MJFF – Remembering Gene Wilder
Remembering Gene Wilder
He was born Jerome Silberman to an assimilated Milwaukee Jewish family, and his childhood buddies called him Jerry — but the world would come to know Gene Wilder as an endearing comic genius through an extraordinary string of film roles that seem to grow deeper, funnier and more humane with time: from the timid Leo Bloom in Mel Brooks’ The Producers to the strange and magical title role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, from his inspired on-screen partnership with Richard Pryor in movies like Silver Streak to the comedy classics of Blazing Saddles, The Frisco Kid and Young Frankenstein.
Now, in Ron Frank’s (When Comedy Went to School) affectionate and touching biographical documentary, the full measure of Wilder’s gifts is on display, not only as a comedic actor but as a writer, director and a mensch. Told in part through Wilder’s own voice (luckily he recorded the audiobook of his memoir, which serves as narration), Remembering Gene Wilder is a treat to watch with its generous helpings of film clips from across Wilder’s career and poignant reminiscences by Mel Brooks, Carol Kane, Alan Alda, and Karen Wilder. Yes, there are the ever-fresh line readings (“Put…the candle…back”) and his manic physical antics (his pre-verbal meltdown when Zero Mostel’s Bialystok separates Bloom from his little blue blanket) — but there are also uproarious outtakes from the set of Young Frankenstein and poignant home movies from his marriage to Gilda Radner. Get ready to binge-watch Wilder’s whole career — you’ll want to after seeing this tender and eye-opening tribute.
The special premiere event will feature director Ron Frank and writer Glenn Kirschbaum in attendance to introduce the film and participate in a Q&A afterward.