Monday, August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder z"l

My FB feed is filling up with tributes to Gene Wilder, whose death at the age of 83 has just been announced. Whether you loved him as the original Willy Wonka, or at the centre of a film by Mel Brooks; as the first and best Leo in "The Producers", or running amok with Richard Pryor, for so many of my generation this news is sad.

I am particularly fond of "The Frisco Kid", and am surprised how few people know of this film (also featuring Harrison Ford when I was most attracted to his charms, i.e., about a year before "The Empire Strikes Back" (see especially 2:10) ). Wilder plays a Polish rabbi travelling through the Wild Wild West. Here's my favourite scene:

My friend & classmate Geoff Dennis highlighted this clip about in what kind of God the rabbi character believes :-)

Here are some other links to the first responses to Wilder's death (and later obits also):

BBC online
The Forward
The Guardian
Huffington Post
The Independent
Daily Mirror
Mel Brooks mourning Gene Wilder with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight show
The New York Times (if you don't have a subscription, I've pasted some bio info below)
People magazine
Tablet Magazine (by Abigail Pogrebin)
The Telegraph reaction
The Telegraph obituary
The Times obituary
more from The Times

Here's a most popular clip of Wilder with Peter Boyle in "Young Frankenstein", singing and dancing to Irving Berlin's "Putting on the Ritz".

Something about his early years from the NY Times:

"Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee on June 11, 1933. His father, William, a manufacturer and salesman of novelty items, was an immigrant from Russia. His mother, the former Jeanne Baer, suffered from rheumatic heart disease and a temperament that sometimes led her to punish him angrily and then smother him with regretful kisses.

Young Jerry spent one semester at the Black-Foxe Military Institute in Hollywood. His mother saw it as a great opportunity; in reality, it was a catch basin for boys from broken families, where he was regularly beaten up for being Jewish.

Safely back home after that misadventure, he played minor roles in community theater production s and then followed his older sister, Corinne, into the theater program at the University of Iowa. After Iowa, he studied Shakespeare at the Bristol Old Vic Theater School in England, where he was the first freshman to win the school fencing championship.

He next enrolled part time at the HB Studio in New York, while also serving a two-year Army hitch as an aide in the psychiatric unit of the Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania - an assignment he requested because, he said, "I imagined the things I would see there might relate more to acting than any of the other choices." He added, "I wasn't wrong."

After his discharge, he won a coveted spot at the Actors Studio, and it was then that he adopted the name Gene Wilder:  Gene for Eugene Gant, the protagonist of Thomas Wolfe's "Look Homeward, Angel," and Wilder for the playwright Thornton Wilder."

Wilder lived a long life, and has left a body of work that will continue to make us laugh and cry (but mostly laugh). I suspect that a lot of this initial mourning is for our own youth, and the memories that this death evokes. Sending condolences to his family and friends, and may his memory be for a blessing.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Best of the Bee Pics So Far

Am considering which bee pics to put into a small exhibit. Have been dithering about this for months.  No more! Here are Flora & Fauna (mostly) of Finchley.