Gene Wilder was already an established actor when he accepted what would be a pivotal role in the history of Pop Culture. His work as Willy Wonka in Mel Stuart’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory forever cemented itself among the pantheon of great cinematic creations. The cult following that followed the release of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, still brews today but the Golden Globe winning actor was and is more than the cinematic face of Willy Wonka for many generations.
In my youth, I was blessed enough to have parents who weren’t afraid to allow me to see and experience great movies. The movies of a certain writer/director, Mel Brooks, were some of my favorites. One of Mel Brooks favorite actors to use in his films was my Willy Wonka: Gene Wilder. So these two worlds meshed and mingled in a way that just made sense. One of my father’s favorite movies is Blazing Saddles and I remember many times, laughing with my dad while watching the antics of the recovering alcoholic gunslinger, The Waco Kid. The movie was outlandish and it was just perfect enough to make me continue wanting to see Mel Brook’s movies.
The acting talents of Gene Wilder were evident in all of his movies but I think that his other Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein, deserved the Academy Award nomination. Whether he was starring with the comedy legend Richard Pryor, being directed by the amazing Mel Brooks or acting aside his late wife, SNL alum Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder was a cinematic genius. The world lost a legend upon his passing this week and I lost my Willy Wonka. The news reported that he died quietly in his home, while holding the hand of his 4th wife while listening to his favorite songs. A fitting ending for an amazing man.