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Gene Wilder, Star Of ‘Willy Wonka,’ “Young Frankenstein” Dead At Age 83.

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Gene Wilder, star of ‘Willy Wonka,’ dead at 83

Published on Aug 29, 2016

Gene Wilder, who brought a wild-eyed desperation to a series of memorable and iconic comedy roles in the 1970s and 1980s, has died, his lawyer, Eric Weissmann, said.

From Variety.com;

Gene Wilder, ‘Willy Wonka’ Star and Comedic Icon, Dies at 83

Gene Wilder, who regularly stole the show in such comedic gems as “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Stir Crazy,” died Monday at his home in Stamford, Conn. His nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said he died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.

His nephew said in a statement, “We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.

He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones.”

He had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

VARIOUS - 1979

The comic actor, who was twice Oscar nominated, for his role in “The Producers” and for co-penning “Young Frankenstein” with Mel Brooks, usually portrayed a neurotic who veered between total hysteria and dewy-eyed tenderness. “My quiet exterior used to be a mask for hysteria,” he told Time magazine in 1970. “After seven years of analysis, it just became a habit.”

Habit or not, he got a great deal of mileage out of his persona in the 1970s for directors like Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, leading to a few less successful stints behind the camera, the best of which was “The Woman in Red,” co-starring then-wife Gilda Radner. Wilder was devastated by Radner’s death from ovarian cancer in 1989 and worked only intermittently after that. He tried his hand briefly at a sitcom in 1994, “Something Wilder,” and won an Emmy in 2003 for a guest role on “Will & Grace.”

His professional debut came in Off Broadway’s “Roots” in 1961, followed by a stint on Broadway in Graham Greene’s comedy “The Complaisant Lover,” which won him a Clarence Derwent Award as promising newcomer. His performance in the 1963 production of Brecht’s “Mother Courage” was seen by Mel Brooks, whose future wife, Anne Bancroft, was starring in the production; a friendship with Brooks would lead to some of Wilder’s most successful film work. For the time being, however, Wilder continued to work onstage, in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1963 and “Dynamite Tonight” and “The White House” the following year. He then understudied Alan Arkin and Gabriel Dell in “Luv,” eventually taking over the role.

Wilder also worked in television in 1962’s “The Sound of Hunting,” “The Interrogators,” “Windfall” and in the 1966 TV production of “Death of a Salesman” with Lee J. Cobb. He later starred in TV movies including “Thursday’s Game” and the comedy-variety special “Annie and the Hoods,” both in 1974.

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In 1967 Wilder essayed his first memorable bigscreen neurotic, Eugene Grizzard, a kidnapped undertaker in Arthur Penn’s classic “Bonnie and Clyde.”

Then came “The Producers,” in which he played the hysterical Leo Bloom, an accountant lured into a money bilking scheme by a theatrical producer played by Zero Mostel. Directed and written by Brooks, the film brought Wilder an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. With that, his film career was born.

He next starred in a dual role with Donald Sutherland in “Start the Revolution Without Me,” in which he displayed his fencing abilities. It was followed by another middling comedy, “Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx,” also in 1970.

In 1971 he stepped into the shoes of Willy Wonka, one of his most beloved and gentle characters. Based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was not an immediate hit but became a children’s favorite over the years. The same cannot be said for the 1974 Stanley Donen-directed musical version of “The Little Prince,” in which Wilder appeared as the fox. He had somewhat better luck in Woody Allen’s spoof “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex,” appearing in a hilarious segment in which he played a doctor who falls in love with a sheep named Daisy.

Full-fledged film stardom came with two other Brooks comedies, both in 1974: Western spoof “Blazing Saddles” and a wacko adaptation of Mary Shelley’s famous book entitled “Young Frankenstein,” in which Wilder portrayed the mad scientist with his signature mixture of hysteria and sweetness.

Working with Brooks spurred Wilder to write and direct his own comedies, though none reached the heights of his collaborations with Brooks. The first of these was “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” (1975), in which he included such Brooks regulars as Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman. It was followed by 1977’s “The World’s Greatest Lover,” which he also produced.

Wilder fared better, however, when he was working solely in front of the camera, particularly in a number of films in which he co-starred with Richard Pryor.

The first of these was 1976’s “Silver Streak,” a spoof of film thrillers set on trains; 1980’s “Stir Crazy” was an even bigger hit, grossing more than $100 million. Wilder and Pryor’s two other pairings, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” and “Another You,” provided diminishing returns, however.

While filming “Hanky Panky” in 1982, Wilder met “Saturday Night Live” comedienne Radner. She became his third wife shortly thereafter. Wilder and Radner co-starred in his most successful directing stint, “The Woman in Red” in 1984, and then “Haunted Honeymoon.” But Radner grew ill with cancer, and he devoted himself to her care, working sporadically after that and hardly at all after her death in 1989.

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In the early ’90s he appeared in his last film with Pryor and another comedy, “Funny About Love.” In addition to the failed TV series “Something Wilder” in 1994, he wrote and starred in the A&E mystery telepics “The Lady in Question” and “Murder in a Small Town” in 1999. He also appeared as the Mock Turtle in a 1999 NBC adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland.”

He last acted in a couple of episodes of “Will and Grace” in 2002-03 as Mr. Stein, winning an Emmy.

