Beloved actor and comedian Gene Wilder died this week at his home in Stanford Connecticut due to complications from Alzheimers disease. He was 83.
Wilder, was best known for his comedies with Mel Brooks (“The Producers”, “Blazing Saddles”, and “Young Frankenstein” – which he co-wrote with Brooks) as well as the family film classic “Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory”. is known for his delightfully neurotic performances in the Brooks films and his eccentric behavior starring in “Willie Wonka”.
Gene was born Jerry Silbermanin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of a Russian jew, who made spirit miniatures. His mother “loved him as much as a boy could be loved”, but that was not enough for Wilder. “Like every actor, I felt I wasn’t loved for my true self but for what I could do. Perhaps I felt no one listened to me or heard my ideas until I was funny.”
Mr. Wilder’s rule for comedy was simple: Don’t try to make it funny; try to make it real. “I’m an actor, not a clown,”
Wilder was an accomplished stage actor, a screenwriter, and the director of four movies. His haunting blue eyes and soft approach often had his audiences routing for him. but it also belied a past dealing with psychic distress.
Wilder wanted movie viewers to be touched by his performances.
Wilder also was active in promoting ovarian cancer awareness and treatment after his wife, “Saturday Night Live” comedienne Gilda Radner, whom he married in 1984, died of the disease in 1989.
He helped found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founded Gilda’s Club, a support organization that has branches throughout the United States.
The rock group Coldplay performed a haunting rendition ‘Pure Imagination’, the ballad Wilder made famous in “Willie Wonka” this week.
Here’s more reaction from Twitter:
Mel Brooks: Gene Wilder-One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.
Steve Martin: Goodbye, Gene Wilder. You were one of the great screen comedians. Original and surprising every time.
Sarah Silverman: Hilarious & heartbreaking in the very same moment. RIP beautiful Gene Wilder there was & will never be anyone like you.
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.”