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Happy Birthday, Dr. Frankenstein

Subdeacon Joe

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Gene Wilder would only make "Young Frankenstein" (1974) if Mel Brooks promised not to appear in it. Brooks usually appeared in his own films, but Wilder felt that Brooks' appearance would ruin the illusion. Brooks made off-camera appearances as the howling wolf, Frederick's grandfather, and the shrieking cat.
Wilder and Brooks got into only one fight during the movie's production, but it was a big one with Mel throwing a huge temper tantrum, yelling and raging and eventually storming out of Gene's apartment (where the men had been working on the script). Roughly ten minutes later, Gene's phone rang. The caller was Mel, who had this to say: "WHO WAS THAT MADMAN YOU HAD IN YOUR HOUSE? I COULD HEAR THE YELLING ALL THE WAY OVER HERE. YOU SHOULD NEVER LET CRAZY PEOPLE INTO YOUR HOUSE, DON'T YOU KNOW THAT? THEY COULD BE DANGEROUS." That, as Gene later put it, was "Mel's way of apologizing."
Maybe two fights? Maybe a fight and a half?... Wilder conceived the "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene, while Mel Brooks was resistant to it as a mere "conceit," and felt it would detract from the fidelity to Universal horror films in the rest of the film. Wilder recalls being "close to rage and tears" and argued for the scene before Brooks stopped him and said, "It's in!" When Wilder asked why he had changed his mind, Brooks said that since Wilder had fought for it, then it would be the right thing to do. But it was only when he soon saw the musical number along with a howling audience that Brooks was finally confident about the sequence.
Wilder constantly cracked up during takes. According to Cloris Leachman, "He killed every take (with his laughter) and nothing was done about it!" Shots would frequently have to be repeated as many as fifteen times before Wilder could finally summon a straight face.
Gene Hackman learned about the film through his frequent tennis partner Wilder and requested a role, because he wanted to try comedy. Hackman ad-libbed The Blind Man's parting line "I was gonna make espresso." The scene immediately fades to black because the crew erupted into fits of laughter. Hackman was uncredited when the movie was originally released in theaters. (IMDb)
Happy Birthday, Gene Wilder!
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Always subtly funny.


The only guy to tame the ferocious Grossberger, get thrown out of Bonnie and Clyde's car and live, be a children's (and adult's) mentor, be the fastest gun ever, be many things to everyone...and he'll always be Dr. Frankenstein...that's pronounced Fronkenstein.



Happy Birthday and Rest in Peace.

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