2016 continues to suck the tail pipe when it comes to celebrity deaths. We lost another great one today. Gene Wilder passed away at age 83. He was in two of my favorite comedies ever, both of which were made by Mel Brooks. Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.
I believe that Blazing Saddles is one of the top five (at least) most offensive movies ever, and that is just one of the many reason why I love it so much. The first time I saw it I was probably in my late 20’s, some time in the late 1990’s, I’d guess. I don’t recall the circumstances exactly, but I think it was during a Mel Brooks appreciation period where my friends and I had recently seen Young Frankenstein for the 100th time, and Spaceballs for the 10000000000th time. None of us had seen Blazing Saddles, so rather than watch something we were familiar with we rented it from one of those video rental stores that the kids today hear about when their folks talk about the good old days.
I’m pretty sure we watched it over Kelli’s. I don’t remember who was with us, but I seem to recall a pretty big turn out for that weekend’s movie night. The whole time it was playing there were three things running through my head. First, this is the most offensive movie I’ve ever seen. Second, things have really changed since the 70’s because there is no way in hell this movie could be made today (again, today being the late 90's). Third, it was getting hard to breath due to all the hysterical laughter.
All I all I think that Young Frankenstein is probably the better movie. It had a better cast (Peter Boyle, anyone?), and probably more funny scenes, and probably more quotable scenes as well. I loved every second of it, but it never pulled the rug out from under me the way Blazing Saddles did.
Despite all of that, I am almost embarrassed to say that the one Gene Wilder moment that is playing on a loop in my head today is not actually a Gene Wilder moment. There is a musical number in the Charlie and the Chocolate factory movie where he played Willy Wonka. Pure Imagination, I believe is the title of the song. The thing that is stuck in my head today is a spoof of that from Family Guy. Peter and Brian tour the Pawtucket Patriot brewery and the Gene Wilderesque, Willy Wonkaesque character sings a song called Pure Inebriation.
For some unfathomable reason, that is where my brain goes today when it wants to honor the memory of an actor who made me laugh my ass off more times than I could count.
Rest in Peace, Gene Wilder… sorry about the Family Guy thing.