He was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee and began studying acting at the age of 12. After getting his B.A. from the U. of Iowa in 1955, Wilder enrolled in the Old Vic Theater school in Bristol, where he learned acting technique and fencing. When he returned to the U.S. he taught fencing and did other odd jobs while studying with Herbert Berghof’s HB Studio and at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg.

Wilder’s memoir “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art” was published in 2005. After that he wrote fiction: the 2007 novel “My French Whore”; 2008’s “The Woman Who Wouldn’t”; a collection of stories, “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” in 2010; and the novella “Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance” in 2013.

Wilder was interviewed by Alec Baldwin for the one-hour TCM documentary “Role Model: Gene Wilder” in 2008. The actor was also active in raising cancer awareness in the wake of Radner’s death.

He is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer, whom he married in 1991 and his nephew. His sister Corinne, predeceased him in January 2016.

Before Radner, Wilder was married to the actress-playwright Mary Mercier and Mary Joan Schutz (aka Jo Ayers).

Thank you Variety.com & 

Gene Wilder: I love acting, hate show business (2002)

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Jerome Silberman (June 11, 1933 – August 28, 2016), known professionally as Gene Wilder, was an American stage and screen comic actor, screenwriter, film director, and author.

Wilder began his career on stage, and made his screen debut in the TV-series Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1962. Although his first film role was portraying a hostage in the 1967 motion pictureBonnie and Clyde, Wilder’s first major role was as Leopold Bloom in the 1968 film The Producers for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This was the first in a series of collaborations with writer/director Mel Brooks, including 1974’s Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, which Wilder co-wrote, garnering the pair an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Wilder is known for his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) and for his four films with Richard Pryor: Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy(1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991). Wilder directed and wrote several of his own films, including The Woman in Red (1984).

Gene Wilder’s most memorable roles

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His third wife was actress Gilda Radner, with whom he starred in three films. Her death from ovarian cancer led to his active involvement in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda’s Club.

After his most recent contribution to acting in 2003, Wilder turned his attention to writing. He produced a memoir in 2005, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art; a collection of stories, What Is This Thing Called Love? (2010); and the novels My French Whore (2007), The Woman Who Wouldn’t (2008) and Something to Remember You By (2013).

Gene Wilder
A black-and-white photo of Wilder smiling

Wilder in 2007
Born Jerome Silberman
June 11, 1933
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died August 28, 2016 (aged 83)
Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.
Cause of death Complications of Alzheimer’s disease
Education Washington High School
Alma mater University of Iowa
Occupation Actor, screenwriter, director, author
Years active 1961–2016
Spouse(s) Mary Mercier (m. 1960; div. 1965)
Mary Joan Schut (m. 1967;div. 1974)
Gilda Radner (m. 1984; her death 1989)
Karen Boyer (m. 1991; his death 2016)
Relatives Jordan Walker-Pearlman(nephew)
Signature
Gene Wilder (signature).png

Death

Wilder died at the age of 83 on August 28, 2016, at home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.[51]

Work

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1966 Death of a Salesman Bernard Television
1967 Bonnie and Clyde Eugene Grizzard
1968 The Producers Leo Bloom Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1970 Start the Revolution Without Me The twins Claude and Philippe
Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx Quackser Fortune
1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Willy Wonka Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1972 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) Dr. Doug Ross
The Scarecrow Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow Television
1974 Rhinoceros Stanley Based on Eugène Ionesco‘s play Rhinoceros
Blazing Saddles Jim, “The Waco Kid”
The Little Prince The Fox
Thursday’s Game Harry Evers Television
Young Frankenstein Dr. Frederick Frankenstein Nominated – Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay
1975 The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother Sigerson Holmes Also director and writer
1976 Silver Streak George Caldwell Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1977 The World’s Greatest Lover Rudy Valentine, aka Rudy Hickman Also producer, director, and writer
1979 The Frisco Kid Avram Belinski
1980 Sunday Lovers Skippy Directed “Skippy” segment
Stir Crazy Skip Donahue
1982 Hanky Panky Michael Jordon
1984 The Woman in Red Teddy Pierce Also director and writer
1986 Haunted Honeymoon Larry Abbot Also director and writer
1989 See No Evil, Hear No Evil Dave Lyons Also writer
1990 Funny About Love Duffy Bergman
1991 Another You George/Abe Fielding
1999 Murder in a Small Town Larry “Cash” Carter Television; co-written with Gilbert Pearlman
Alice in Wonderland The Mock Turtle
The Lady in Question Larry “Cash” Carter Television; co-written with Gilbert Pearlman

Television

Stage

Gene-Wilder

2 replies »

  1. I loved Gene Wilder. He brought so much laughter. My favorite are all the films he made with Richard Pryor. They were the perfect team, really knew how to play off each other. I also enjoyed Young Frankenstein. He was like a straight man in that but brought so much craziness to the story. I always thought that his relationship with Gilda Radner was a love story for the ages. Heartbreaking when she died so young. Could only imagine what it was like for him. A good man filled with laughter. Goodnight, Funny man.

    Like

    • I liked him as well and his relationship with Ms. Gilda was a love story that Hollywood has not seen before or since….to my knowledge. They both are reunited now, if you have faith in that type of thinking. Good to see you Ms. Monica.

      Like

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