PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ
Young Frankenstein (1974) Selected by David Walliams, Empire Awards host
Young Frankenstein is the peak of both Mel Brooks’ and Gene Wilder’s illustrious careers. Gene Wilder was always a team player, at his best sharing the screen with another funny performer such as Zero Mostel or Madeline Kahn or, most famously, Richard Pryor.
The funniest scene in this film — and perhaps even in any film — is based on a truly simple conceit: Dr Frankenstein and his Monster have to duet on Puttin’ On The Ritz. Peter Boyle as the Monster is hilarious with his tone-deaf rendition of the song, as Dr Frankenstein has to sing and dance along pretending to the audience that everything is absolutely fine. It shows his true class as a performer that Wilder never tries to upstage his co-star. He gives the scene on a plate to Boyle, and yet your eye is drawn again and again to Wilder. Through his stiff movements and tense expressions he subtly conveys his character’s anxiety, something Wilder was the master of. It’s as if he is walking a tightrope.
The resulting scene is a perfect piece of comedy, which would be nothing without Wilder’s brilliant balancing act.