Hollywood and the film industry lost a legend on Monday (August 29) as actor Gene Wilder passed away at the age of 83 at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. Wilder succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease, which he quietly battled for three years, according to a statement issued by his nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman.
“He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the word,” Walker-Pearlman said.
Wilder starred in three films for director Mel Brooks in the 1960’s and 1970’s. His work in “The Producers” earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting actor; he picked up a second nod for penning “Young Frankenstein” with Brooks and “Blazing Saddles” is often considered one of the greatest comedies of all-time.
“He blessed every film we did with his magic and he blessed me with his friendship,” Brooks said in a statement to CNN.
Outside of his work with Brooks, Wilder starred in five films with the late Richard Pryor, earning a Golden Globe nomination for “Silver Streak,” and starred in arguably his most memorable film, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” where he brought author Roald Dahl’s eccentric and colorful factory owner to life.
In his personal life, Wilder was married four times, most famously to “Saturday Night Live” star Gilda Radner whom he was with for five years until her death from ovarian cancer in 1989. Per his dying wife’s request, Wilder promoted awareness for the disease.
He lent Radner’s name to a research program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, collaborated on the book, “Gilda’s Disease,” with oncologist Steven Piver and helped fund support groups for women suffering from the disease.
“I feel relieved now, and I sleep better at night. The old story that one person can really make a difference…I was just lucky; I think I was one spoke in a wheel that started to turn at this time. Actually Gilda was the main horsepower behind the whole thing,” Wilder told the Los Angeles Time in 1991.
Wilder spent the last two decades largely out of the spotlight. He is survived by his wife of 25 years Karen (Boyer) Wilder.