Legendary actor GENE WILDER passed away on Sunday at the age of 83. His family released a longstatement which said the cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, which he was diagnosed with three years ago.
It was his decision to keep the diagnosis private . . . and it wasn’t about vanity, he was doing it FOR THE CHILDREN. He didn’t want the young Willy Wonka fans to worry about him. The family said, quote, “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”
Obviously, Gene is best known for starring in the original “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”, which came out in 1971.
Before taking the role, he insisted that the character make that grand entrance, where he fakes out the kids by first walking out with a cane and a limp. He’d said, quote, “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”
Gene’s first movie role was as a hostage in “Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967. He also did several movies with Mel Brooks . . .“The Producers”, “Young Frankenstein”, and “Blazing Saddles”.
And four others with Richard Pryor . . . “Silver Streak”, “Stir Crazy”, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil”, and “Another You”.
He didn’t win an Oscar, but was nominated for two . . . Best Supporting Actor for “The Producers” and Best Adapted Screenplay for “Young Frankenstein”.
He was married four times, most notably to Gilda Radner, who he was with in the ’80s until her death from ovarian cancer in 1989. He got married for the last time in 1991, and remained with his wife Karen for 25 years, until his death.
Throughout those 25 years, Gene has been basically retired from acting. He did a few small things: A short-lived NBC sitcom called “Something Wilder” in 1994 . . . three TV movies in 1999 . . . and a couple of “Will & Grace” episodes in 2003.
His last credited role was providing the voice for a character named Elmer in a 2015 episode of “Yo Gabba Gabba!”.
The Internet was flooded with tributes yesterday.
Mel Brooks said, quote, “One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic, and he blessed me with his friendship.” (Mel will likely say more about Gene’s passing when he visits the “Tonight Show” tonight.)