I know Gene Wilder died recently but didn’t say anything because I was so distracted by my mom’s recent illness plus taking part in two simultaneous art shows, finishing off this summer’s series of Throwback Thursday posts dedicated to the 1970’s Howard the Duck comic books, and writing about the renewed interest in one of my older blog posts that was dedicated to this NSFW mixed media piece I did about Anthony Weiner because, once again, he was caught sending photos of his private parts to women other than his wife.

But I still feel the need to say something because his movies were a big part of my childhood and adolescence. I’m old enough to remember my mother taking me to see Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which I still enjoy watching after all these years. To me, Gene Wilder remains the definitive Willie Wonka. (I saw that Tim Burton directed remake but that one left me cold. Johnny Depp played a very creepy Willie Wonka that I would not want to be around, let alone allowing any young child to meet him.) One of my favorite songs from that movie is Gene Wilder singing “Pure Imagination.”

In addition there were other movies that Wilder made that I still fondly remember, such as the hilarious Young Frankenstein, which includes this memorable version of “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

I’ll admit that blackface performances are problematic and they are frequently considered racist. The only time I ever found blackface that actually worked was when Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were in the film Silver Streak. Basically Gene Wilder’s character had to get onboard a train while evading cops and Richard Pryor’s character came up with the idea of disgusting him as a black person. Despite Wilder’s reluctance, Pryor gives this hilarious lesson on how to pass as black. The scene gets more hilarious as Wilder gets more and more into trying to imitate an African American man.

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