Turner Classic Movies pays tribute to Gene Wilder on Thursday, September 29 with the following festival of films and specials, including the TCM Original production Role Model: Gene Wilder (2008) featuring an intimate conversation with Alec Baldwin.
8:00 PM Role Model: Gene Wilder (2008)
9:15 PM Young Frankenstein (1974)
11:15 PM Role Model: Gene Wilder (2008)
12:30 AM Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)
2:15 AM The Frisco Kid (1979)
4:30 AM Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Comedic actor Gene Wilder caught his first big break playing a small roll in the off-Broadway production of Arnold Wesker's "Roots" and followed quickly with his Broadway debut as the comic valet in "The Complaisant Lover" (both 1961), for which he won the Clement Derwent Award. His other Broadway credits included "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1963, with Kirk Douglas), "The White House" (1964, with Helen Hayes), and "Luv" (1966), but it was a 1963 Broadway production of "Mother Courage and Her Children" that altered the course of his life forever. In its cast was Anne Bancroft, who was dating Mel Brooks at the time, and the relationship established between the two men eventually led to Wilder's becoming part of Brooks' "stock company." His Actor's Studio connection may have helped him land his first feature, Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), in which he drew much favorable attention in a small but memorable role as a frightened young undertaker abducted by the legendary duo.
Wilder's performance as the endearingly frantic Leo Bloom in "The Producers" (1967) kicked off his celebrated collaboration with Brooks and garnered him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. His career gained momentum as he played a swashbuckler in Bud Yorkin's "Start the Revolution without Me" (1970), the candy impresario of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971) and a sheep-smitten doctor in Woody Allen's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex* (* but were afraid to ask)" (197). But the hilarity was just beginning, Wilder reteamed with Brooks for the inspired lunacy of "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" (both 1974), earning his second Oscar nomination for his first-time screenwriting efforts (along with Brooks) on the latter. Spurred by these triumphs, Wilder made his directorial debut (in addition to acting and starring) with "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" (1975), featuring actors from the Brooks' troupe like Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise.