Category Archives: 1970

Top 15 Gene Wilder Movies

 

Many of us were shocked to hear of Gene Wilder’s death this week due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease, and so it’s given us a chance to pause and think about this great actor and comedian. It was interesting to me listen to a recent interview of his and he said that he really didn’t consider himself to be a comedian as he didn’t find himself to be very funny. That may be true, but to us, he was hilarious. Here is my list of his top 15 movies, let’s see if your list would be similar to mine:

15.  Thursday’s Game (1974)Thursday's Game

This would be a banner year for Gene Wilder as 3 of the movies on this list were released in 1974. 2 of them would be considered to be “classics” to most people. Classify this one as a forgotten little gem. Thursday’s Game was released as a TV movie and starred Gene with a great cast of comedians with Bob Newhart, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Nancy Walker, Valerie Harper, Norman Fell, Rob Reiner and Martha Scott. The movie is about two guys who’ve been going to a Thursday night poker game for years, when suddenly a disagreement breaks up the game. The two guys then decide to keep getting together every Thursday night doing different things, under the pretense that the game is still going on. When the wives find out they are upset and wondering what they’ve been doing all that time. The budget for this film was so tight that the wardrobe department was practically non-existent. According to Gene Wilder, he and co-star Bob Newhart had to make do with their actual clothes.

14.  The Producers (1967)Producers

We mention the Producers in another blog, CLICK HERE TO READ THAT BLOG POST.  Mel Brooks is almost synonymous with Gene Wilder as they made 3 movies together. These 3 are almost always mentioned as their top 3 movies respectively.  That wasn’t always the case, as the Producers flopped initially but found new life when Mel made it into a smash hit on Broadway. Now, of course, Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder were great in this but, Kenneth Mars is also really fantastic in this as well. I talk about him in a blog CLICK HERE.

13.  Haunted Honeymoon (1986)haunted-honeymoon

I find Dom Deluise to be hilarious, but put him in drag and he’s drop dead funny. Gene and Dom appeared in 4 movies together. Now, if you don’t know already, Gene Wilder was a wonderful writer and director in his own right and this is one of the films he wrote and directed. It also stars his then wife and comedian Gilda Radner. This is a notable entry also because it was Gilda’s last movie before she died of cancer. It did not do well at the box office, but I like it because of the 3 actors and I especially like the scenes from the radio show.

12.  Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)the-adventures-of-sherlock-holmes-smarter-brother

Gene reunites with Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman in this gem that he also wrote and directed after they did Young Frankenstein. Favorites of mine, Dom Deluise, Leo McKern and Roy Kinnear round out the cast! Originally, Gene tried to get Mel Brooks to direct this film as well, after they did Young Frankenstein, but he declined and convinced Gene that he could direct it himself. Gen would go on to direct 4 movies and 1 segment of a 5th one. This one is my favorite of all the films he directed.

11.  Death of a Salesman (1966)deathofasalesman

Up until Gene did the made-for-tv version of Death of a Salesman in 1966, he only had acted in a handful of TV shows. It was this film that ultimately put him on the path of stardom. This movie was relatively forgotten over time but had some very strong performances and included some very fine actors with Lee J. Cobb leading the cast. In his autobiography “Timebends”, Arthur Miller says that Lee J. Cobb was his favorite Willy Loman. The original Broadway production of “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller opened at the Morosco Theater on February 10, 1949, ran for 742 performances and won the 1949 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. Lee J. Cobb recreated his stage role 17 years later in this television production.

10.  Murder in a Small Town (1999)murder in a small town

Gene Wilder would write 8 movies over his career and a segment of a 9th one. This is the 2nd to the last one he would write and was 1 of 2 mysteries featuring his Cash Carter character for A&E. I enjoy a good mystery and for some reason I really like it when my mysteries are a little understated as these two mysteries are. This one is about a widowed theatre director who moves to a small Connecticut town where he gets involved in solving the murder of a millionaire, who was the most despised man in town. Gene is very good in this.

