With the recent passing of Gene Wilder, I would like to pay tribute to one of the great comedy duos of all time: Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. These two made a handful of movies together, all of which are comedy classics, and hold a special place in my heart. I remember watching these movies as a child and laughing till I cried, then watching them again as an adult and realizing I had missed half the jokes and laughing in fits all over again.
Silver Streak (1976): This movie incorporates many of my favorite tropes: murder mysteries on a train (see Murder on the Orient Express, Transsiberian), mistaken identities, car chases, and multiple grifts. This movie has it all wrapped up in a madcap adventure from Los Angeles to Chicago. This is the original Wilder/Pryor collaboration and is still one of the great comedies of all time.
Stir Crazy (1980): Two down on their luck actors get framed for bank robbery after their chicken suits are stolen and used for the heist. Quickly tried and convicted the two are handed 125 year sentences at a maximum security prison. From there it’s your typical prison movie: oddball prisoners that become friends, gleeful torture, and rodeos. You know, the usual. The movie culminates in a slapstick jailbreak at the rodeo, and everyone lives happily ever after, especially the laughing-till-you-cry viewer.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989): What happens when a blind man and a deaf man who vacillate between best of friends and unable to stand each other try to thwart a trio of murderers? This film answers that age old question. These two bumbling friends ineptly guide each other around, and inadvertently find themselves deeper and deeper entrenched in a dastardly plot. This being the third collaboration by these two, it is obvious they have perfected playing off of each other and the comedic timing is impeccable. You may have to rewind bits that you miss from laughing so hard.
Another You (1991): This was the last collaboration between Wilder and Pryor, and was Gene Wilder’s last theatrical movie. Wilder plays a mental patient and pathological liar that, upon release, is mistaken for the heir to a brewery fortune. Pryor is a con man who is hired to kill Wilder, but instead helps him fake his own death. As with their other collaborations mistaken identities, aliases, and disguises play a huge roll. (This film is on order and not currently in the collection.)
Though they only made a relative few movies together, the comedic duo of Pryor and Wilder looms large, and feels like a much larger body of work than maybe it actually is at least for this lover of slapstick and madcap. Come down to the library and check one or more of these classics out.
Author: Jason Kauffman