Actor, comedian, writer, producer and director Gene Wilder, who is remembered for a rash of theatrical comedies including “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Stir Crazy” and, of course, “Young Frankenstein,” died at his home yesterday in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 83.
Born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Wilder got his first break playing a small role in the off-Broadway production of Arnold Wesker’s “Roots” in 1961. In that same year, he won the Clement Derwent Award for “The Complaisant Lover,” and made other appearances on the stage in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The White House” and “Mother Courage and Her Children,” where he met Anne Bancroft, who was dating Mel Brooks at the time. Wilder ultimately became part of Brook’s stock company, which resulted in Oscar nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor for “The Producers” in 1969 and for Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Material for “Young Frankenstein” in 1975.
Wilder’s TV appearances included “The Sound of Hunting,” “The Interrogators,” “Windfall” and the 1966 TV production of “Death of a Salesman” with Lee J. Cobb. He later starred in TV movies including “Thursday’s Game” and the comedy-variety special “Annie and the Hoods,” both in 1974, and headlined NBC comedy “Something Wilder” in the 1994-95 season. In 1967, he had a small role in “Bonnie and Clyde” opposite Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.
Wilder also appeared opposite Richard Pryor in in comedies “Silver Streak,” “See No Evil, Hear No Evil,” “Another You,” “Funny About Love” and aforementioned “Stir Crazy.” While filming “Hanky Panky” in 1982, another big screen chuckler, Wilder met “Saturday Night Live” comedienne Radner. She became his third wife shortly thereafter, and they co-starred together in “The Woman in Red,” which he also directed, and “Honeymoon Hotel.” Wilder ultimately devoted himself to the care of Radner who succumbed to cancer in 1989.
Wilder’s final on-screen appearances were two episodes of NBC sitcom “Will & Grace,” which resulted in an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 2003.
Wilder’s memoir “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art” was published in 2005. After that he wrote 2007 novel “My French Whore;” “The Woman Who Wouldn’t” in 2008; “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” a collection of stories, in 2010; and the novella “Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance” in 2013.
He is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer, whom he married in 1991 and his nephew. His sister Corinne, predeceased him in January 2016.