Many recognize Gene Wilder from his character Willy Wonka in the childhood-favorite film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” For many of us, it was difficult to comprehend the idea of losing the man who will forever hold a place in our childhood memories.
At 83, Wilder passed away peacefully from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on Aug. 28 in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1999, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy for treatment. Within the next year, he was cancer-free and continued acting in short films and movies.
According to People Magazine, he kept his sickness secret from the public for three years in hopes that his fans would remember his high spirit, energy and the ability to make others smile.
“He was an artist and he always knew how to perform and make people feel inspired and comfortable,” his nephew Jordan Walker-Perlman told People Magazine.
Wilder had an uncanny ability to reach people in a deep and positive way. He made a mark on comedic films and will always be remembered as a man capable of taking on any role and making his fans enjoy every part of his performances.
Jerome Silberman, known professionally as Gene Wilder, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 11, 1933. At a young age, his mother suffered from rheumatic heart disease and he would want to make her smile through the pain. This is what influenced him to start acting in comedies.
“He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world,” said Walker-Perlman. Unfortunately, Wilder’s most successful moments in acting didn’t last long before he retired, but he had left us with classics that will never be forgotten.
Although Wilder was well known for his role in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” he also took on big roles in “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein” which were both successful films that have become cult classics.
According to The New York Times, before reaching Hollywood, Wilder took part in some off-Broadway productions. Through connections, he was able to land his first movie debut in “Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967 which kicked off his collaboration with Mel Brooks. Brooks directed many films, including “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.”
With all of his films being from different genres, we are shown how versatile he was and how well he mastered each role given to him. Wilder shined most in his role of Willy Wonka and not only influenced multiple age groups, but continues to be a classic that will forever be remembered.