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Monday, August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder, RIP

Very sad to hear that comic genius Gene Wilder passed away. I have no idea how many times I have seen "The Producers," "Blazing Saddles," and "Young Frankenstein," all of which he made with another comic genius, Mel Brooks. Truly the Golden Age of Comedy.

What made Wilder and Brooks into classic comedians was their willingness to go where no comic had ever gone before, but without being disgusting or degrading; I think they were much funnier than Lenny Bruce or any of the foul-mouthed "comics" who now hold forth.  They also did not hesitate to skewer sacred cows. Brooks has recently said that he could not make his signature comedies in today's politically correct Hollywood. They made fun of racism and racist stereotypes, of pompous politicians, and even turned Hitler's Germany into a joke. Who can think of Hitler without the song "Springtime for Hitler" bouncing around in his head? Watching Pryor teach Wilder how to act "black" is a masterpiece of comedy which could not be done today. Any attempt to replicate the whole send-up of racial prejudice we see in "Blazing Saddles" would have the precious snowflakes on our campuses and media board-rooms running for cover and tweeting outrage. I remember watching "Blazing Saddles" in a rural theater in Israel. The crowd went wild with laughter when gunslinger Wilder shows his shaking hand--I won't even try to describe the howls when Mel Brooks as a Native American chief speaks to a black settler family in Yiddish . . . I thought the building was under attack.

Every time I watch as the Wilder character in "Producers" realizes how crazy their idea is to rip off Broadway, and he goes totally insane, I can't stop laughing. He gives voice to the guy trapped in something he doesn't quite understand but can't quite escape.

Thanks, Mr. Wilder. You made my life a little better.

18 comments:

  1. I saw Blazing Saddles in Dublin. In the scene where the workers are negotiating with the townsfolk about settling there when everything is over, and the towns folk agree to take the "n*****s and the chinks, but refuse to take the Irish, it didn't get many laughs.

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    Replies
    1. The fact that you had to aksteriks out the N word, but left in the C word, tells us all we need to about how we can't make films like that any more.

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    2. We Irish are made of tough stuff.

      There is a dude named Kepa or Kepfah or something who posts here, what will be along shortly to tell us once again about his sterling US foreign service career, his Chinese wife and his distaste for Irishmen.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous: Actually, I describe my Foreign Service career as short and inglorious, and it was my parents, not myself, who were prejudiced against the Irish.

      You are now allowed to say things against those of us who value the Aramaic language.

      Delete
  2. I wonder how many producers these days sport "cardboard belts?" If only Mel Brooks could skewer our current crop of prancing phonies? But, alas, without Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, it might not be the same ...

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  3. Who let that horse in here?
    https://pjmedia.com/spengler/2016/08/29/gene-wilders-best-joke/
    James the Lesser

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  4. We saw Blazing Saddles early 1975 in Goroka in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. There were quite a few members of US Missionary organisations there and some attended the screening in the Goroka Club. Some walked out, some stayed with us irreverent Aussies and laughed all night. They became good friends.

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  5. "the guy trapped in something he doesn't quite understand but can't quite escape."

    That would be today's presidential campaign, right?

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  6. He starred in some of the funniest films ever made. At least now he and Gilda can be together.

    RIP Mr. Wilder.

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  7. I'll always remember Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. He nailed that role. I don't don't even know why Hollywood felt they needed to remake it.

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    Replies
    1. That movie has one of the greatest lines in movie history, " No,no, I won't hold you personally responsible ".

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    2. I know why....they cannot come up with anything original, being brain-dead and drugged in some fashion. So they hope to ride the coattails of the original to $$$$.

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  8. The pairing of Gene Wilder with Zero Mostel was genius. In 70 years of watching movies The Producers was the funniest I've ever seen. I laughed so hard I hurt for days. Many of the lines from it still stick in my brain.

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  9. Young Frankenstein is, to me, as close to a perfect film as Hollywood has ever made. Not that it's the greatest film ever; but YF has basically no flaws, no "if only"s. I could watch it once a week for the rest of my life and still laugh at the jokes. Blucher! Watching it tonight with the kids, actually.

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    Replies
    1. Abbie Normal - that's all that needs to be said. :)

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  10. Or, in the 'Cisco Kid, when Wilder's lost Polish rabbi mistakes an Amish settlement for fellow Jews. Certainly the Mostel and Wilder _Producers_ was head and shoulders above the later remake.

    To Anonymous: I have nothing against the Irish.

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  11. One of my faves was "Start the Revolution Without Me" where Wilder and Donald Sutherland played mismatched Twins in France in 1789. He was also paired with Mostel in the film version of Ionescu's "Rhinosaurus". "What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?"

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