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Celebrities PopWrapped | Celebrities

Comedic Legend Gene Wilder Passes Away At 83

Ashley Perna | PopWrapped Author

Ashley Perna

03/13/2017 2:20 pm
PopWrapped | Celebrities
Comedic Legend Gene Wilder Passes Away At 83 | Gene Wilder
Media Courtesy of Ranker

Comedic legend Gene Wilder, known for his roles in Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, passed away earlier today (August 29) at his Connecticut home. He was 83 years of age, and is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer, and his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman. Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the late 1980s, and passed away from complications due to Alzheimer's disease.

Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman, and began acting at the age of 12 in Milwaukee. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 1955 with his Bachelor's of Arts, and subsequently moved to Bristol where he enrolled in Old Vic Theatre school. Wilder later moved back to the United States, and taught fencing while studying with the Actors Studio and at Herbert Berghof's HB Studio. 

He made his debut Off Broadway, in a 1961 production of "Roots". Shortly after that, he debuted on Broadway in the comedy "The Complaisant Lover", winning a Clarence Derwent Award for most promising newcomer. He also starred in a number of onstage productions, including "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", "Dynamite Tonight", "The White House" and "Luv", before beginning an incredibly successful collaboration with Mel Brooks.

Before making the leap to film, Wilder also acted in a number of television roles. These include The Sound of Hunting, Windfall and Death Of A Salesman. His first big screen role was in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, as Eugene Grizzard, a neurotic, kidnapped, undertaker. His breakthrough role, however, didn't come until he appeared in The Producers

Wilder received two Oscar nominations in his lifetime: a best supporting actor nomination for his role as Leo Bloom in The Producers and the other was shared with Mel Brooks, for co-writing the comedic classic Young Frankenstein. Perhaps his best known role was that of Willy Wonka, in the 1971 film adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Mel Brooks was a frequent collaborator, and the two found great success with words such as Blazing Saddles, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes' Younger Brother, and The World's Greatest Lover. Wilder also starred in a number of films with comedian Richard Pryor, including Silver Streak and Another You

Wilder also had some measure of success behind the camera as well, most notably for 1984's The Woman In Red, which co-starred his then-wife Gilda Radner. He and Radner married in 1982, shortly after meeting, and co-starred in both The Woman In Red and Haunted Honeymoon. Wilder quit acting when she became ill with ovarian cancer, and only worked sporadically after her death in 1989. One of those roles, playing Mr. Stein in a few episodes of Will and Grace, won him an Emmy in 2003.

He published his memoir, Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search For Love And Art, in 2005, and wrote a number of novels as well. Wilder became an active supporter of a number of cancer awareness charities following Radner's death, and spoke with Alec Baldwin about the issue in a 2008 TCM special.

Wilder's role in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory was a key part of many childhoods, and in some cases may even have introduced children to the Dahl's classic work. His more adult roles in Young Frankenstein and The Producers were incredibly influential, both on other actors and on audiences everywhere. He will be missed.


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