Gene Wilder 1933-2016

‘Put the candle back . . .’

Gene Wilder was funny. Crazy-funny. Insane-funny. Fill-your-mouth-up-with-water, then spit-it-on-the-floor, funny.

Not many people are. We’ll miss him …

Wilder died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83. According to Variety, he’d been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

“My quiet exterior used to be a mask for hysteria,” he once told Time magazine. “After seven years of analysis, it just became a habit.”

I first remember Wilder in “The Producers” — the one without Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. His overly stimulated, frenetic “wet and hysterical” scene in that Mel Brooks comedy is both sufficiently wet and convulsively hysterical — in a way only Gene could deliver.

Many of the younger generation then — much older now — welcomed Wilder as the wacky Wonka in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971). That funny flick has too many memorable moments to select just one, but if I were I to do so, I’d pick the tedious (though ultimately fulfilling) build-up-to-his-entertaining-entrance scene.

Wilder filled the bill as a zany character in many comedies: “Blazing Saddles,” “Stir Crazy,” “Silver Streak,” “The Frisco Kid,” and “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.”

All-in-all, fine films.

My favorite Wilder performance?

Easy …

Young Frankenstein

The 1974 movie, directed by funnyman Mel Brooks, was well-written, well-cast and well-performed, with Marty Feldman, playing Igor; Teri Garr, as Inga; Cloris Leachman, Frau Blücher; Peter Boyle, the monster; and, of course, Wilder portraying the frizzy-haired, intense, brilliant-but-madcap Dr. Frederick Frankenstein.

Too many good quotes in that movie to list — but for me, there’s one that stands out like Mount Everest:

“Put the candle back.”

Thanks, Gene, for the memories. Thanks for the laughs — I’ll put the candle back on my way out.

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