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Gene Wilder is centerpiece of Christmas and Hanukkah celebration at the JCC on December 25

Gene Wilder is centerpiece of Christmas and Hanukkah celebration at the JCC on December 25

JCC in Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th St.
Sunday, December 25, 12 noon – 6:00, $7 per film, $18 for all three

Six years ago, comic legend Gene Wilder was at the JCC in Manhattan, being interviewed by his wife, Karen Boyer, about his latest book, What Is This Thing Called Love? The star of stage and screen passed away on August 29 of this year, at the age of eighty-three, and the JCC is paying tribute to the man born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee with a Christmas Day marathon featuring three of his best films. The celebration begins at 12 noon with Mel Stuart’s 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the beloved classic based on Roald Dahl’s beloved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Wilder plays candy baron Willy Wonka, who has decided to retire and give his company to a child who passes all the necessary tests during a fantastical visit to his factory. That will be followed at 2:00 by one of the funniest movies ever made, Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles, in which Wilder portrays the washed-up Waco Kid, an alcoholic gunslinger who is brought back to life when a new sheriff (Cleavon Little) comes to the racist town of Rock Ridge; the all-star cast also includes Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Alex Karras, Slim Pickens, Dom DeLuise, John Hillerman, David Huddleston, and Rodney Allen Rippy. At 4:00, the festival continues with another comic Western, Robert Aldrich’s underseen, underrated 1979 charmer, The Frisco Kid, with Wilder starring as Avram Belinski, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who partners up with bank robber Tommy Lillard (Harrison Ford) on his way from Philly to San Francisco to serve as a rabbi. The afternoon concludes at 6:00 with a Hanukkah candle lighting and sufganiyot, special jelly donuts that are a Hanukkah treat.

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