9.  Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)start the revolution without me

When 1 Gene Wilder is not enough, we get two! This one has Gene and Donald Sutherland playing two mismatched sets of identical twins – one aristocrat, one peasant – who mistakenly exchange identities on the eve of the French Revolution. Gene Wilder originally wanted Charles Grodin to play the part of Charles/Pierre, but Grodin declined, having committed to directing the original Broadway production of Lovers and Other Strangers, which would have been really fun to see, but Donald does a great job. Gene liked this film especially because he got to fence. Gene was already adept with a sword from his days on his college fencing team.

8.  Bonnie and Clyde (1967)bonnie-clyde-gene-laughing

In less than a year after his appearance in Death of a Salesman, Gene would be cast in 2 films Bonnie and Clyde and The Producers. He would never look back. In Bonnie and Clyde, he got to work with Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Denver Pyle and Michael J. Pollard. This was technically his theatrical feature film debut. Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder would later appear together in Young Frankenstein (1974). Hackman had a small, uncredited cameo as the blind hermit while Wilder portrayed the title character.

7.  Stir Crazy (1980)

We talk about the greatest comedy teams of all time in a previous blog post, CLICK HERE TO VIEW THAT BLOG…but definitely one of the best comedy teams of all time would have to be Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. They hit the list with 3 of their collaborations…almost 4, more on that in a sec…Stir-Crazy

Sidney Poitier directed this movie, and enjoyed working with Gene and Richard, even though Richard was sometimes difficult to work with on this production due to his frequent drug use. When they clicked, they were quite funny.  Sidney would let them improvise during scenes for the movie. This is one of the four movies Pryor and Wilder teamed together, and was the most successful of the four at the box-office. There was no doubting their second match-up was an all-around success. “Our instincts seem to coalesce. The difference, this time, is that ‘Stir Crazy’ is an out-and-out comedy while Silver Streak (1976) was a mixture of mystery, adventure and romance”. Pryor interjected: “You might say that our Pryor picture was a ball but this one is Wilder”. Wilder responded: “You might,” needles Wilder, “But you’ll say anything”.

6.  Blazing Saddles (1974)

Full shot of Cleavon Little as Bart offering whiskey bottle for Gene Wilder as Jim, both seated in sheriff's office. PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Here’s the almost in that last paragraph…believe it or not, Richard Pryor was set to play the role that eventually went to Clevon Little in Blazing Saddles. Richard Pryor even wrote some of the script with Mel Brooks. Although, Gene Wilder was not the original choice for his role either. They had cast and went into production with Gig Young, but he was coming off of alcohol and couldn’t function properly and Mel had to call upon his friend Gene to fly out last second to fill in, as a personal favor to him. One of the best comedy pairings of all time almost happened, two years before they finally appeared together in Silver Streak.

5.  Young Frankenstein (1974)young frankenstein

First film written by Gene Wilder and the only film directed by Mel Brooks, that Mel didn’t write. He didn’t direct anything he didn’t also write, but Gene talked him into directing as a personal favor to him. According to Mel Brooks (in the commentary for Spaceballs (1987)) when Gene Wilder came on to Blazing Saddles at the last minute as a favor to Mel, he requested that Mel Brooks do “his” movie idea next; that movie turned out to be this film. It was a perfect match. Gene Wilder has stated that this is his favorite of all the films he’s made. The cast and especially Mel Brooks had so much fun and were so upset when principal photography was almost completed, that Mel added scenes to continue shooting.

4.  See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)See no evil hear no evil

I forgot Kevin Spacey was in this with Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Joan Severance. Gene Wilder almost wasn’t in this movie. Per his autobiography, he turned the script down twice (due to its treatment of the deaf and the blind). He intended to do the same when offered it a third time, but his agent talked him into meeting with TriStar (the studio behind the film). The TriStar people asked Gene to re-write the script for himself and Richard Pryor, which he agreed to do…and the rest is history. Gene Wilder went to the NY League for the Hard of Hearing to study for his role. There he was assigned to speech pathologist Karen Webb, who would ultimately become his fourth wife. They were married 25 years, up until his death. With its dead body murder plot and villainous crime characters, the movie returned director Arthur Hiller and stars Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor to the suspense-adventure-comedy genre that had made their earlier picture Silver Streak a success around thirteen years earlier.

