Legendary Gene Wilder passes at 83

By: Sam Martini ~Staff Writer~

Photo courtesy of wpengine.net | Gene Wilder immortalized the role of Willy Wonka, a character he wished would make the audience question whether he was “telling the truth or not.”

Legendary comedic actor Gene Wilder passed away Monday, Aug. 29.

Known for his phenomenal performances in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, he brought laughter and joy to countless people.

He passed away at the age of 83 at his home in Stamford, Conn., due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

“We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — unlike in so many cases, (his illness) never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality,” his nephew said in a statement.

“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.”

Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisc., Wilder started his career back in the 1960s. His first notable role was Leo Bloom, a nervously anxious accountant pulled into a scam to produce a flop on Broadway, in 1967’s The Producers, where he would get his first Oscar nomination for his performance. He would again be nominated in 1974 for his work on the screen play of Young Frankenstein, in which he also starred as the grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein. Even after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989, Wilder continued to light up the screen and brighten up lives.

The role most will remember Wilder for is Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Bringing pure imagination to the hearts of many, Wilder will not be forgotten. His whimsical nature and screen presence will always be one of the best, and he will be missed by generations who enjoyed his talent. He was truly a good deed in a weary world.