Farewell to a comic hero: Gene Wilder dies aged 83

BLAZING Saddles; The Producers; Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; See No Evil, Hear No Evil…Gene Wilder gave filmgoers more unforgettable moments than they deserved during a silver screen career that lasted almost half a century. 

The comic actor, director and writer died on Monday August 29 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago. He was 83 years old, having first been seen in cinemas playing a hostage in 1967’s Bonnie & Clyde. 

His partnerships with director Mel Brooks and fellow comic legend Richard Pryor will go down in Hollywood history as two of the finest ever to grace the screen. 

Wilder’s nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, revealed that his uncle had kept his Alzheimers diagnosis secret. “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world,” Pearlman said, after telling press “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.”

 Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee on June 11 1933, Wilder had honed his comedy skills as a boy providing light entertainment for his disabled mother. He studied theatre arts in Iowa and was even trained at Bristol’s Old Vic in 1955, before his acting career took off in the early 1960s. 

Retiring from the screen after a short television career in 2003, he spent much of his later life painting, writing and raising funds for charity.

In 2005 when asked for his opinion on the Willy Wonka remake from Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp he said: “It’s just some people sitting around thinking: how can we make some more money? Why else would you remake Willy Wonka?”

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