This horrible year continues as the grim reaper keeps taking stars that we grew up with. This time, we lost Gene Wilder. Of course, most people know him from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). I never got into that movie, although I loved the book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
However, Gene Wilder played a huge part in my early teen years, which coincided with the introduction of cable TV. When we first got cable TV, we had all the movie channels. If I wasn’t glued to MTV, I was watching commercial-free, uncut movies on HBO and Showtime. For me, Gene Wilder was a fixture on my TV set, as the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor movie, Silver Streak (1976) played all the time. And I watched it and loved it every time. Of course, there was also Stir Crazy (1980), also starring Wilder and Pryor. They were such a great team. I loved both of them, and they had great chemistry.
I was too young to watch Saturday Night Live when the original cast was on. So, my introduction to original cast member, Gilda Radner, was in the 1982 movie Hanky Panky. That was another Gene Wilder movie that was in heavy rotation. I’m pretty sure that at the time that this movie was on HBO, the only movies they showed were Hanky Panky, Rocky III, Victory, and Six Pack. Gene Wilder and Gilda grew closer to each other during the filming of Hanky Panky, and would go on to get married. Sadly, Gilda Radner developed cancer, and died on May 20, 1989. Wilder then went on to promote cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda’s Club, a support group to raise awareness of cancer that began in New York City and now has branches throughout the country.
I don’t remember Wilder’s movie The Woman in Red too well, but I do know I saw it. The last movie I remember seeing him in was another Wilder/Pryor joint – See No Evil, Hear No Evil, which was also great. I didn’t see his Mel Brooks movies (The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles) until later on.
Although Gene Wilder hadn’t been in any movies for a very long time, this one still hurts. Another thing that hits home with me is that he died from complications from Alzheimer’s. I lost my grandmother to that horrible disease, and less than a month ago, I lost my uncle/godfather to it as well.
OK 2016, we surrender! Please don’t take anybody else!
Here are the trailers to a few of my favorite Gene Wilder movies:
Loyal Return to the ’80s follower and contributor, Andy Silikovitz, Just saw The Bangles this past Saturday, August 27th at Irving Plaza in New York City. Here is some video he shot, and is sharing with us on this Manic Monday. The video straightens out around the 30 second mark. Thanks Andy!
Unfortunately, I have to take a little break from posting my regular articles, such as Remember That Song and Quote of the Day, just for the time being. In the meantime, I’ll post articles occasionally. I just have to take a little break from daily posts for now. But, we’ll be back, better than ever. And the podcast will also be back in full force as well.
In the meantime, here are some totally awesome commercials that will really bring you back. These are from March 12, 1983. I love the “We’ll Return After These Messages” bumpers, and the M&M’s commercial really returned me back to that wonderful time. There’s just something about those jingles that were just great.
Today, August 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of this classic ’80s album. There are many more readers now than when I first publihed this, so it will be new for a lot of you. So please check it out, and relive this totally awesome time!
Now, let’s Return to 1986. Up to this point, hair bands were not very mainstream. They were too loud for a lot of people, and the people that listened to hair metal were looked on as bad boys or bad girls. But, that music barrier was shattered with the words “Shot through the heart and you’re to blame. Darlin’, you give love a bad name!” Bon Jovi’s 3rd album, Slippery When Wet was released, and “You Give Love a Bad Name” was the first single released off of that album. All of a sudden, people who had been listening to Culture Club, Lionel Richie and Madonna, were now getting into Bon Jovi. And people who were into hard rock thought Bon Jovi was cool too. As a result, Slippery When Wet spent eight weeks at #1 on The Billboard 200, and was in the top 5 for 38 weeks. “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer” reached #1, making Bon Jovi the first hard rock band to ever have two consecutive #1 Billboard Hot 100 chart hits.
With that, let’s go back and listen to Slippery When Wet:
Let It Rock
Great way to start of an album! It gets you pumped right away.
You Give Love a Bad Name
As I already mentioned, this was the first single released from the album. A lot of people probably bought this album as soon as they heard this song. Here’s an interesting fact: At one point, this song was intended for the group Loverboy (“Working for the Weekend”). Bon Jovi and Sambora started out writing it for them, but liked it so much they kept it for themselves. That decision may have changed music history.
Livin’ on a Prayer
This was the second song released from the album. It was the second consecutive single by Bon Jovi to reach #1. This is one of Bon Jovi’s most popular songs of all time.
