Gene Wilder

Author, Actor, Comedian

American film and theater comic actor, screenwriter and author is renowned for his eccentric performance as Willy Wonka in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Jerome Silberman known professionally as Gene Wilder, was a comic actor and director, who was known for movies including “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Young Frankenstein. In his later years, Wilder became a serious novelist, writing a memoir and several novels.

Wilder co-founded Gilda’s Club, a support group for people with cancer. He also founded the Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

On August 29, 2016, aged 83, Gene Wilder passed away at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He passed away holdings his loved ones hands and listening to ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Ella Fitzgerald.’

Name:   Gene  Wilder
Born:   11 June 1933
Star Sign: Gemini
Died:   29 August 2016
Birthplace: Milwaukee
Country: United States Wisconsin (WI)
DetailsOther Names
Jerome Silberman
William J. Silberman
Jeanne Baer Silberman
Mary Mercier (1960–65), Mary Joan Schutz (1967–74), Gilda Radner (1984–89) (her death), Karen Boyer (1991–)
Katharine Wilder (adopted)

Young Jerome Silberman
Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Jeanne (Baer) and William J. Silberman, who were Russian-Jewish immigrant. His mother, was often ill from complications from rheumatic heart disease, and a doctor warned the eight-year-old Jerome, "Don't ever argue with your mother... but try and make her laugh." These circumstances began Wilder's lifelong calling to acting, as he made his mother laugh by putting on different accents. This began Jerome's lifelong calling to acting.

At the age of 11 years old, Wilder watched his sister (who was studied acting) performed onstage, and he was enthralled by it. At age 13, he started acting lessons.

After Graduation
In 1951, after graduating from Washington High School in Milwaukee, Wilder studied communication and theater arts at the University of Iowa. Following that he spent a year studying theater and fencing at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, United Kingdom.

After studying fencing, Wilder became the first freshman to win the All-School Fencing Championship. He later returned to the United States to study the Stanislavski method of acting and lived with his sister and her family in Queens.

First Acting Job
In 1956, Wilder was drafted into the U.S. Army for two years and worked as a paramedic at Valley Forge Army Hospital, in Pennsylvania. In November 1957, his mother died from cancer. After the army, he returned to New York, where he received a scholarship to the HB Studio.

Wilder supported himself with odd jobs such as a limousine driver, fencing instructor and fencing choreographer, His first professional acting job was in Herbert Berghof's production of, the 'Twelfth Night'.

Big Break - The Producers
At age 26, Wilder decided to take the stage name Gene Wilder. In 1963, Wilder was cast in a leading role in 'Mother Courage and Her Children', a production starring Anne Bancroft. She introduced Wilder to her boyfriend, Mel Brooks.

He was given a small role as the hostage of gangsters in the 1967 classic 'Bonnie and Clyde.' Wilder's big break came in 1968, when he starred in Brooks' film, 'The Producers' and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Willy Wonka
In 1971, Wilder starred in his famous role of, Willy Wonka in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.' In 1972, he starred in Woody Allen's 1972 film, 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).' He teamed again with Mel Brooks in 1974, for the 'Blazing Saddles' a decision that helped define his career.

He played a fox in 'The Little Prince,' and co-wrote 'Young Frankenstein' with Brooks, which was a commercial success, earning Wilder and Brooks the Best Adapted Screenplay nominations at the 1975 Oscars.

Directorial Debut
In 1976, Wilder and Pryor acted together in 'Silver Streak' and became Hollywood's first successful inter-racial movie comedy duo. Spurred by these triumphs, Wilder made his directorial debut (in addition to acting and starring) with 'The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, a 1975 American musical comedy film.'

Wilder went on to write, direct and star in 'The World’s Greatest Lover' in 1977, for which he also composed a song performed by Harry Nilsson. He played a bumbling Polish rabbi in the Old West in 1979, 'The Frisco Kid."

Projects with Gilda Radner
In 1980, Wilder and Richard Pryor starred in 'Stir Crazy' directed by Sidney Poitier, which was an international success. Poitier and Wilder became friends, and worked together on a script which became 1982's 'Hanky Panky', the film where Wilder met comedian Gilda Radner.

Although both were married at the time, they started a relationship on set and sought divorces so that they could be married in 1984. In the same year, Wilder directed his third film, 'The Woman in Red,' then in 1986, 'Haunted Honeymoon'.

Magical Pair
Wilder and Pryor co-starred in four films: "Silver Streak," "Stir Crazy," "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" and "Another You." And they created several memorable scenes. The 1991 feature, 'Another You', was Wilder's final movie with Pryor, as Pryor's physical deterioration from multiple sclerosis. It was also Wilder's last appearance in a feature film.

However, his remaining work consisted of television movies and guest appearances. In 1991, Wilder was inducted into the Wisconsin Performing Arts Hall of Fame.

Final Chapter
In 1999, Wilder appeared in three television movies, the NBC adaptation of 'Alice in Wonderland' and two mystery movies co-written by himself: 'Murder in a Small Town' and 'The Lady in Question.' He also guest-starred on two episodes of - NBC's 'Will & Grace'. He received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor on a Comedy Series as Mr. Stein

From 2003, Wilder focused on writing novels and stories, and painting. In 2005, he published a memoir, Kiss 'Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art.'

Marriage and family
Wilder was married four times. He married Mary Mercier, which lasted five years. He then married Mary Joan Schutz in 1967 and adopted her daughter, Katharine. In 1981, Wilder met actress, Gilda Radner and they married, and were together until her death in 1989. In 1991, Wilder married speech therapist, Karen Boyer, until his death in 2016.

Gene Wilder came up with the idea for Wonka to make his entrance with a limp and do that famous somersault.

He started being funny to keep his mom alive. The doctor told him, “Don’t ever argue with your mother – you might kill her…Try to make her laugh.”

He started on stage, and that’s how he ended up in film. He shared the stage with Anne Bancroft in the 1963 Broadway production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children.

He hid his Alzheimer’s to protect the children.

He Retired From Acting Because He Thought Films Had Become Too Senseless

When he was a Teenager, his Mother sent him to a Military Institute

He was a Published Novelist

He was a Prominent Cancer Activist

He Enjoyed the sport of Fencing. He actually became the first ever freshman to the win the school's fencing championship, a feat which shocked staff and pupils alike.

Wilder's Life Philosophy was "he Golden Rule"

"Time is a precious thing. Never waste it."

"So shines a good deed... in a weary world."

"If you're not gonna tell the truth, then why start talking?"

"The suspense is terrible. I hope it'll last."

"On stage or in the movies I could do whatever I wanted to. I was free."

"Don't put the sheep on the table."

"If the physical thing you're doing is funny, you don't have to act funny while doing it...Just be real and it will be funnier"

"Little surprises around every corner, but nothing dangerous."

"When you please your mother by doing something, it gives you confidence that you can please other people."

"Where is fancy bred, in the heart or in the head?"


On 29 August 2016, Gene Wilder passed away from complications of Alzheimer's disease, aged 83 years old, at his home in Stamford, Connecticut.

Wilder's nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, revealed the touching final hours of Wilder's life, in which the family gathered for Wilder's favorite meal - a chicken dinner. Gene Wilder died holding hands with his loved ones while listening to one of his favorite songs - a rendition of "Over the Rainbow" sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

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