Everybody loved Gene Wilder’s collaborations with Mel Brooks, and there’s no question that he was the definitive Willy Wonka (Johnny who?). But let’s not forget his hilarious partnership with Richard Pryor – the pair is as beloved a comedy team as Hope and Crosby and Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. With the death of Wilder on August 29, we’ve lost them both now (Pryor passed away in 2005), but we’ll always have four films that showcase their incomparable comic chemistry.
THE SILVER STREAK (1976)
Or, Throw Wilder from the Train. A big movie during the seventies, this adventure spoof of Hitchcock thrillers and Murder on the Orient Express sees Wilder witness a body hanging from the titular transcontinental train during a trip from L.A. to Chicago. Pryor makes a late entrance and the pair immediately click, creating one of comedy’s great double acts.
STIR CRAZY (1980)
The one where they dress up as woodpeckers for a bank promotion, only to have the costumes stolen and used in heist, for which they’re found guilty and sentenced to 120 years of hard time. This mistaken identity farce is overflowing with prison movie clichés and stereotypes, but it’s the role reversals that make it one of their funniest outings – Wilder goes deliriously over the top while Pryor plays the straight guy. Crazy!
SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL (1989)
Pryor’s blind Wally and Wilder’s deaf Dave witness a murder, wind up with a stolen microchip, and go on the run from cops and criminals alike in a film that showcases the pair’s flair for physical comedy. Even in the less politically correct late ‘80s, the jokes aren’t at the expense of their disabilities, but rather how others react to them. And Pryor impersonating a Swedish gynaecologist is gold.
ANOTHER YOU (1991)
Their fourth and final film together isn’t the greatest, being hampered by an average script and Pryor’s failing health. Wilder plays a reformed pathological liar who reverts to his old fibs after being mistaken for a missing billionaire, with Pryor the con-man who encourages him. It’s not the swan song the pair deserved, but they still manage to rise to the occasion thanks to their irrepressible rapport.