If you are of a certain age, like me, some movie with Gene Wilder in it is one of those movies in your life. You know what I’m talking about – you’re channel surfing, you see it and you stop, feel decades younger, and find you can recite large sections of the film from memory. For a little while you are back in high school or college just hanging with friends and loving the movie. Young Frankenstein, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the now-considered un-PC Blazing Saddles are classics. Wilder did several movies with Richard Pryor that are pretty funny. But none of these are my favorite Wilder film.
During the my first term in seminary my Old Testament professor was a holocaust survivor that later converted to Christianity. He asked the entire class back to the classroom one evening where he had popped some corn and rented (on film mind you) the Gene Wilder/Harrison Ford film “The Frisco Kid.” My professor wanted us to know his heritage – not out of some sort of self-gratification or seeking affirmation, but rather so we New Testament-centric American Christians could have some sense of the rich traditions from which Christianity sprang.
I won’t bore you with recounting the movie. It was never hugely popular, but my professor swore it was true to the faith of his youth, and I found it deeply moving. I will share a clip:
Losing Gene Wilder is not just losing a significant actor and writer; it is losing a man of great humor and great heart.