Everyone reacts to death in their own way. Some want time to reflect with quiet, dignity and grace. Some look at the bright side and think, "Could be worse. Could be raining." But for me, it prompts me to write, so much so sometimes that it becomes an Oy blog.
So here we are again with another reason for me to write my thoughts into words that make sentences that make paragraphs that make a new Oy post. While I can't say I'm pleased to have to write this, I am pleased, however, to talk about what I remember when I think of Gene Wilder and what he gave me that fills me with pleasure.
So, while I am one to join the many in being sad for the passing of Brother Gene Wilder (we were both in AEPi at Iowa, not at the same time, but close) I remember him best not for Willy Wonka, not Blazing Saddles and not even for Young Frankenstein. I am talking, of course, of the greatest Gene Wilder movie you (probably) have never seen, Start The Revolution Without Me.
What is Start The Revolution Without Me? Well, take one part Clue, one part Monty Python and Part One of History of the World (see what I did there?) and you have three great things that -- if you like them -- will most certainly mean you'll like this fourth thing: Gene Wilder (and Donald Sutherland) in Start the Revolution Without Me.
This movie came out in the late '60s, in the year 1970. You may not remember this movie because you weren't born yet -- like me. But then you may remember this movie because you originally had a VHS version of it that you copied off a TV broadcast -- like me. But if you're not like me, then allow me to so happily educate.
Start the Revolution Without Me is a farcical frolic that takes place on the eve of the French Revolution, allowing us to ride along on a rambunctiously ridiculous romp about two mismatched sets of identical twins -- one aristocrat (Wilder and Sutherland), one peasant (Sutherland and Wilder) -- that mistakenly exchange identities, thereby influencing, or perhaps causing, the French Revolution. Maybe watch a trailer to understand what you're getting into.
You didn't watch that, did you? Well, then let me explain what sticks with me from this movie more than anything. Wilder was at the apex of his hilarity when he was yelling, or screaming, or simply being unabashedly eccentric with high volume. This movie, to me, is Wilder at arguably his absolute best, especially when he showcases his tenacity to yell in the most over the top and eccentric ways one can imagine.
He does amazing things in those moments, and in Start the Revolution Without Me, oh, it was something special. Whether he is yelling about the dead falcon he keeps perched on his arm, questions aggressively if someone else is suggesting they can get more excited than him, or belts out how he will tell you his name because you asked him what his name is, Gene Wilder yells, screams, wails and hollers on a level of such pure voraciousness in this film that any rival would best be advised to just run away.
And even though you (probably) haven't seen the film (yet) you know quite well how good his yelling can be. Perhaps the end of the boat ride on the Chocolate River in Will Wonka is more prevalent in your memory -- "You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!" -- or what is arguably the quintessential poster for Young Frankenstein, an image of Brother Wilder in a perpetual state of hyperbolic yelling.
In Start the Revolution Without Me, Wilder pushes air out of his lungs with such beautifully abundant decibels in a multitude of scenes on a level that he, and truthfully anyone, was unable to achieve in any other movie. This is what I remember best about Brother Wilder. And this movie in particular, one that I saw not a single other person talk about on social media when he passed and a movie that I've rarely if ever known anyone else to have heard of, has always held a special place in my movie rolodex. It's one I feel like everyone should know, but no one does.
This makes me feel like I received something special from Gene Wilder, something that I have exclusive rights to. But despite that feeling of exclusivity, I try hard as I might to spread the word about this magnificent movie so that those wonderful feelings I get can be shared with you so we can remember Gene Wilder with a movie you (probably) don't remember, together.