Iconic and Eclectic Gene Wilder Dies at 83
Death of a Legend
Beloved star of “Willy Wonka” and “Young Frankenstein,” Gene Wilder, passed away at 83. He died from complications from Alzheimer’s in Stamford, Connecticut on August 29. Complications from Alzheimer’s can include problems swallowing, which lead to pneumonia. He leaves behind his wife Karen Boyer and child from a previous marriage. He left his mark on American cinema in memorable roles, such as “Willy Wonka” and “Blazing Saddles.”
“Don’t try to make it funny, make it real.” A famous quote by Gene Wilder definitely demonstrated through his nuisances and memorable performances. Willy Wonka, which was a beloved childhood icon, was transformed by Gene Wilder’s quirky off beat performance, making Wonka seem to have a dark side.
Wilder was more than a movie star. He took on the different roles of the movie business. He directed the four films he starred in, as well as, he was a stage actor, screenwriter, and novelist. He was however best known for his quirky and mentally unstable characters that are hard to forget.
Gene Wilder started his career in Broadway where performed off broadway in “Roots” and “The Complaisant Lover”. Another notable Broadway role is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” with Kirk Douglas. His career took a turn when he was in the play “Mother Courage and her Children” because of his relationship with Anne Bancroft and his introduction to Mel Brooks. He continued this relationship with Mel Brooks through several films.
Gene Wilder has been married four times. His first two marriages, Mary Joan Schutz and Mary Mercer ended in divorce. Gilda Radnor passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989, which deeply affected Wilder. He helped to found Gilda’s club, which he wanted to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. He remarried Karen Boyer, whom he stayed with up until his death.
Wilder was treated for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1999 where he underwent chemotherapy. He used adult stem cell treatment to fully recover from his cancer in 2000. After his treatment and recovery, He performed on the show “Will and Grace” where he earned an Emmy.
Wilder published his memoir in 2005 Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art.” He also wrote fiction “The French Whore” and “The Woman who Wouldn’t” as well as a collection of stories.
Wilder had written many of the films he appeared in as well as other screenplays. “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” was one he wrote during his collaboration with Mel Brooks. Gene Wilder showed his talent for film through his screenplays and memorable performances.
Gene Wilder attempted to work in television but he did not find much success except for “Will and Grace.” His collaborations with Richard Pryor and Mel Brooks produced many successful comedic films early in his career. Wilder chose to focus on his writing later in life until his death.
An actor known for his eccentric characters, curly hair, and blue eyes, Gene Wilder leaves behind some iconic characters and legendary films. His partnerships with Richard Pryor and Mel Brooks produced some memorable films, like “Young Frankenstein.” One character anyone in any generation will remember is his quirky “Willy Wonka.”