Gene Wilder has passed away at the age of 83. Although he hasn’t been working in recent years, he was a giant who leaves a big hole in the comedy zeitgeist.
Many of us loved him for the children’s classic, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, that was a part of every childhood for five decades, others for his brilliant roles in Mel Brooks classics like Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Producers. And there was the classic comedies Stir Crazy, Silver Streak, See No Evil, Hear No Evil where he co-starred with another comedy giant- Richard Pryor in dozens of other great roles. He had a knack for brilliant comedy pairings with the likes of not only Pryor and Brooks, but also Madeline Kahn, Zero Mostel, Marty Feldman and so many others and of course his personal and professional relationship with his wife, another legend in comedy, Gilda Radner who died in 1989 after battling ovarian cancer.
We’ll post more about Wilder’s career later. He was, and remains a legend. He died of complications related to Alzheimer’s Disease.
If you’re in the New York area, grab tickets fast to Mel Brooks, Back in the Saddle Again, screening the classic comedy Blazing Saddles with Q&A at Radio City on September first.
His 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.”