Toward the end of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” the titular shepherd has lost hope. None of the golden-ticket holders have proven worthy heirs to his factory ― until the hero, Charlie, emerges at the 11th hour with a kind gesture. ”So shines a good deed in a weary world,” Wonka proclaims.
Gene Wilder, the man who gave life to Willy Wonka’s rich imagery, died Sunday at the age of 83, leaving behind a series of fantastic deeds in an increasingly weary world. His performances in “Wonka,” “The Producers,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles” and a handful of other films, plays and television shows are certifiable classics. It helps that Wilder’s physical skill became tantamount to his screen presence. His characters are known for their expressive mania, carrying light and dark sides that emphasize the complicated nature of the events surrounding them. Wonka, for example, is both a soothsayer and a brute, hiding behind the facade of his institution’s steel arches. Popular culture adores his every wrinkle and, by extension, it adores Gene Wilder.
In the wake of Wilder’s death, it’s time to look back at the roles that made him a legend. Willy Wonka may be everyone’s go-to, but there are so many more, both on the list below and beyond it. Wilder’s work makes life a little less weary.