Gene Wilder was an actor, comedian, screenwriter, film director, and author. He was perhaps best known as Willy Wonka from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. He was also well known for his comedic roles with Richard Pryor or Gilda Radner.
Jerome Silberman was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He adopted the stage name Gene Wilder due to writing he enjoyed. He had become interested in acting when he was eight years old. He began to study acting under a teacher when he was thirteen years old. He, also, was sent to study for a time at the military institute in Hollywood called Black-Foxe. At fifteen, he performed in front of a paying audience back home at a local theatre. He graduated from Washington High School and went on to study Communication and Theatre Arts at the University of Iowa. After graduating he went on to study at Bristol Old Vic Theatre in England. He then returned to the U.S. to Queens, New York and enrolled at HB Studio.
He was drafted into the Army in 1956. His mother died of ovarian cancer the following year, in 1957. Gene went back to New York, worked, and studied at HB Studio.
Gene Wilder’s first paid professional acting job was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Following more study, he was accepted into the Actors Studio. He gained attention from off-Broadway productions. A role in the television series The Play of the Week occurred in 1961. More theatre led to Death of a Salesman, which was televised on CBS. A role in the 1967 Bonnie & Clyde film came next. More roles led to 1968’s The Producers. This resulted in an Academy Award nomination for Wilder.
In 1969, he worked in Paris before returning to New York. Another film role and then Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory came as did a Golden Globe nomination for Gene Wilder. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) came next as did other roles on film. Wilder, also, was writing Young Frankenstein during this time. Writing, acting, and awards continued. Gene Wilder and and Richard Pryor, also, became an acting comedy duo at this time. In 1982, Gene worked with his third wife Gilda Radner. More roles in film and on television came Gene’s way as well as additional accolades for his work.
After marrying Gilda in 1984 she was found to have ovarian cancer in 1986. Gilda died in 1989 and Gene went on to help found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center and co-found Gilda’s Club. In 1991, Gene married his fourth and final wife.
Unfortunately, Gene Wilder died August 29, 2016 of complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. A couple of awards he received, a half dozen books he wrote, many movies, and other tributes exist as evidence of Gene Wilder’s work and contributions. He was a star and worked for the benefit of many. Be inspired! Have a bright day!