Gene Wilder reminds me of that time Donkey from the movie Shrek said “everybody loves parfait”, well everybody loved Gene Wilder. I can’t recall one time anyone ever said anything negative about Gene Wilder as a person. So it’s hard to imagine how a wild man like Richard hooked up with a humble and gentle man like Wilder, but we should be glad it happened.
Most people don’t know that the now classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Gene’s most famous role), was a box office bomb when it was originally released. Gene would team up with Mel Brooks for a few hit movies like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. But some people will always remember Gene as half of one of Hollywood’s greatest duos.
Before Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, there was Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor one of the first male comedy Black and White duos to team up on the big screen. There were some others before them such as Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis (The Defiant Ones, 1958), but as far as comedy goes, they did it first and probably the best.
The two appeared in 4 films together, Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991). Another You was the last movie that either Wilder or Pryor would appear in. On screen the two often played an uptight or clueless White guy and street wise hip Black guy. The chemistry worked well on screen because that’s how they appeared in real life. On screen with Pryor, Gene was able to let loose and act a fool. They may not have been the best of friends off screen, but in Hollywood, if you can make four movies with the same person, you have to be pretty dammed fond and respectful of each other.
Richard Pryor passed away in 2005. Gene Wilder passed away yesterday August 29, 2016. The world may have gotten a little sadder, and the laughter probably slowed down, but I’d like to think that sometime after Gene Wilder gets settled in heaven, he and Pryor will meet up again for the fifth time, only time it will be forever.