Gene Wilder


Actor, Director, Screenwriter
Gene Wilder

About

Also Known As
Jerry Silberman
Birth Place
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Born
June 11, 1933

Biography

Comedic actor Gene Wilder caught his first big break playing a small roll in the off-Broadway production of Arnold Wesker's "Roots" and followed quickly with his Broadway debut as the comic valet in "The Complaisant Lover" (both 1961), for which he won the Clement Derwent Award. His other Broadway credits included "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1963, with Kirk Douglas), "The White Ho...

Family & Companions

Mary Mercier
Wife
Playwright. Divorced.
Mary Joan Silberman
Wife
Married on October 27, 1967; divorced in 1974.
Gilda Radner
Wife
Actor, comedienne. Married from September 18, 1984 until her death from cancer on May 20, 1989.
Karen Webb
Wife
Hearing specialist. Married on September 8, 1991; born c. 1950; met in 1988 while helping Wilder prepare to play a deaf man in the film "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" (1989); administrator for New York League for the Hard of Hearing.

Bibliography

"Kiss Me Like a Stranger"
Gene Wilder (2005)

Notes

Wilder won a 1975 Nebula Award (best dramatic presentation) for "Young Frankenstein".

He enjoys watercolor painting in his spare time.

Biography

Comedic actor Gene Wilder caught his first big break playing a small roll in the off-Broadway production of Arnold Wesker's "Roots" and followed quickly with his Broadway debut as the comic valet in "The Complaisant Lover" (both 1961), for which he won the Clement Derwent Award. His other Broadway credits included "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1963, with Kirk Douglas), "The White House" (1964, with Helen Hayes), and "Luv" (1966), but it was a 1963 Broadway production of "Mother Courage and Her Children" that altered the course of his life forever. In its cast was Anne Bancroft, who was dating Mel Brooks at the time, and the relationship established between the two men eventually led to Wilder's becoming part of Brooks' "stock company." His Actor's Studio connection may have helped him land his first feature, Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), in which he drew much favorable attention in a small but memorable role as a frightened young undertaker abducted by the legendary duo. Wilder's performance as the endearingly frantic Leo Bloom in "The Producers" (1967) kicked off his celebrated collaboration with Brooks and garnered him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. His career gained momentum as he played a swashbuckler in Bud Yorkin's "Start the Revolution without Me" (1970), the candy impresario of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971) and a sheep-smitten doctor in Woody Allen's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex* (* but were afraid to ask)" (197). But the hilarity was just beginning, Wilder reteamed with Brooks for the inspired lunacy of "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" (both 1974), earning his second Oscar nomination for his first-time screenwriting efforts (along with Brooks) on the latter. Spurred by these triumphs, Wilder made his directorial debut (in addition to acting and starring) with "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" (1975), featuring actors from the Brooks' troupe like Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise. Wilder's subsequent behind-the-camera genre spoofs have, on the whole, been disappointing, with the exception of "The Woman in Red" (1984), a broad remake of the French farce "Pardon Mon Affaire". His first association with Richard Pryor had come on "Blazing Saddles", but Pryor (co-screenwriter) had lost out in his bid for the Cleavon Little role. The two first acted together in the highly entertaining and commercially successful "Silver Streak" (1976) and scored at the box office again with "Stir Crazy" (1980), but their later efforts ("See No Evil, Hear No Evil" 1989, "Another You" 1991) were mediocre, the final film particularly marred by Pryor's all-too-apparent real-life health problems. Wilder starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom "Something Wilder" (1994-95) and made his London stage debut in Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" in 1996.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Haunted Honeymoon (1986)
Director
The Woman in Red (1984)
Director
Sunday Lovers (1981)
Director (American Segment)
The World's Greatest Lover (1977)
Director
The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Alice in Wonderland (1999)
Another You (1991)
Funny About Love (1990)
See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)
Hello Actors Studio (1987)
Himself
Haunted Honeymoon (1986)
The Woman in Red (1984)
Hanky-Panky (1982)
Sunday Lovers (1981)
Skippy
Stir Crazy (1980)
The Frisco Kid (1979)
The World's Greatest Lover (1977)
Silver Streak (1976)
The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975)
Thursday's Game (1974)
The Little Prince (1974)
Fox
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
"Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex"* but Were Afraid to Ask (1972)
Doctor Ross
Rhinoceros (1972)
Stanley
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Willy Wonka
Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)
Claude Coupé/Philippe Di Sisi
Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (1970)
Quackser Fortune
The Producers (1968)
Leo Bloom
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Eugene Grizzard

