Around a month ago I was browsing Facebook when I noticed a suggested page on my news feed. The page was called RIP Gene Wilder. My first reaction was of shock. I had no idea that he had died. I decided to visit the page, which was filled with photos of Gene, and even featured a Twitter handle @RIPGeneWilder

After scrolling for a few seconds I realised from the irate comments from other Facebook users that Gene was in fact not dead at all, and that the page appeared to have been founded in 2013 after an internet hoax. However, it seemed that even though there was never any proof that Gene had passed, the founder refused to accept this and kept the page open as a sort of weird tribute to the great comic actor.

Despite comments from other users such as ‘Gene Wilder is alive and well. Making an RIP site for the man whilst he still is alive is an insult’, the creator continued to troll with statements such as ‘Still getting a lot of negative feedback from some of you.. May I ask where all this hatred is coming from?? I am probably rolling over in my grave.’ Gene was even location tagged as being in ‘Heaven’.

After hearing the news last night that Gene had actually died via a text from a friend, I thought how strange it was that I had visited that page so recently, and that I had been thinking about digging out my copy of Young Frankenstein a little earlier than usual for my annual Halloween viewing.

I’m not usually one to get upset over the deaths of celebrities, but somehow this seemed different. Gene was a favourite actor of mine, but he also seemed like a person I’d like to get to know. He eschewed fame, he was modest, he spoke articulately in interviews, he wrote beautifully. He was one of the few actors to feature in both a childhood favourite of mine – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – and a much-loved movie I first saw as a teenager, Young Frankenstein, the Mel Brooks spoof they co-wrote in 1974. If you haven’t seen it I suggest you find a copy immediately.

Although remembered for his comedy work with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, Gene could do neurotic, eccentric, tender, scary – who can forget his ire when Charlie Bucket drank those fizzy lifting drinks – and everything in between.

So thank you, Mr Wilder, for the laughs, and for the inspiration. RIP Gene. For real this time.

Fans might like to read this letter via Letters of Note he penned regarding Willy Wonka’s attire. I think it says a lot about him.

One of my favourite scenes from Young Frankenstein

 

 

 

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