Last night I left work early and raced to Reno, singing loudly the whole way. I was so excited to plant myself in one of those red theater chairs with a pretzel and a soda to hear Mel Brooks’.
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live-streamed intro to Young Frankenstein, a one night and one night only Fathom event to pay homage to the passing of the great Gene Wilder.
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Wilder, one of the greatest actors of our time, recently passed away due to complications with Alzheimer’s disease. Mel Brooks, a longtime friend of Gene Wilder and director of their co-written magnum opus, Young Frankenstein,
got mental remembering the procedure for creating the masterful sci fi classic. Brooks was filmed walking around a production lot in Hollywood until he made his way up to the stage, sitting in a white blazer with a little spot on the left side, and arrived at an auditorium,
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with a wonderfully excessive tropical tie against his black top and pants. The crowd clapped and expressed their love as he switched between standing and sitting, wave his arms.
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Brooks started by telling the crowd Young Frankenstein’s origin story: One day, Wilder came up with the theory (hunched over a yellow legal pad, says Brooks) of an American scientist who attempts to fight off the Frankenstein blood running through his veins, and eventually succumbs to the suppressed want to continue in his grandpa’s work the work of the notorious Baron Von Frankenstein.
Brooks adored the thought, and they worked together to create the screenplay that would be transformed into the stunning movie all of US know and adore.
Based on Brooks’ anecdote, after presenting their screenplay and theory to Columbia Pictures (who only got color image technology), Brooks’ and Wilder turned to leave, and only before closing the door behind them, Brooks’ turned and said, “Oh, and we’re shooting it in black and white.”
Instantly, what Brooks’ referred to as a “phalanx of Jews” ran down the corridor after him, attempting to threaten him out of altering his mind. The very next day Wilder and Brooks’ walked on, and pitched their idea to 20th Century Fox, just in case Columbia Pictures refused to shoot it in white and black.
The next year was spent filming Young Frankenstein, which Brooks’ called the greatest year of his life. Now, his voice became hoarse, and he sometimes had to pause to collect his emotions.
It was evident on his face he adores the movie they created collectively, and how much he cared for Wilder. The onscreen chemistry between Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, and Wilder was only matched by their creative genius working in conjunction with Brooks’.
The team had so much fun filming Young Frankenstein that shots frequently had to be redone up to 15 times to quell the laughter. Wilder was particularly guilty of this, Brooks said, frequently destroying entire takes due to his uncontrollable laughter.
Due to problems with the live-streamed intro, we returned to Mel Brooks and were shown the start of the movie before it cut out.
From the start, the movie was restarted after the authentic ending of Brooks’ intro. Because of this, wonder and the magic in this film became clearly apparent: the whole crowd laughed at the jokes from the start both times they were shown, not 10 minutes. It’s as a result of the pure joy, this comedy and hilarity Brooks and Wilder imbued this movie with, that it is going to be adored throughout generations.
After seeing his longtime pal and partner tear up in front of thousands wilder’s departure appears even more real now. An incredible guy, and an incredible performer, with Brooks’ approval we wish our quite brilliant surgeon, the great Dr. “Frodrick Fronkensteen,” a final adieu.