STAMFORD, CT (CelebrityAccess) — Gene Wilder, an actor best known for his comedic collaborations with Mel Brooks in such films as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and The Producers, died Monday at his home in Stamford. He was 83.
A statement released by his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said Wilder died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
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 company of beloved ones.”
Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wilder started his professional acting career off Broadway, with roles in productions such as "Roots," “The Complaisant Lover,” which won him a Clarence Derwent Award as promising newcomer and “Mother Courage,” which brought him to the attention of Mel Brooks, who would direct some of Wilder's most successful films.
Wilder's big breakthrough with the public came when he was cast as candymaker Willy Wonka in the screen version of Roald Dahl's classic children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The film version, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory would start a streak of film successes for Wilder that included Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, The Frisco Kid and Stir Crazy.
His final feature film was Another You (1991) which cast him with his comedic partner Richard Pryor.
Wilder was married four times in his life, including to comedian Gilda Radner who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Radner's death deeply affected Wilder and marked his transition from an film star to an an author, writing a mixture of both non-fiction such as "Gilda's Disease: Sharing Personal Experiences and a Medical Perspective on Ovarian Cancer" (1998) and fiction, such as the comedic spy novel "My French Whore" (2007). – Staff Writers