This is probably my least favorite song on the album, but it is better than a lot of songs that bands release.
Wanted Dead or Alive
This was the third single released from the album, and reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This helped Slippery When Wet become the first hard rock album ever to have 3 top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. One of the most memorable (good) moments in the history of the MTV music awards was when Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora played an acoustic version of this song. This gave MTV the idea to start the channel’s Unplugged series.
Raise Your Hands
Great way to start the second side of the album! It compliments the first song of the the first side, “Let it Rock”. It gets you pumped for side 2.
I’d Die for You
Never Say Goodbye
Bon Jovi’s first great ballad. They have had several others since this one. But this started it all. I was in high school, dating a girl when this album was released and this was “our song”. When we went to my Junior Prom, I thought was so cool when I went to the DJ, and requested this song as a dedication. A little while later, you hear the guitar start of the beginning of the song, and I felt all proud as the DJ announced that the song was a special request. But, that pride fizzled out as he spent half the song (or so it seemed) listing all the names of the people that requested the song.
Wild in the Streets
Great rock song, and a great way to end the album. It also makes you look forward to the next album. As it turns out, it gives you good reason to look forward to the next Bon Jovi as New Jersey was not too shabby.
Capone: People are gonna drink! You know that, I know that, we all know that, and all I do is act on that. And all this talk of bootlegging – what is bootlegging? On a boat, it’s bootlegging. On Lake Shore Drive, it’s hospitality. I’m a businessman!
Here is the third installment of the John Hughes Big Five. If you remember, I am rewatching these films and comparing my present view of the film to what I thought when I first saw them when I was in high school. Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club have been covered, leaving Hughes third high school film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off up next.
I clearly remember being excited to see Hughes latest film in the theater with my best friends. The three of us waited in a long line, full of excitement, ready to see Matthew Broderick (who we loved in War Games). I feel a need to apologize to all of those Ferris fans out there – I did not like this movie when I first saw it in 1986. I know, I know, and I do not expect this to be a popular view, but I am striving for honesty in all of my looks back to the ‘80s.
As I have mentioned before, I am an extremely happy, eager-to-go-work high school English teacher. I love working with teens everyday and I love helping them become better readers and writers and preparing them for college. I decided to become an English teacher during my sophomore year of high school. I think I am hard wired to really like school; I have always enjoyed and still do. This is going to sound like a bit of a fib, but I never missed school, never got a detention, and never got sent to the principal’s office. I got along great with most of my teachers and love going to school every day. Call me weird if you want, but it is in my bones. This is most likely the reason I did not like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off very much. I was nothing like Ferris and I could not understand (or accept) his NOT wanting to be at school. Because of this I did not like his antics and I refused to relate to any of the characters, nor did I want to. About half way through the film I started to purposefully look for things not to like about it. I did not hate the film, but I felt it represented things so unlike me that tried not to like it. My view of Hughes had taken a serious hit – after loving Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club how could he do this to me? Come on, John, don’t disappoint me like this – please!
I’ve thought long and hard about this. I’ve watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off a few times before even attempting to write this. Have I mentioned that I’ve thought long and hard about this? The things I did not like about the movie then, I still do not like now. Ferris is a superficial, dishonest character for whom I cannot – and will not – feel any sort of sympathy. He is manipulative and barely feigns any sort of real interest in Sloane or Cameron. He does not seem to really even care about them until it is almost too late. So long as he is saved, no one else really matters.
But wait. I have found something redeemable, something that saved the movie for me this time. In fact, I am not sure how I missed this years ago – color me embarrassed.
Cameron (played by Alan Ruck) saves this film.
I do not care if he looks old enough to be a college graduate. I do not care if he is from a rich family and has no financial struggles. I do care about him. As little as a I care about the fate of the almighty Ferris, I am completely drawn in by Cameron’s struggles. We never see Cameron’s parents. . . because they are not involved with his life. The movie cannot be called Cameron’s Day Off because this implies that someone cares about him. As Ferris devises clever ways to avoid parental detection, Cameron only wishes someone would pay some sort of positive attention to him. Cameron seems forced to follow Ferris’s silly whims because at least Ferris pays attention to him. Yes, Cameron’s house is huge, as is the glass structure that houses the really, really expensive car are kept in it, but this can never be a substitute for a concerned family. In essence, despite the presence of Sloane and Ferris, Cameron is utterly alone.
