This year has been a bad one for pop culture. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Abe Vigoda, Harper Lee, Prince, Gary Shandling, Merle Haggard, Elie Wiesel, Kenny Baker, and now, Gene Wilder have all left us this year. Gene Wilder, his impact on our lives, his loves, and some of his best quotes are the topic of this week’s Beer & Bros.
Gene Wilder, born Jerome Silberman, died on August 29th, 2016 at the age of 83. He was most notably known for his role as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.” There were several other movies of note throughout his career. Among them Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers – collaborations with Mel Brooks, and Silver Streak, Stir Crazy, Another You, and See No Evil, Hear No Evil – which he starred in opposite Richard Pryor. The two were the first interracial comedy duo on screen.
Wilder married four times. The first two ending in divorce, the third (his marriage to Gilda Radner) ended when she lost her battle with ovarian cancer, and the fourth (which lasted more than 25 years) ended with his death. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013, however he kept knowledge of this private. According to his nephew, Wilder didn’t want to sadden his younger fans – he didn’t want anyone to not smile because of him.
In his later years, Gene Wilder turned to writing, painting, and the occasional television cameo. He didn’t leave acting because he’d lost a taste for it, rather he’d lost a taste for the turn that film (writing in particular) had taken. There was too much shooting, killing, and cursing for his taste.
A line from the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory sums up Wilder’s life quite nicely: “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” Lyle and I will remember Gene Wilder for all the times he made us laugh and smile.