The Gene Wilder Edition
Are actors a product or art?
Gene Wilder is dead. He died yesterday. I got up this morning and just couldn’t bring myself to write one more word about epi-pens or greedy hell-bound CEO’s. I want to talk about Gene Wilder.
If all movies were equal entertainment, each would be worth the same amount of money and each deserve the same amount of attention. They don’t. It is possible for large number of automobiles to be identical, and much simpler items are even easier to be simple duplicates. But movies resist being made standard products. They vary in countless ways.
I was teaching business ethics and I used a film called “Bringing Up Baby.” The film when originally released was a disaster but when re-released several years later was a great success. So, I asked my students to write an essay and defend one point of view over another. The two points of view being art for art’s sake and movies are a commercial venture to make money.
So, which is it? Are movies an art form with intrinsic value beyond simple money making or are they justified only in term of monetary return?
Enter Gene Wilder.
When I said goodbye to classroom teaching at NWACC, I said it by playing as the last classroom assignment the film, “Young Frankenstein.” (My students had to write an essay.)
Young Frankenstein Greatest Moments – YouTube
Wilder isn’t just memorable in the film. He’s unforgettable. And that makes the value of the film highly debatable. I suppose from a neo-liberal point of view, one should demand a premium for a film with an unforgettable actor. Perhaps, some kind of interest paid for when humor last decades instead of minutes.
What Wilder is doing is beyond conventional acting. To quote my favorite, Twilight Zone episode. His performance is “one for the angels.”
He’s giving more than he could possibly get back.
Value for Value?
Sometimes, I think that we have forgotten any values except commercial ones. More and more I see people thinking of relationships as exchanges of value rather than, well, relationships.
Relationships involve love and love doesn’t work as a medium of exchange. Someone always gets less and someone always gets more. And sometimes, you just give it, just because you have to. Your heart doesn’t give you a choice.
We are at best temporary and we really don’t get to own or keep anything. We are visitors with an allotted time. Maybe what Wilder did in giving more than he got is an example of what we could be if we weren’t corrupted by greed or valuing every exchange looking to come out even?
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Here are some Gene Wilder Films –
Funny About Love – YouTube
World’s Greatest Lover 1977 – YouTube
The adventure of sherlock holmes smarter brother 1975 – YouTube
Some Gene Wilder Articles from the News
He was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee and began studying acting at the age of 12. After getting his B.A. from the U. of Iowa in 1955, Wilder enrolled in the Old Vic Theater school in Bristol, where he learned acting technique and fencing. When he returned to the U.S. he taught fencing and did other odd jobs while studying with Herbert Berghof’s HB Studio and at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg.
Wilder’s memoir “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art” was published in 2005. After that he wrote fiction: the 2007 novel “My French Whore”; 2008’s “The Woman Who Wouldn’t”; a collection of stories, “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” in 2010; and the novella “Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance” in 2013.
Gene Wilder, who brought a wild-eyed desperation to a series of memorable and iconic comedy roles in the 1970s and 1980s, has died, his lawyer, Eric Weissmann, said.