3.  Frisco Kid (1979)The_Frisco_Kid

Now this one is probably the biggest surprise on the list, but it’s just so under-appreciated! Not only is Gene Wilder pitch-perfect in this film as a Jewish Rabbi, Harrison Ford plays an old school cowboy like he was born to it. I just love this movie. In his autobiography, Gene Wilder says that John Wayne was offered the part that was eventually played by Harrison Ford. Wayne loved the role and was eager to work with Wilder. However, an agent tried to offer Wayne less than his usual fee and the legendary actor turned the film down. The sad thing about this movie is that it was a flop when released and has had a very small but devoted following on VHS and DVD…but it’s a wonderful film!

2.  Silver Streak (1976)Silver-Streak

One of five movies where actor Gene Wilder plays a man wrongly accused of committing a crime. The films include Silver Streak (1976), The Frisco Kid (1979), Stir Crazy (1980), Hanky Panky (1982), and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989). Actor Gene Wilder loved his part because he could get to do scenes which were fitting of Errol Flynn doing action or Cary Grant being romantic. When meeting Gene Wilder after having seen Silver Streak, Cary Grant asked him if the script had been in anyway inspired by North by Northwest (1959). As Wilder admitted it was correct, Grant then added, “I knew it! Have you noticed that each time you take ordinary people, say, like you and me, then take them in a situation way above their heads, it makes a great thriller?” First of two consecutive comedy thrillers written by Colin Higgins. The second released two years later was Foul Play (1978). Higgins conceived “Silver Streak” in mid 1974 when he was traveling by train from LA to Chicago. We talk about Foul Play in another blog post, CLICK HERE TO READ IT.

On a sad note…Director Arthur Hiller and co-star Gene Wilder died within 12 days of each other.

1  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

This is number 1 for me. It’s his most iconic role and to be honest, one of my favorite films of all time. willy wonka

According to director Mel Stuart’s “Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka”, when Gene Wilder walked in to audition, Stuart knew before he’d even uttered a single word that he had found his Willy Wonka. The audition convinced him even further, so when Wilder finished and left the room, Stuart chased him down the hallway, cut him off at the elevator bank, grabbed his arm and told him “You’re doing this picture, no two ways about it! You are Willy Wonka!” Producer David L. Wolper, however, was furious because he hadn’t yet had the chance to negotiate a fee. After reading the script, Gene Wilder said he would take the role of Willy Wonka under one condition: that he would be allowed to limp, then suddenly somersault in the scene when he first meets the children. When the director asked why, Gene Wilder replied that having Wonka do this meant that “from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.” The director asked, “If I say no, you won’t do the picture?”, and Gene Wilder said “I’m afraid that’s the truth.” Even Julie Dawn Cole was fooled by the scene in which Willy limps out of his factory to greet the Golden Ticket winners. She mentions in the DVD commentary that she thought that Gene Wilder had injured his leg for real (and that the filming would have to be temporarily halted because of it). This resulted in her being just as stunned by Willy’s somersault as the audience is.

Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, got very close to Gene while filming. He later told ABC News, “As a young actor filming ‘Willy Wonka,’ I had the rare privilege of working with Gene who I greatly admired,” he continued. “He became my mentor and personal friend. For that I will always be grateful. So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

Terence Hill and Bud Spencer

 

A successful screen pairing usually last for 3 or 4 films. Some of the really great pairings did 15 or more films together, but most of these were comedy teams, not just actors who would come together every so often and do a film together.  Actors who did this that come to mind is Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who did 10 movies together and Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who’ve done 4 movies together so far. It’s unheard of that Terence Hill and Bud Spencer performed in 18 films together over their lifetimes! My brother wrote a great post on comedy teams here.bud-Hill

They appeared together in a movie for the first time in 1967 for God Forgives…I Don’t. The movie has many of the elements that made them a popular pairing over the years, being a spaghetti western and having them “buddy” up, but it wasn’t until they were featured in a comedy that they really became popular worldwide.  This is, however, identified as a trilogy, as Terence Hill and Bud Spencer play the same characters Cat Stevens and Hutch Bessy again in Ace High (1968) and Boot Hill (1969) all directed by Guiseppi Colizzi. He would direct them one more time for the 1972 film, All The Way Boys, but it is not a western, but it’s a comedy and is considered a “Trinity” film.bud-terence

You may be wondering what that means…it’s important to note that after awhile all the films they did together would be classified under one word, “Trinity”, to denote that the actors appeared together in a film, but was not necessarily a western. It could have been modern day, or in the past, but was always action, and mostly comedy. It became almost a genre of it’s own, their genre. It refers to their most popular film which came out in 1970, They Call Me Trinity, and really had all of the elements in place by then…comedy, action, fighting, buddy-buddy, some kind of clever con…it was all there. Billed as E.B. Clucher, the movie was directed by Enzo Barboni who has helmed a number of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer comedy collaborations. They are: They Call Me Trinity (1970), Trinity Is STILL My Name! (1971), Go For It! (1983), Crime Busters  (1977) and Double Trouble (1984).budspencerhill

They did the movie Blackie the Pirate (1971) the same year they made the sequel Trinity is Still My Name!. By then the Trinity movie was a huge hit and they went back into production on the new one. While on the set they improvised a bit and started to play with the set and made up a few scenes on the spot.  This would be a technique that Jackie Chan would utilize in many of his movies from the 80’s and 90’s and Hill and Spencer would continue with in their future films. You can see all of these things and how their fight scenes and comedy are used in very similar ways. In 1974 they released, Watch Out, We’re Mad and The Two Missionaries.  Their next film, Crimebusters (1976) was the first movie that my brother and I saw and we loved them instantly. We went home within a short time caught up on all their movies. Little did we know back then that we would eventually work with a star from that movie, David Huddleston in our first film, Reveille and later in our movie, Locker 13.  David Huddleston would also star in Go For It (1983). In 2004, when we first worked with him, he told us he was still very good friends with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer.budhilldavid

About this time, Hill and Spencer teamed up with a director also famous for spaghetti westerns to make a few of the modern day – non-western Trinty films. The director was Sergio Corbucci and the films were Trinity: Gambling For High Stakes (Odds and Evens) (1978) and Who Finds a Friend, Finds a Treasure (1981). To make things a little confusing, Sergio’s brother, Bruno Corbucci, also made several movies with Hill and Spencer and directed his last one Miami Cops in 1985. To make the connection between Hill-Spencer and Jackie Chan and “brothers” even closer, the film they made in 1984 Double Trouble and the film Chan made in 1992, Twin Dragons are very similar. They both feature all 3 of the actors playing a set of twins that get mixed up with another twin. One set of twins in both films are even musicians. Now over the years, Bud Spencer and Terence Hill felt a lot like brothers.  In their last film together, they played brothers again in Troublemakers (The Night Before Christmas) in 1984, directed by Terence Hill himself.bud spencer terence hill

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 1970-1979

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1970-1979 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1970 – They Call Me Trinitythey_call_me_trinity_poster_02

The Spaghetti Western and Spaghetti Western Comedies were starting to come into their own and a string of “Trinity” films starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer would arise.  They became worldwide stars and did all their own fighting in their films.  These are great fun!

1971 – The Big Bossbig-boss-lobby

Bruce Lee would become a bonafide sensation after his first film and there really was no one quite like him. He had the skills and a way about him that everyone after him tried to copy.  Martial Arts got it’s very own movie genre after this.

