Gene Wilder’s version of “Willy Wonka” is a thing of legend. He made us laugh. He freaked us out (i.e. some of us were scarred for life after that infamous boat ride). He made us feel. Good. If a musical chocolate man wasn’t your thing. Perhaps a Young Frankenstein was more your speed. Maybe it was an aging gunslinger fighting the injustice of racism and greed across the lands. A washed up writer road tripping to California to make it big(ger). A Broadway producer hell-bent on making the worst performance of all time. Or maybe just a simple deaf guy on an adventure with his old blind pal, the late, great Richard Pryor. Whatever your flavor, Wilder seemed to be able to always deliver.
Inspiration, “…my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.”
Sadly, the time has come for Gene to retire to that great big candy store in the sky. Free from all the Wangdoodles, and Hornswogglers, and Snozzwangers, and rotten, Vermicious Knids. Wilder passed away today at the age of 83 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.” said his nephew in a press release. Well for me, he should have no fear. There’s plenty of Wilder still on my plate that I haven’t gotten around to yet. And I can still watch Willy Wonka 1000 more times and laugh just as hard as I did the first 1000 times I watched it.
So while there is still more to see, I’m saddened by this passing and the world will certainly miss his entertaining, big-hearted hysterics. Luckily, his legacy will live on and we really have nothing to frown about. You can rest in peace sir, knowing that you made a lot of children and adults very happy very many many years. And will continue to do so.