Gene Wilder, who died late Sunday night aged 83, gave some great performances in Mel Brooks comedies like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, but he’ll be forever cherished as without a doubt the finest Willy Wonka.
Wilder played the exuberantly dressed chocolate factory owner with paradoxical restraint in the 1971 film, always seeming slightly aloof despite the twinkle in his eye.
Wonka’s energy does bubble over in one classic scene however, when he takes the Golden Ticket winners on a psychedelic boat ride down the Chocolate River.
Often referred to as simply the “scary tunnel” scene, Wilder’s mania grows with every line of the poem he recites to the terrified passengers:
There's no earthly way of knowing / Which direction they are going.
There's no knowing where they're rowing / Or which way the river's flowing
Is it raining, is it snowing? Is a hurricane a-blowing?
Not a speck of light is showing / So the danger must be growing!
Are the fires of Hell a-glowing? Is the grisly Reaper mowing?
Yes! The danger must be growing / Cause the rowers keep on rowing
And they're certainly not showing /Any sign that they are slowing!
Wilder’s death was announced by his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman on Monday.
“It is with indescribable sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life lived that I announce the passing of husband, parent, and universal artist Gene Wilder,” Mr Walker-Pearlman said. “It is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him.”
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