Had he never made another movie, Gene Wilder’s stellar turn as the seemingly capricious and cruel candy magnate, Willy Wonka, would still have assured his immortality on the silver screen. It is a performance both artful, and heartful, and one of a kind.
Although not a trained singer, Wilder imbues his solo vocal turn on “Pure Imagination” with a sense of wide-eyed wonder that lifts it above the ordinary. The song was written specifically for the movie by the quite successful duo of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, already well-known for penning “Feeling Good” (now a staple on any TV talent show) and the all-time classic theme from James Bond’s Goldfinger. They also composed future hit “The Candy Man” for this soundtrack.
Luckily for us, Gene Wilder filled many films with his comedic genius, particularly those under the direction of Mel Brooks. He was, by all accounts, a warm-hearted and lovely man. Yesterday, his light was extinguished, and if I could, I would ask the universe to put the candle back.