Gene Wilder Dies; Movie Legend Was 83 Years Old

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Gene Wilder, a comedic genius who was nominated for a pair of Academy Awards over the course of a legendary career, died today due to complications from Alzheimer's Disease.

He was 83.

Gene Wilder

Wilder's nephew confirmed the sad news, writing in a statement that his uncle passed away at home in Stamford, Connecticut.

He added:

"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."

Pretty amazing words, no?

Gene Wilder Picture

Wilder was such a giant in the film universe that he cannot be defined by a single role.

His most recognizable roles were likely in The Producers, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

(This author, however, must say that he's partial to Hear No Evil, See No Evil.)

Wilder had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

He was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for The Producers in 1969 and Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material for Young Frankenstein in 1975.

He also won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for an appearance on Will & Grace in 2003.

That was the last time he acted on the big or small screen.

Wilder built a career by largely playing a neurotic who walked a fine line between complete hysteria and open-hearted tenderness.

“My quiet exterior used to be a mask for hysteria,” he told Time Magazine way baxk in 1970. “After seven years of analysis, it just became a habit.”

After hanging up his acting shoes about 13 years ago, Wilder turned to writing.

He wrote a memoir, “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art," in 2005.

Following this achievement, he wrote many words of fiction. They include:

The 2007 novel “My French Whore”; 2008’s “The Woman Who Wouldn’t”; a collection of stories, “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” in 2010; and the novella “Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance” in 2013. 

Wilder was married to Gilda Radner from 1984 until she passed away from ovarian cancer 1989.

He got married again in 1991 to Karen Boyer, who became his fourth wife.

Wilder is survived by a daughter, Katharine, who he adopted in 1967 after he married her mother, Mary Joan Schutz.

Look for an endless number of tributes to pour forward today and this week in Wilder's honor.

(Josh Gad, for instance, Tweeted: "The greatest comedic mind of my childhood is now gone. #RIP #GeneWilder & thank you 4 your pure imagination. This one hits hard.")

For now, out of love and respect for a legend, allow us to say good day to Gene Wilder.


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