Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Great Gene Wilder Passes Away at 83, Star of “Willy Wonka” and Classic Mel Brooks Films


Gene Wilder has passed away at age 83. I only have one really good Gene Wilder story, and that was this: he came to a preview of the Broadway musical of “Young Frankenstein.” Minutes before the curtain went up, members of the audience noticed he was in the house and there was a buzz through the first act. As soon as the first act curtain went down, all of a sudden, a wave of applause erupted and there was a standing ovation. Wilder stood and was overcome. It was a beautiful moment. What I also remember is people yelling “Bravo” and “Thank you” to him.

I know there are “Willy Wonka” fans and “Silver Streak” fans. But it’s the Mel Books movies with Wilder that I cherish the most. And the thought that he loved Gilda Radner, whose death was cruel. Still he supported Gilda’s Clubs, which meant a huge difference to breast cancer patients.

Rest in peace, Gene.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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