Gene Wilder (born June 11, 1933) is this week’s #RespectYourElder feature.
Wilder has received critical acclaim for his roles in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, and Silver Streak.
Originally born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he gained an interest in acting at an early age as a way to cheer up his sick mother. He adopted the stage name of “Gene Wilder” from the character Eugene in Thomas Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward, Angel and Wilder from Our Town author Thornton Wilder. After a series of roles in Off-Broadway shows, Wilder steadily moved into films, where he developed a close working relationship with Mel Brooks that would span across multiple films. Wilder later received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Producers and a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 1975 Oscars for the film Young Frankenstein. He also worked on four different films with comedian Richard Pryor.
After the death of his wife Gilda Radner from ovarian cancer, he helped found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center and Gilda’s Club, a community organization for people living with cancer. Wilder slowly moved away from the public eye and today spends most of his days writing. He has authored five books and collaborated on another since 1998. His most recent novel, Something to Remember You By, was published in 2013. When asked about returning back to the big screen, Wilder stated he isn’t opposed to the idea but he hasn’t seen a script that has been good enough for him to want to return.
Photo By Caroline Bonarde Ucci, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3328997