Comedy Loses a Legend: The Death of Gene Wilder

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Sadie Neville, Co-Editor in Chief

Gene Wilder, comedy connoisseur, passed away in the morning of Monday, Aug. 29. He died in the comfort of his home in Stamford, Connecticut, surrounded by the love of his family members.

The death was confirmed by Wilder’s nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, who shared a touching anecdote of his last moments, “As our hands clutched and he performed one last breath, the music speaker, which was set to random, began to blare out one of his favorites: Ella Fitzgerald.”

Wilder, 83 years old, suffered through complications from Alzheimer’s, and kept a low-profile lifestyle throughout the last years of his life. Although he was first diagnosed in 2013, Wilder and his family kept the news private from the community and his fans. Walker-Pearlman noted that the secrecy was to protect the emotions of Gene’s younger fan base.

In 1999, Gene Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of cancer found in the lymph nodes. He went into remission six years later, in 2005.

However, Wilder was not unfamiliar with the cancer process. In 1989, his wife and fellow comedian Gilda Radner died from a battle with ovarian cancer. In 1991, he created “Gilda’s Club,” a nonprofit cancer cooperation dedicated to Radner’s legacy and memory. The nonprofit works to support the families of those undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, a concept that hit close to home with Wilder.

Adrianna Lazzarini, Helix’s Film as Literature teacher, referred to Wilder as “one of the best comedic actors ever.”

He was best known for his title roles as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971, and Dr. Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein in 1974.

Gene Wilder often worked closely with director Mel Brooks who stated on Twitter, following the loss, that “He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.”

While he was most famous for his comedic movie acting, many people are unaware that Wilder also took part in television acting, screenwriting, directing, and even as an author of books such as The Woman Who Wouldn’t and My French Whore.

Gene Wilder was a man of many talents, which is why people from all walks of life are mourning his death.

Lazzarini, with a hurting heart from the loss, commented that Gene Wilder “[made] us feel that we were part of [his] life… It feels as if we’re losing someone we know.”