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Remembering Gene Wilder: Master of Comic Timing

A loving tribute to the great actor looks back at one of his signature acting tools.

by Beckett Mufson
01 September 2016, 1:50pm

Screencap via

The scene is etched into the minds of 90s kids—but also 80s kids, 00s kids, and likely, 10s kids, too: Willy Wonka has just exited his mysterious chocolate factory, dressed in a purple velvet suit. He limps toward the gate, which has been locked for years, supported by a cane. The cane sticks between two cobblestones, but he still hobbles forward, slowly, slowly losing his balance before... somersaulting and springing back up into a youthful pose.

One of the late Gene Wilder's most iconic scenes in one of his most beloved roles kicks off film essayist Rishi Kaneria's loving tribute to the comedy legend, who passed away on Monday at the age of 83 due to Alzheimers-related complications. The seven-minute supercut whizzes through Wilder's wildest characters, from early classics like Wonka, the Waco Kid (a.k.a. Jim) from Blazing Saddles, and the titular doctor in Young Frankenstein, to his more mature films like See No Evil, Hear No Evil, co-starring Richard Pryor, and his self-directed drama, The Woman in Red. Kaneria threads the filmography together through the lens of the comedic pause, a skill essential for the checkerboard of deadpan and hyperbolic performance Wilder brought to his projects.

"When I was a kid I had Stir Crazy memorized backwards and forwards. We've lost a great light this week," Kaneria tells The Creators Project. He also includes Edgar Wright's eulogic response to Wilder's death: "A moment of silence for the master of the comedic pause. Gene Wilder: funny doing something & funny doing nothing."

See more of Rishi Kaneria's work on Vimeo.

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