- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2013

American comedy actor Gene Wilder celebrates his 80th birthday Tuesday. He is best known for his collaborations with writer-director Mel Brooks and actor Richard Pryor. Comedy is tough to produce, but three of Mr. Wilder’s films are in the top 13 of the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest American movies. The List this week looks at Mr. Wilder’s top 10 films.

  • 10. Haunted Honeymoon (1986) Mr. Wilder wrote and directed this film starring his wife, Gilda Radner. It was Radner’s final appearance prior to her death of ovarian cancer in 1989. The film was a box office disaster.
  • 9. See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)Mr. Wilder as a deaf man and Pryor as a blind man are an unlikely pair in this film as they team up to thwart a trio of murderous thieves. This was the second-to-last film the duo performed in together. The film bombed at the box office and was panned by the critics. It has since developed a cult following. Kevin Spacey also starred in the film.
  • 8. The Frisco Kid (1979) — In this chaotic Western comedy, Mr. Wilder is a Polish rabbi who is befriended by a bank robber (Harrison Ford) while on his journey to reach San Francisco. There isn’t much plot, but Mr. Wilder is hilarious.
  • 7. The Woman in Red (1984) Mr. Wilder stars as Teddy Pierce a middle-aged, married man who one day becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman in a red dress. Suddenly his life his headed for trouble. The women in question is supermodel Kelly LeBrock, famous for the Pantene shampoo commercial: “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
  • 6. Blazing Saddles (1974)Mel Brooks directed this satirical Western comedy. Cleavon Little plays Bart, a black lawman, who faces a hostile reception in the town of Rock Ridge. He requires the assistance of “The Waco Kid,” a gunslinger played by Mr. Wilder. The film was a box office success and is ranked No. 6 on the American Film Institute’s “100 years … 100 Laughs” list.
  • 5. Stir Crazy (1980) — Sidney Poitier directed Mr. Wilder and Pryor in this comedy about two friends sent to prison after being framed for a bank robbery. The film was huge success and the third highest-grossing film in 1980 behind the “The Empire Strikes Back” and “9 to 5”.
  • 4. The Producers (1968) — In this hilarious comedy written and directed by Mr. Brooks, Mr. Wilder plays a Broadway musical accountant who comes up with the idea that he and washed-up director Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) can make more money with a flop than a hit. They find the worst play possible, written by deranged ex-Nazi, and called “Springtime for Hitler”. This was Mr. Wilder’s breakout film and earned him the nomination for the Academy Award for best supporting actor.
  • 3. Silver Streak (1976) — In this comedy-thriller, Mr. Wilder plays book publisher George Caldwell, who finds himself embroiled in a murder involving car chases, shootouts and a runaway train from Los Angeles to Chicago. It marked the first onscreen collaboration of Mr. Wilder and Pryor, who made four films together. The chemistry between the actors was quite remarkable in this madcap adventure. Mr. Wilder was nominated for a Golden Globe. Jill Clayburgh is also excellent as Mr. Wilder’s love interest.
  • 2. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) Mr. Wilder plays Willy Wonka, an eccentric chocolate-maker, in probably the actor’s signature role. His subtle, sly humor and quirky nature makes Wonka a character hard to fathom and forget. The film was originally a box office disappointment but gradually built a following. It has since become a profit-making cult classic. Did you know that Quaker Oats bought the film rights from writer Roald Dahl’s children’s novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and spent nearly $3 million making the movie?
  • 1. Young Frankenstein (1974) — With his crazy antics, unruly hair and bright blue eyes Mr. Wilder is brilliant as the manic Frederick Frankenstein in this black and white film. Along with Mr. Brooks, Mr. Wilder was nominated for an Academy Award for adapted screenplay. The film is listed No. 13 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest American movies.

Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: ranker.com, The Stamford Advocate, Cinematical