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“Remembering Gene Wilder” Offers Moving Tribute

Written by: Robin C. Farrell | March 14th, 2024

Remembering Gene Wilder (Ron Frank, 2023) 4 out of 5 stars

Gene Wilder was “an actor who had an ability to be funny,” says Carol Kane, one of the many interviewees in Remembering Gene Wilder. This film largely focuses on Wilder’s career, including his roles as an actor, comedian, and artist. Only a few specific details about his early life are included but they make an intense, if swift, impression.

For example, at the age of eight, following his mother’s first heart attack, he was commanded to never argue with her because “you might kill her; try to make her laugh.” Meanwhile, more detailed accounts of his most famous roles are all on lovely display here: Leo Bloom, Willy Wonka, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the Waco Kid, and more. Where the film delves into more of his personal life is in the second half, where it chronicles his marriages and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Carol Kane in REMEMBERING GENE WILDER ©Kino Lorber

And yet, director Ron Frank (When Comedy Went to School) and writer Glenn Kirschbaum (Freed to Kill) weave a very personal, very tender account of Wilder as both a performer and individual. Excerpts from the 2005 audiobook, Kiss Me Like A Stranger, written by Wilder himself, are woven throughout the film as narration, delivered in Wilder’s own voice. These, alongside the interviews with his colleagues, friends, and family give the film that added flavor of conversation, rather than just one-sided recollection. It may not be a groundbreaking technique, but it’s effective and inviting.

Mel Brooks in REMEMBERING GENE WILDER ©Kino Lorber

As the title suggests, Remembering Gene Wilder is clearly meant to be a sentimental and appreciative retrospective of a unique entertainer, as well as his generosity as a performer; not just the capacity of his own comedy and acting skills but his collaboration with others. In particular, Wilder’s work and friendship with Mel Brooks, however expected, are a highlight and joy of this documentary, along with his many creative partnerships over the years. A few, less-frequently played outtakes are featured, periodically, from some of Wilder’s aforementioned most popular works, in particular 1974’s Young Frankenstein.

l-r: Teri Garr, Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman and Mel Brooks on the set of the 1974 YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN ©20th Century Fox (File Reference #33078_003THA)

While not entirely comprehensive, Remembering Gene Wilder is a lovely tribute to its subject, both as introduction and farewell. This film is a sentimental but poignant reminder of the importance of laughter and sincerity—professionally, personally, and in between—while leaving room for inescapable human imperfections. Regardless of how familiar one may or may not be with Wilder’s filmography, this film will undoubtedly leave an audience misty-eyed, from a fitting mix of mourning and humor.


Robin C. Farrell is an editor, videographer, author, and nerd. Video production lead for Trail Grid Pro in Frederick, MD, she also competes in annual film races as part of Star Wipe Films. Farrell self-published her first book, Resistance Rising: A Genre Wars Novel,, and is the co-host and producer of Coffee & Contemplation, a Stranger Things podcast.

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