The much-admired film actor Gene Wilder of Stamford - the original Willy Wonka, in a 1971 film role sequel-ized in 2005 by Johnny Depp - will appear at the Legislative Office Building Wednesday, April 9, at 5:30 p.m., to receive a lifetime achievement from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.
The Oscar-nominated actor created memorable comic characters in movies including Mel Brooks' 1968 "The Producers" (as neurotic accountant Leo Bloom) and 1974 "Young Frankenstein" (as the monster creator who insists his name be pronounced "Franken-STEEN" and, in a recurring Brooks gag, hunches over and limps when his misshapen assistant Igor invites him to "walk this way"). Some of Wilder's other well-known films are "Bonnie and Clyde," "Silver Streak," and "Stir Crazy." The New Britain Museum of American Art has shown his paintings and he is the author of "Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art." He won an Emmy for work on the TV sitcom "Will & Grace."
Wilder and three others will receive Connecticut's annual Governor's Awards for Excellence in Culture and Tourism. The others are: author Joan D. Hedrick of Middletown, a professor of history at Trinity College who won the Pulitizer Prize for her 1995 biography "Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life"; Michael Wilson of Hartford, artistic director at Hartford Stage for a decade, who has directed plays on and off Broadway and around the country at regional theaters; and Vita West Muir of Litchfield, executive and artistic director of Litchfield Performing Arts since 1989, and founder of the Litchfield Jazz Festival and Litchfield Jazz Camp.
The ceremony and reception will be in the atrium of the LOB. The event is open to the public, although seating is limited, organizers say. The awards are given to Connecticut residents who have "demonstrated excellence and lifetime achievement in tourism, film, arts or historic preservation." A dozen others will receive "distinguished advocates awards" for contributions in those areas.