In Memoriam: A Look Back At Gene Wilder's Career

In memoriam: Gene Wilder's incredible career
June 11, 2020 - 14:15 / Cynthia Springer

Gene Wilder is best known for films like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Young Frankenstein. This year, the award-winning actor would have turned 87. We're taking a look back down memory lane with Gene Wilder's amazing career! 

As one of the biggest acting icons in cinema history, Gene Wilder still remains to be an inspiration for many. Born on June 11th, 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Wilder had an interest in becoming a actor when he was just eight years old. He had already began his first paid acting job by the age of 15 when performing the Shakespeare production of Romeo and Juliet. 

In Memoriam: A Look Back At Gene Wilder's Career

Upon graduating from University of Iowa in Communication and Theatre Arts, Gene Wilder was later drafted into the military in 1956, where he served for the medical corps in Texas. After his training, Wilder moved around New York and Massachusetts to attend acting classes.

It wasn't until the 1967 when Wilder obtained his first film role in the Mel Brooks comedy, The Producers. Brooks won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and Wilder was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Gene Wilder in The Producers (1967)

In 1971, Wilder auditioned for the role of "Willy Wonka" in the musical fantasy film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The role earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The classic American film has since been recognized by the United States National Film Registry - Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and is under preservation.

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His next major film success was in 1974's Young Frankenstein. The comedy horror film was also directed by Mel Brooks and includes actors Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Peter Boyle and Gene Hackman. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

Cloris Leachman and Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein (1974)
 

Wilder continued his film and TV successes, including, but not limited to: 

  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975)
  • Silver Streak (1976)
  • The Frisco Kid (1979)
  • Sunday Lovers (1980)
  • Stir Crazy (1980)
  • The Woman in Red (1984)
  • Funny About Love (1990)
  • Another You (1991)
  • Something Wilder (1994-1995)
  • Will & Grace (2002-2003)

Because of his performance on Will & Grace, Wilder additionally won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. 

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor starred in the film Silver Streak (1976)

In his personal life, Gene Wilder was married to Mary Mercier, Mary Joan Schutz, Gilda Radner, and Karen Boyer.

On August 29th, 2016, Wilder died due to complications of Alzheimer's disease. He passed peacefully at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. According to his nephew in Us Weekly, he died while holding hands with his family listening to an Ella Fitzgerald cover of "Over the Rainbow". 

Rest in peace, Gene.