(PCM) Beloved comic actor Gene Wilder has sadly passed away at the age of 83. Wilder is best known for his role as the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka in “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory”. Other notable roles include teaming up with Mel Brooks for “The Producers”, “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein”.
Wilder also famously teamed up with actor Richard Pryor for “Sliver Streak”, “Stir Crazy”, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” and “Another You”. Wilder wrote and directed both “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” and “Another You”. Tragically, Wilder is also remembered for his short-lived romance with Saturday Night Live actress Gilda Radnor. Less than two years after they were married Radnor was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died on May 20, 1989 at the young age of 42.
Back in 1999, Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and treated with radiation and stem cell transplants. According to a statement released by the actors family he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and succumbed to complications from the disease. You can read the full statement released by Wilder’s family announcing his passing below:
A Statement Regarding Gene Wilder from his Nephew/Child Jordan Walker-Pearlman.
Gene Wilder 11 June 1933-29 August 2016
It is with indescribable sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life lived that I announce the passing of husband, parent, and universal artist Gene Wilder, at his home in Stamford, Conn. It is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him. The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s Disease with which he co-existed for the last three years. The choice to keep this private was his choice, in talking with us and making a decision as a family. 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. It took enough, but not that.
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.
He is survived by Karen, Jordan, and the Webbs (Kevin, Gretchen, Tucker, Spencer), along Jordan’s wife, Elizabeth. Gene’s sister Corinne, predeceased him in January of this year.
He was 83 and passed holding our hands with the same tenderness and love he exhibited as long as I can remember. As our hands clutched and he performed one last breath, the music speaker, which was set to random, began to blare out one of his favorites: Ella Fitzgerald. There is a picture of he and Ella meeting at a London Bistro some years ago that are among each of our cherished possessions. She was singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow as he was taken away.
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
Our sincere condolences go out to Gene Wilder’s family and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time. The entertainment world has truly lost a legend and he will be sorely missed!