In an early scene, Ferris call up a hypochondriac Cameron, seemingly showing concern. Then Ferris explains that he is taking a day off and so should he. The purpose quickly turns selfish when Ferris says, “I’m sorry to hear that, now come over here and pick me up”. While Ferris feigns interest in Cameron’s well being, it quickly turns into self centered concern to be sure that someone else is complicit with his skipping school. Is this what is best for Cameron? Maybe, but it is clearly what is best for Ferris’s desires. Now, Ferris does express some concern for Cameron’s future, worried about how his college roommate-to-be will view him. I do sense that Ferris is a little worried about Cameron, but is clearly unable to show it in a purposeful manner. Ferris’s selfish concerns surface again almost immediately. When cajoling Cameron and trying desperately to get him st skip school with him, Ferris says, “Cameron, this is my ninth sick day, if I get caught, I won’t graduate.”
We all know that Ferris is successful and gets Cameron to skip school with him. Despite knowing how precious that expensive car is to Mr. Frye, Ferris talks Cameron into letting them take the fancy and really expensive red sports car. Yes, Cameron’s father is clearly hung up on material possessions to help show his worth and, while that may be wrong, Ferris forces Cameron into doing something that would make matters at home even worse. I know absolutely nothing about cars, but even in high school I knew you could not drive backwards to get the miles off. On the way home from a great day in Chicago – a part of the film I really enjoyed, Ferris glances at the odometer and asks Cameron how many miles the car had when the left. True to Cameron’s fearful nature he says, “A hundred and twenty-six and halfway between three and four tenths.” As the audience is shown the odometer, we see that it now reads, “Three hundred – one and seven tenths.” Ferris, having a complete understanding of Cameron’s life and fears, (once again) breaks the fourth wall and tells the audience, “Here’s where Cameron goes berserk.” Naturally he does. The thing I struggle with is that Ferris, agree with it or not, fully understands the home life that Cameron is daily faced with and still insists on him to take this enormous risk. Cameron does go a bit crazy. It takes the next few scenes and him falling off of the diving board into a pool for us to fully realize how afraid he is. During these catatonic scenes, Ferris admits to us that he is the one feeling nervous about moving on after graduation. He and Cameron will not see each other much and Sloane is a junior and will still be in high school next year. What is Ferris going to do? I care more about what Cameron is going to have to face at home when his father finds out about the car, not Ferris’s, once again, selfish worries.
All of this does lead to a climax for Cameron and my favorite part of the movie. This scene is not only the best of the movie, it nearly redeems the entire thing. Forgotten are the flimsy plot conventions, the shallow characters, and the overused comedy tropes. When Ferris fails to remove the miles from the car by propping it up and running it in reverse, Cameron is forced to come to terms with the repercussions of taking the car. In what is by far the most passionate speech of the film, Cameron says:
My old man pushes me around. I never say anything. Well, he’s not the problem, I’m the problem. I gotta take a stand. I gotta take a stand against him. I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m gonna take a stand. I’m going to defend it – right or wrong – I’m going to defend it. I’m so sick of his shit. I can’t stand him and I hate this goddamn car. Who do you love? You love a car! . . . When he comes home he’ll have to deal with me. I don’t care, I really don’t. I’m just tired of being afraid.
Now, if you remember, after a few hard kicks to the front bumper, the car is knocked off of the jack, hits the floor, and flies out of the window and down about two hundred feet – completely destroyed. What I love here is that this scene clearly defines Cameron as a dynamic character (one who undergoes a significant change). He is the only one in the film as all of the others are static and never come to any true change on self actualization. I have no idea what will happen when Mr. Frye comes home – none of us do and it may be bad, but Cameron has taken an important step in becoming the adult that he will be for the rest of his life. He is now going to be in control of his life and not run away from what it has to offer. Cameron is probably going to go away to college and not come back home. I believe he will be a success because he will face what he most fears and come away from it a better, more capable person. I am not sure I can say the same about Ferris.
I do not hate Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I like the pacing of it and I love Ben Stein as the teacher who constantly says, “Anyone, anyone” when no one answers. So saying, I still do not really like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I feel that John Hughes took a step backwards from The Breakfast Club to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. What I do realize now, though, is that Cameron Frye is clearly one of the best characters that John Hughes has created. I will maintain that this is my least favorite Hughes film, but I have come to have a deep appreciation for what he has done with this excellent character.