1972 – The Poseidon Adventureposeidon-adventure wallpaper

Another new genre, would be this sub-category inside the action genre, that became the disaster film.  This one has a very good fall into a ballroom skylight done by a non-stuntman at the time, Ernie Orsatti.  He would go on to become a stuntman after this, he found he had a knack for it.

1973 – Live and Let DieLive Boat

James Bond would appear this decade a record 4 times!  This is the first on the list with a speedboat jump over land by Jerry Comeaux of 110 feet, which made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

1974 – The Man With The Golden Gunman_with_the_golden_gun_stunt

This one had a great car jump stunt that is a breath-taking, “I can’t believe I saw that” …mathematical stunt devised by Raymond McHenry at Cornell University and performed by Bumps Willard.

1975 – The Man Who Would Be Kingman who would be king

Joe Powell would perform a jump from a rope bridge between two ravines 100 feet into a pile of boxes that would lead legendary Director John Huston to say, ” That’s the damnest stunt I’ve ever seen.”

1976 – Gatorgator car

This would be the start of a great collaboration between Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds.  Hal Needham would body double Burt in this film and there’s a nifty car flip at the end of the movie with Hal in the truck bed.

1977 – The Spy Who Loved MeSPY-WHO-LOVED-SKI-1

This is a bond film with one of the most extensive pre-credit sequences than all the previous films and right before they go to the opening song and credits, they have a fantastic ski-stunt by Rick Sylvester right off a mountain and then slowly fall until finally has a parachute open. Really great opening.

1978 – HooperHooper3

Hal Needham directed Burt Reynolds this time in a movie inspired by and about stuntmen! Can’t name just one stunt to highlight in this film as it’s just chocked full of them, but if I had to, A. J. Bakunas has a world record breaking jump from a helicopter into an airbag (232 feet!).

1979 – MoonrakerMoonsky7

BJ Worth and Jake Lombard fight over a parachute in this Bond entry and it’s fun to watch.  I would definitely include all the camera men who had to jump and film the sequence which included 88 jumps over all.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Terence Hill and Bud Spencer in They Call Me Trinity (Lo Chiamavano Trinita)

 

Sometimes an award is given because it is the first of a long line of films, either direct sequels or imitators.  Like Die Hard, as an example.  When Die Hard came around all of a sudden there were a ton of films just like it, including the rest of the Die Hard sequel’s trying to put the elements together that made the first one so popular.  It becomes a phenomenon and it almost becomes a sub-genre of it’s own.  They Call Me Trinity (1970) is one of these films.  The first of many Trinity films to come and the first of a slew of Spaghetti Western Comedies that would follow.they bud and terence

Terence Hill and Bud Spencer are magic together.  This was the fifth time on screen together and this one film is arguably their best.  It made them world-wide stars.  They would go on to do 18 films together and is one of the most successful screen partnerships of all time.  The fight scenes are hilarious and brilliant.  Brings Jackie Chan to mind and even though he does it better and amps them up to the extreme, Hill and Spencer were first.  The silent choreography is also reminiscent of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

What’s also interesting about They Call Me Trinity is that Terence Hill was not the producers first choice.  After the success of Django in 1966, producers wanted Franco Nero for the role, but when he became unavailable, they hired Hill because he looks a lot like Nero.  They hit paydirt because Hill ended up being a genius as a comedian.  It’s also interesting because Hill did a followup to Django in 1968 called Django Prepare a Coffin and he played Django, again because he looked like Nero.  After Trinity was released and a big hit, Django Prepare a Coffin was re-released and cut to resemble a Trinity movie and the name of his character was even changed in French to Trinita.they terence hill

They Call Me Trinity is directed by Enzo Barboni as E. B. Clucher for West Film.

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page or Website):

  • Terence Hill
  • Bud Spencer
  • They Call Me Trinity
  • Enzo Barboni
  • West Film

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM