RIP Gene Wilder…
There has been an outpouring of love for Gene Wilder as news of his death spread across social media. Fans have posted scenes from some of his great film work, and at the end of this post you can see some of my favorites as well.
I wanted to take a look at his motion picture debut, in the brilliant 1967 film “Bonnie & Clyde.”
The True Story Behind Wilder’s Brilliant Debut!
At one point in the film, Bonnie & Clyde kidnap a couple and take them on a long ride. The couple, Eugene Grizzard and Velma Davis, are played by Gene Wilder and Evans Evans, and were based on a real couple, Dillard Darby and Sophia Stone of Ruston, Louisiana. On the night of April 27, 1933, Darby and Stone were briefly kidnapped by the Barrow gang, who had stolen Darby’s car. After driving around Ruston for several hours, Darby and Stone were released unharmed.
During the drive, when Darby mentioned that he was an undertaker, Bonnie Parker remarked, “Well, maybe you’ll work on me someday.” IN the film, the discovery that Wilder is an Undertaker rattles Bonnie so much that she throws the couple out of the car.
In real life, a year after that incident occurred, Darby did exactly what Bonnie Parker said:
“Well, maybe you’ll work on me someday.”
According to the great movie website IMDB, he was “one of the undertakers who worked on Bonnie Parker’s body after she and Clyde Barrow were killed in the roadside ambush near Gibsland, Louisiana, in May, 1934.”
Here’s a short scene from the film. The couple has been taken on a ride with the Barrow gang, and Bonnie asks an innocent question. Watch as Wilder’s date inadvertently blurts out her real age, much to his surprise:
Michael J. Pollard also co-starred in the film, and according to IMDB, he “didn’t realize in eating scenes that you don’t actually eat all the food because of the possibility of repeated takes. Sure enough, he soon regretted it in the scene in which the outlaws kidnap a couple and eat their lunch in the car. By the 12th take, Pollard was feeling decidedly ill, having had to eat 12 whole hamburgers.”
My friend Alison Martino had a screening of the film in LA last year, and Pollard attended…you can read all about it here:
I have always been a fans of Gene Wilder, especially as the iconic Willy Wonka:
He made dozens of great films, and here are five of my favorites:
If you are interested in “Bonnie & Clyde”, you should know that it was made during one of the most transformative years in movie history.
This book is a compelling look at 1967, a year where the motion picture industry changed dramatically…and a year when Gene Wilder made his movie debut…
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