Gene Wilder is one of the few actors everyone can agree is hilarious and irreplaceable. What’s his best moment?
Gene Wilder is not just an extraordinary comic actor (and a fun dramatic one too, if you ever saw A&E’s whodunit Murder in a Small Town); he’s a singular presence who is an indelible part of our childhoods thanks to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and a huge part of our appreciation of great comedy, thanks to The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein. His performances are both dry and heartfelt, and you can’t say that much about anyone else.
Today’s his 80th birthday, and I dare you to handle it. What’s your favorite Gene Wilder moment?
I could go into The Woman in Red/ The Cheap Detective territory to impress you (and find a way to insert another passionate monologue about Gilda Radner or Madeline Kahn too), but I’ll just choose an expected moment from Willy Wonka. Gotta love when Wilder quotes that towering gay genius Oscar Wilde while watching Augustus Gloop slip into the chocolate river’s elaborate pipe system. Watching the chubby boy disappear, Wilder deadpans, “The suspense is terrible. I hope it’ll last.” That’s one of Gwendolen’s lines in The Importance of Being Earnest, and it perfectly captures Wonka’s (and Wilder’s) gift for wry comic bemusement. Gobstoppingly funny, as always.
Your turn. What’s Wilder’s best moment?