As you’ve likely heard by now, actor Gene Wilder has died at age 83 from complications from Alzheimer's disease. The Internet is aflood with obituaries highlighting the career of this sly comic genius. Which is as it should be.
“With his unkempt hair and big, buggy eyes, Wilder was a master at playing panicked characters caught up in schemes that only a madman such as [Mel] Brooks could devise,” Sandy Cohen wrote for the Associated Press. “But he also knew how to keep it cool as the boozy gunslinger in Blazing Saddles or the charming candy man in the children's favorite Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
If you were alive during the 1970s, you couldn’t miss Wilder, who spent his later years promoting cancer research in honor of his late wife Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer.
Here’s a look back at seven of his most iconic roles.
1. 1967: Bonnie and Clyde
Role: Eugene Grizzard
Why it’s memorable: In his first feature film, Wilder made his mark as a frightened young man taken hostage by the outlaws.
Great line: “I'm an undertaker.”
2. 1967: The Producers
Role: Leo Bloom
Why it’s memorable: Wilder’s portrayal of the frantic accountant was his first collaboration with director Mel Brooks.
Great line: “I'm in pain and I'm wet and I'm still hysterical!”
3. 1971: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Role: Willy Wonka
Why it’s memorable: Playing an off-kilter candy purveyor, Wilder made this Roald Dahl book adaptation a beloved kid’s classic.
Great line: “The suspense is terrible. ... I hope it'll last.”
4. 1972: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask
Role: Dr. Ross
Why it’s memorable: He's in love with a sheep. Woody Allen directs.
Great line: “This is Mrs. Bencours, one of my patients. She thinks she's a sheep.”
5. 1974: Blazing Saddles
Why it’s memorable: Wilder re-teamed with Mel Brooks, playing a drunken gunslinger, in this spoof satirizing the racism of classic westerns.
Great line: “Oh no, don't do that, don't do that. If you shoot him, you'll just make him mad.”
6. 1974: Young Frankenstein
Role: Dr. Frankenstein
Why it’s memorable: Wilder received his second Oscar nomination for co-writing this script about the great-grandson of Frankenstein, which is chock-full of laughs, with Mel Brooks.
Great line: “No, it's pronounced "Fronkensteen."
7. 1980: Stir Crazy
Role: Skip Donahue
Why it’s memorable: Wilder co-starred with Richard Pryor in this buddy comedy about two East Coast guys who find themselves in a maximum security prison out west.
Great line: “This filthy, roach-ridden reality is inspiring. ... What did that second policeman say to you when he grabbed you by the throat?”