In Memoriam: Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

2016 is about as steady as The Waco Kid’s shooting hand. We’ve lost another great talent, folks: actor, screenwriter, director, and author Gene Wilder. He passed away at age 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Born Jerome Silberman, the Wisconsin native began his studies in acting at the age of 13. His breakout role was Leopold Bloom in Mel Brooks’s non-musical film, The Producers (1968). He shot to recognition in the ’70s with memorable performances in Willy Wonky and the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein. He wrote, directed, and starred in 1975’s musical comedy, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. He had a successful comedy partnership with Richard Pryor in Silver Streak and Stir Crazy . In the mid-80s, Wilder married Saturday Night Live star Gilda Radnor. Radnor’s later death motivated Wilder to promote cancer awareness by founding a support group, Gilda’s Club, as well as an ovarian cancer detection center in her name.

After his acting career declined in the 1990s, Wilder faced his own cancer battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. By 2005 it was in complete remission, and he found new success in writing memoirs. He later transitioned to fiction writing, with My French Whore and The Woman Who Wouldn’t. And, as anyone on the internet would tell you, he also had renewed popularity as a sarcastic meme.

We’ll miss you, Mr. Wilder.

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