Another Milestone: Gene Wilder Turns 80

This week has yet another big birthday: Gene Wilder turns 80 today. He has long been one of my favorite actors, combining a great sense of humor with remarkable energy. Here, for your viewing enjoyment, are my three favorite performances by him.

The Producers (1968) – Wilder became a star with his portrayal of neurotic Leo Bloom. This scene is priceless, also thanks to the comic talent of Zero Mostel.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) – This omnibus is not my favorite thing that Woody Allen has ever done, but Wilder’s scenes make up the most entertaining part of the film. Only Gene Wilder could make falling in love with a sheep believable.

Young Frankenstein (1974) – For my money, it’s Mel Brooks’ best. Some time ago I was in the theater at the Museum of the Moving Image and two men (audience members) in their forties were complaining about how terrible Young Frankenstein is, that it’s a “juvenile” film that only a 14-year-old could love. Well, if that’s the case, I’ll be an adolescent forever, because this is one movie whose comedic perfection never gets old.

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