(Image: Warner Bros.)
Legendary actor Gene Wilder, best known for his role as Willy Wonka in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” died on Monday due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Wilder was 83 years young.
Wilder’s nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, 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.
Other film roles that Wilder was known for and made his own include:
- “The Producers” (1967), Leo Bloom
- “Blazing Saddles” (1974), Jim
- “Young Frankenstein” (1974), Dr. Frankenstein
- “Silver Streak” (1976), George
- “Stir Crazy” (1980), Skip Donahue
- “The Woman in Red” (1984), Teddy Pierce
- “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” (1989), Dave Lyons
Wilder was a giant in the comedy world. His four movie partnership with the late comedy great Richard Pryor have stood the test of time.
Twice nominated for an Academy Award, Wilder also teamed up with comedy/musical director extraordinaire Mel Brooks. He received two Golden Globe nominations as well for his roles in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Silver Streak.”
According to Variety:
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.
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 is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer, whom he married in 1991 and his nephew. His sister Corinne, predeceased him in January 2016.