Category Archives: Alzheimer’s Disease

Remembering Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder, a beloved star of the stage and screen, passed away at the age of 83 early on Monday morning, August 29th. He developed legions of fans around the world, many attracted by his performances in comedies. Many of the actors and actresses who appeared with him in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory remembered him warmly as news spread of his passing earlier this week. One of the actor’s nephews reported to the news media that he had died from Alzheimer’s Disease complications.

In addition to acting, Gene Wilder also worked as an author, a screenwriter and a director. He directed four movies during the course of his career. He gained notoriety for portraying comedic characters with a flair for eccentricities.

He began his career acting on the stage, and had the good fortune of meeting director Mel Brooks. In 1968, he obtained a big career boost when Mel Brooks selected him to star in the film production of The Producers, a role that earned him an Oscar nomination. Soon afterwards, he starred in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. His successful films included slapstick comedies such as Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

At the height of his career in 1989, Gene Wilder suffered a personal loss when his wife, comedic actress Gilda Radner, lost her battle with ovarian cancer. He remarried in 1991, but remained dedicated to contributing to the fight against cancer.

Gene Wilder, 83, Dies

On August 29, the actor Gene Wilder, 83, died. His nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, reported that he had died from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. Wilder was best known for his roles in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971), “Blazing Saddles” (1974), and “Young Frankenstein” (1974).

He was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee; his father was a Russian immigrant. He adopted the stage name “Gene Wilder” when he was 26. He made his professional debut as an actor in 1961 when he had a major role in the Off-Broadway production “Roots.” He concentrated on stage and television roles at first and made his movie debut in 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde.”

During the 60s, he also met Mel Brooks, who cast him in “The Producers” (1968). His performance as Leo Bloom netted him an Academy Award nomination. Brooks and he made several films together, which inspired Wilder to try his luck as a director. His first foray behind the camera was 1975’s “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.”

Wilder also made several movies with Richard Pryor. The first two, “Silver Streak” (1976) and “Stir Crazy” (1980), proved to be major hits.

Wilder was married four times to Mary Mercier, Mary Schuiltz, Gilda Radner, and finally to Karen Webb. After Radner, another comic known for her appearances on SNL, died from ovarian cancer in 1989, Wilder became involved in cancer awareness. He helped found the non-profit Gilda’s Club in her honor, and the organization continues working with cancer patients and their families.