Saturday, September 01, 2007

Kiss Me Like A Stranger, by Gene Wilder


Recently I saw American actor and screenwriter Gene Wilder being interviewed on Parkinson, and he seemed such a sweet man I was inspired to get his recently published auto-biography.

Gene Wilder is rightly remembered by most for his amazing portrayal of Willy Wonka. It was his idea for that film that he first appear with a walking stick and then take a tumble. His reasoning for this was that after the audience had experienced his feigning to be a cripple, they would never trust him for the rest of the film. What a sharp psychologist.

Speaking of psychologists, Wilder went to one named Margie for years. No wonder he could make aesthetic decisions like the above mentioned. The book includes many amusing pages of remembered dialogue between himself and Margie. They’re quite touching to read.

Growing up, Wilder describes himself as being afflicted by a terrible demon. This demon caused him to pray all the time, asking God for forgiveness. What Wilder had done that was so bad that he needed forgiveness he could not figure out. But the guilt remained with him for years.

There’s a section in the book where Wilder describes going to see a show by Quentin Crisp (he was much impressed by the film The Naked Civil Servant.) During the question time, someone asked: How can I be happy when there is so much misery in the world. Crisp replied to the questioner that if they were to look after the person to their left and right that they would have more than enough to keep them busy. Wilder said he wished he’d received this advice when going through his guilty praying-to-god period.

Fans of Mel Brooks, Gilda Radner, Richard Pryor and Anne Bancroft won’t be disappointed with Wilder’s simply drawn portraits of his friends and lovers.

A nice, warm hearted autobiography from an unassuming man.

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