Written by Sabine Demosthenes
MONTREAL – I was so young when I first saw Gilda Redner on the screen and it wasn’t as one of the comedians on Saturday Night Live (SNL). Nope. It was actually while I was watching the 1982 classic film Hanky Panky with Gene Wilder on tv. It was a winter day in December 1987, like the song California Dreaming from The Mammas and The Papas.
The first thing that hit me with Gilda was the fact that I could relate to her with her sense of humor I found her to have this mix of innocence and sarcasm. With her big and beautiful smile, she could get away with anything.
For me, at 4 years old, Gilda was my favorite actress because of the one movie I saw her. I didn’t know she was unfortunately sick. In my mind, she was eternal. Two years later, I was a little bit older and I religiously watched Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight (ET) every day. This was when I learned that Gilda had cancer. During one of the nights I watched ET with Mary Hart and John Tash, I learned that my favorite actress had passed away. She would no longer make fun-loving movies.
As the years passed and I grew up, Gilda reserved a really nice surprise for me. I knew that she was one of the first comedians on SNL. YouTube hadn’t been created yet, but thank God, they had reruns of old SNL episodes on NBC sometimes.
During those specials episodes, I met Roseanne Roseannadanna and I started to make of parodies of Roseanne at school (ok, there was a student, who I won’t name, that threw a really painful snowball at me when I did my imitation of Roseanne).
My favorite character was Emily Litella. Since I first saw Emily Litella, I was enamored. I named my Barbie dolls after her. This character was based on her real-life nanny when she was a young girl, Elizabeth Clementine Gillies. Gilda made my pre-teenage years and my teenage years a lot less painful.
Why am I writing about Gilda today?
It’s because I saw a fabulous documentary on CNN, on January 5th called Love, Gilda. It was so touching, funny and inspiring! There were things I didn’t know Gilda was struggling with early on such as her eating disorder. In her autobiography, It’s Always Something, she spoke frankly about her eating disorder struggles, the loss of her father who she loved so dearly and her illness. The documentary was directed by the talented Lisa Dapolito (a quick shoutout). It’s a real treasure, this documentary.
My favorite part was when I saw Gilda and Gene’s dog coming to wake her upon her hospital bed. Gene was right next to her and you could feel the love they all had for one another (including their nice dog whose name I forgot).
She finally met her prince charming.
If you are searching for a bittersweet and well-done documentary, I strongly suggest grabbing a box of tissues and watching Love, Gilda.
I would like to end this post with what Lisa D’Apolito is hoping for us, the audience, to capture during this beautiful documentary:
The film is made up of Gilda’s voice narrating her story, her performances that give insight into her life, interviews with her friends, interviews with contemporary comedians about how she inspired them and her ‘inner’ voice as written her journals.
My hope with Love, Gilda is that the audience will go on their own journey with Gilda and that people who love her, discover more about her and people who have never heard of her, are inspired by her story and grow to love her too.
We do love you Gilda.