|Original caricature by Jeff York of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka (copyright 2011)|
Those are the lyrics from Gene Wilder’s big number “Pure Imagination” in the 1971 movie WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. He sang it softly, with bits of melancholy sprinkled around the edges, like all those chocolate daffodils surrounding him in the scene. It became a classic song almost immediately. (Thank you, Mr. Wilder, as well as the brilliant composing team of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.) And today, on the date of Wilder’s death, that song, and those words, becomes a fitting tribute to him in any and all obituaries.
Gene Wilder died today at 83, suffering a long time from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a horrible and cruel disease, and such an ironic way to go for a man whose intensity of manic comedy and heart-on-its-sleeve emotion practically vibrated off the big screen. He was as unique as any comedian’s ever placed up there. Wilder was also a savvy writer of comedy and prose, a gifted director, a humanitarian, and so much more.
But make no mistake, Wilder’s vivid life will be how we remember him. There is so much I could write here to pay tribute, but I’ve already done it about him, so I shall simply share that with you here, my friends and followers.
At that time in 2011, in the infancy of this movie blog, I was choosing my favorite male and female performances on film, and Wilder was my pick for the best comedic performance ever. His turn as the eccentric Willy Wonka in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is one I think about almost daily. Suffice it to say, it made quite an impression on me. Here’s what I said then in 2011: http://bit.ly/2bxewZV
Gene Wilder was a giant. And his loss today is ginormous.