers, follows it up with a dual role in which he plays both a cowardly peasant, and an arrogant and power-hungry version of one half of the famed literary twins, the Corsican Brothers. It’s in this latter role where most of the laughs are manufactured, and where it is evident that he has the insane narcissist routine down pat.
As for the movie itself, as a whole it was a bit of a letdown. Just like in The Producers, this too suffers from a sort of comedic fatigue throughout most of the second half of the picture. I blame this on the script, as the actors can only do so much with what they’re given. Gene was still not at the point in his career where he felt comfortable with on-the-fly improvising, something he would start to do in later films once he began working with Richard Pryor.
The script’s repeated sight gags (blind watchman, ridiculous attire, etc.), numerous gaping plot holes, and overall ugly aesthetics (camera zooms, silly music, etc.), made this movie a hard one to sit through. I’m just thankful Gene’s screen time was as bountiful as it was, or else I’m not sure I would have made it through to the closing credits.
Interesting side note: Here’s what Gene had to say on the commentary track about acting in front of a topless actress, “It’s nice to act to something real, like a naked breast. You don’t really have to act that much, just milk the situation.” And there it is. Yet another reason as to why Gene Wilder will always be considered one of my favorite comedic actors of all time.
Past Wild over Wilder entries:
Part 2: The Producers
Part 1: Bonnie and Clyde