Everyone has that go-to movie that caused childhood emotional trauma. While the reigning champ is probably Bambi, for me it was the Gene Wilder favorite Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory—specifically, the terrifying tunnel sequence. My 5-year-old brain had no concept of drug trips or any other way to explain the candy-coated horrors of that little trip down the river. Add in the potential of turning into a blueberry or getting sucked up into a tube of chocolate, and let’s just say it was a while before my parents let me watch a movie by myself again.
It’s funny how the same person can mean a bunch of different things to you, though. In college I wildly appreciated dorm-floor viewings of Young Frankenstein, having reached a point where I was able to fully appreciate the comedic “Gene-ious” therein.
In these days when every celebrity death makes the rounds on social media, sometimes it feels as though everyone is trying to prove their devotion to the deceased. “I am the greatest Prince/Garry Marshall/David Bowie fan who ever lived!” While it’s great to hear stories of the way famous artists have impacted the my friends (particularly since many of them work in entertainment), I sometimes feel as though I’ve missed the boat if I haven’t already had a life-altering experience with the dead celebrity du jour. But then I have to remember that this isn’t really about me.
And that’s the silver lining to these sad things, isn’t it? These famed artists left their marks in such a way that we all have a chance to get to know them more even after their passing. While I’ll freely admit that I’ve never actually seen The Producers, the film that really put Gene Wilder on the map, there’s no time like the present to give it a whirl. I can’t wait to see yet another facet of this multi-talented man who gave so many people the gift of laughter. He started doing it in the midcentury, and he’ll keep doing it until…who knows? Perhaps forever.
If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.