Gene Wilder

Actor

Born Jerome "Jerry" Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Wilder began studying drama and working in summer stock while studying at the University of Iowa. After graduation, he furthered his dramatic studies at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Returning to the United States, Wilder primarily supported himself as a fencing instructor. While at the Old Vic, he won the school's fencing championship.

After gaining experience off-Broadway in the early 1960?s, Wilder joined the Actors Studio. This led to several successful Broadway appearances, and eventually to Wilder?s feature film debut playing a small but memorable role in ?Bonnie and Clyde,? (1967). The following year Wilder worked with Mel Brooks for the first time, co-starring opposite Zero Mostel in the comedy ?Producers,? (1968). The role secured Wilder an Oscar nomination. During the 1970?s, Wilder appeared in some of the decade's most popular comedies. It was however his role as the title character Willy Wonka in ?Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,? that would earn him lasting fame.

It wasn?t until Wilder?s collaborations with Mel Brooks that he achieved recognition as a film star in his own right. The 1974 hit ?Young Frankenstein,? a classic horror movie spoof, scripted by both Wilder and Brooks, and ?Blazing Saddles,? 1974, became the cornerstones of Wilder?s reputation. Branching out on his own, Wilder next wrote and directed ?The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes? Smarter Brother,? teaming with fellow Mel Brooks alumni Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman. Like his subsequent directorial efforts the humor was fitful and the direction uneven. He did however have a minor hit as the director and star of ?The Woman in Red,? (1984).

As an actor, Wilder regained his form starring in the 1976 hit ?Silver Streak.? It would be the first pairing of Wilder and the renowned comic Richard Pryor. Their next movie together, ?Stir Crazy,? (1980) was also a hit but by the time ?See No Evil, Hear No Evil,? (1989), and ?Another You,? (1990) were out, the chemistry between them had already fizzled out.

Wilder was married to the Saturday Night Live veteran Gilda Radner, until her passing from cancer in 1989. The devastating loss marked the end of Wilder?s film acting until he tried his hand at situation comedy in the short-lived ?Something Wilder,? (1994-95).




Appearances in the BDE Catalog:


Cast in Death of a Salesman

Cast in Scarecrow

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