Actor Gene Wilder, Star of "Willy Wonka" Dies at 83

Cheryl Sanders
August 31, 2016

Gene Wilder starred in the original 1971 "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", but he only did so under one condition. "I think I can be in the movies".

He and the late comedian Richard Pryor also teamed up in a series of black-Jewish buddy movies, including Stir Crazy and Silver Streak.

Wilder recounted the tale with the faintest smile, and then gave a firm answer to the question of the evening, "How does one define creativity?" "3 days ago. Gene Wilder made my [heart] dance - you bad, and now may you rest in peace".

He played a boozing gunslinger to great success in Blazing Saddles and his standout role was as the charming and mysterious sweet manufacturer in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.


Gene Wilder was born on June 11, 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

He started acting at age 12 before attending the University of Iowa and the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, England. "He would come to the set 15 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half late and it would bug all of us", Wilder said about his former co-star, according to the Stanford Advocate. When news began to spread of his passing, people everywhere across all platforms of social media and on television and everything began to share touching stories of how much of an inspiration Wilder was to them. He won the Clarence Derwent Award, given to promising newcomers, for the Broadway work in Graham Greene's comedy "The Complaisant Lover".

Wilder had one child, Katharine, whom he adopted in 1967.

His performance in the 1963 production of Brecht's "Mother Courage" was seen by Mel Brooks.


Directed and written by Brooks, the film brought Wilder an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor.

Wilder, whose third wife Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer, was treated for lymphoma in 2000 and had worked only sporadically since. You were one of the great screen comedians.

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"I didn't want to do the kind of junk I was seeing", he said in an interview.


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