Gene Wilder and Willy Wonka

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There are those movies from our childhood that stay with us forever, creating cultural and emotional tentpoles that support a tapestry of our young lives. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was one of those movies for me.

When I heard today that Gene Wilder died, I just stopped. I’ve loved his performances in pretty much everything I’ve seen him do, particularly The Producers, Young Frankenstein, which he co-wrote with Mel Brooks, and Blazing Saddles, which remains the definitive documentary about the Obama presidency. But Willy Wonka… Such scrumdidilyumptious wonders, such deliciously dark humor, such magic to a young boy (and to the middle-aged man I am now).

After a few frozen moments upon hearing about Mr. Wilder’s death, my next move was to watch his legendary performance of “Pure Imagination” from the Wonka movie. It was the moment we all got our first glimpse inside that chocolate factory. Watching and listening to Mr. Wilder sing those wonderful words set to that beautiful music written and composed by Leslie Bricusse, I just cried.

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