ByMatt Kranis, writer at
President of the Salacious Crumb Fan Club. Staff Writer at Movie Pilot. Twitter: @Matt_Kranis
Matt Kranis

Hollywood was hit with tragic news today when it was revealed that beloved actor Gene Wilder had passed away. The performer, best known for playing eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka in 1971's Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, passed away due to complications from Alzheimers Disease. He was 83 years old.

Wilder was one of the comedy world's most beloved icons, able to elevate the silliest jokes to something truly memorable. And of course, many of his movies are considered classics today, with the likes of Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein ranking as some of the best comedies of all time. With that in mind, we're celebrating the actor's life and career with at look back at Gene Wilder's best lines.

1. "Let's assume, just for the moment, that you're a dishonest man." — The Producers (1967)

1967's The Producers marked the start of Wilder's collaboration with influential director Mel Brooks, and also ranks as one of the actor's top performances. He snagged an Oscar nomination for his role as producer Leo Bloom in the film, with the memorable moment above perfectly illustrating the character's relationship with fellow producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel). Bloom is ready to assume the best in people, while Bialystock is ready to rip them off.

2. "I'm in pain and I'm wet and I'm still hysterical!" — The Producers (1967)

Leo Bloom is not having a good day.
Leo Bloom is not having a good day.

Bloom was the wet blanket to the overzealous Bialystock, and this line expertly captured the accountant-turned-producer's personality. He felt constantly beaten down, even after leaving his drab life as an accountant for the "extravagant" world of Broadway.

3. The Waco Kid's Backstory — Blazing Saddles (1974)

Gene Wilder as the Waco Kid.
Gene Wilder as the Waco Kid.

1974 was a pretty good year for Wilder and Brooks, with Western parody Blazing Saddles hitting theaters in February with their horror comedyYoung Frankenstein hitting theaters that December. Wilder's Jim, a.k.a. the Waco Kid, was a perfect send-up of the outlaws and gunslingers typically seen in the genre, with a hilarious backstory to boot. Wilder expertly spins this seemingly standard yarn, ending with a hilarious twist we didn't see coming:

"Well, it got so that every piss-ant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille. It got pretty gritty. I started to hear the word 'draw' in my sleep. Then one day, I was just walking down the street when I heard a voice behind me say, 'Reach for it, mister!' I spun around... and there I was, face to face with a six-year old kid. Well, I just threw my guns down and walked away. Little bastard shot me in the ass. So I limped to the nearest saloon, crawled inside a whiskey bottle... and I've been there ever since."

4. "The common clay of the new West." — Blazing Saddles (1974)

The Waco Kid wasn't short on funny lines in Blazing Saddles, and delivers one of his best when trying to console his partner, Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little). We won't spoil the punchline here, but the clip above show's off the line in full as well as Wilder's effortless jump from sincerity to silliness.

5. "It's pronounced 'Fronkensteen'" — Young Frankenstein (1974)

Wilder and Brooks brought us one of the best horror pastiches of all time with their hilarious Young Frankenstein. One of the movie's best running gags is the mispronunciation of Wilder's Dr. Frederick Frankestein's last name, played for great laughs when he first meets Igor (it's pronounced "Eye-gore").

6. "Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide gorilla?!" — Young Frankenstein (1974)

As we all know, things didn't exactly go according to plan for Frederick Frankenstein, and the realization that he's created a monster with an abnormal brain provides one of Young Frankenstein's best bits.

7. "Harry, he thinks he's a horse!" — Stir Crazy (1980)

Stir Crazy saw Wilder team with comedian Richard Pryor as a pair of unlucky friends framed for a bank robbery and tossed into jail for a 125 year sentence. Naturally, that lead to plenty of comedy as Wilder and Pryor attempted to play it cool in the big house — which they definitely failed at.

8. "Fuzzy Wuzzy was a woman?" — See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

See No Evil, Hear No Evil had a pretty ridiculous premise, casting Wilder as a deaf man with comedian Richard Pryor as a blind guy who happen to witness a murder. Naturally, the comedy got a lot of mileage out of their respective lacks of sight and hearing, probably best seen in this interrogation scene.

9. "There's no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going." — Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)

Generations of children and adults alike have marveled at Wilder's portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, a character that brought joy to many while also terrorizing us just a little bit. Wilder perfectly channeled Wonka's dark side in the movies infamous boat ride scene, reciting a haunting poem that still gives us goosebumps.

10. "You get nothing! You lose! Good day sir!" — Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)

Who could forget this famous rant from the end of Willy Wonka? Wilder's Wonka is just as volatile as he his wacky, and that's perfectly clear during this meltdown. Though as we learn during the film's close, it was all just a test to see if young Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) was worthy of inheriting Wonka's factory.

11. "Pure Imagination" — Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)

This one might be a bit of a cheat, seeing as it's a full song and not an individual line, but "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka perfectly captures not just the film's sense of wonder, but how we felt when watching Wilder perform. The actor was able to mine hilarious moments from even the most mundane roles, creating some of comedy's most memorable characters and inspiring generations of performers along the way.

What are some of your favorite Gene Wilder lines? Let us know in the comments below.


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