Writer (Feature Film)

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)
Screenplay
Haunted Honeymoon (1986)
Screenplay
The Woman in Red (1984)
Screenplay
Sunday Lovers (1981)
Screenplay (American Segment)
The World's Greatest Lover (1977)
Screenplay
The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975)
Screenplay
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Screenplay
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Story By

Producer (Feature Film)

Haunted Honeymoon (1986)
Producer
The World's Greatest Lover (1977)
Producer

Music (Feature Film)

Stir Crazy (1980)
Song Performer
The World's Greatest Lover (1977)
Song

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Gilda Radner: It's Always Something (2002)
Consultant
Hello Actors Studio (1987)
Other

Cast (Special)

Role Model: Gene Wilder (2008)
Himself
20th Century Fox: The Blockbuster Years (2000)
Gilda Radner: The E! True Hollywood Story (1997)
Interviewee
Gilda Radner: In Her Own Words (1994)
Countdown to Christmas (1994)
Laughing Matters (1993)
A Party for Richard Pryor (1991)
Baryshnikov in Hollywood (1982)
Annie and the Hoods (1974)
Marlo Thomas in Acts of Love -- and Other Comedies (1973)
The Trouble with People (1972)
Ernie (Story 4)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Lady in Question (1999)
Murder in a Small Town (1999)

Writer (TV Mini-Series)

Murder in a Small Town (1999)
Writer
Lady in Question (1999)
Screenplay

Life Events

1956

Served with US Army

1961

Broadway debut as the comic valet in "The Complaisant Lover"

1961

Off-Broadway acting debut in "Roots"

1963

Portrayed Billy Bibbit in original NYC stage production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

1966

Acted in CBS movie presentation of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman"; played Bernard

1967

Film acting debut in "Bonnie and Clyde"

1968

Earned Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for Mel Brooks' "The Producers"

1971

Offered a tour de force in title role of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"

1972

Played a memorable comic turn as a man who fell in love with a sheep for the bestiality segment of Woody Allen's "Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex* (*but were afraid to ask)"

1974

Co-screenwriting debut (with director Brooks), "Young Frankenstein"; also starred

1974

Reteamed with Brooks for "Blazing Saddles"; shared Best Screenplay Oscar nomination

1975

Film directing and solo screenwriting debut, "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother"; also acted

1976

Starred opposite Richard Pryor in "Silver Streak"

1977

Film producing debut (also director, writer and actor), "The World's Greatest Lover"; composed a song for picture

1980

Reunited with Pryor for "Stir Crazy"

1982

Starred opposite future wife Gilda Radner in Sidney Poitier's "Hanky Panky"

1984

Directed and acted in "The Woman in Red"; second film with Radner

1986

Last feature with Radner, "Haunted Honeymoon"; produced, directed and acted

1989

Reteamed with Pryor for the misfire "See No Evil, Hear No Evil"

1990

Helped establish the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles (date approximate)

1991

Last film to date with Pryor, "Another You"

1996

Made London stage debut in Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor"

2000

Disclosed a 1999 diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Photo Collections

The Producers - Movie Posters
Here two different styles of the American one-sheet movie poster for Mel Brooks' The Producers (1967). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Young Frankenstein (1974) - Give Me A Hand With The Bags Showing up for just her second scene almost 90 minutes into the feature, Madeline Kahn as American fiancè Elizabeth appears still to have Frederick (co-writer and title character Gene Wilder) under her thumb, his Transylvanian aides (Terri Garr as Inga, Marty Feldman as Igor) keeping up in their own way, in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, 1974.
Young Frankenstein (1974) - Not On The Lips! Entirely without introduction, seeing off professor Frederick (Gene Wilder, title character and co-writer with director Mel Brooks), headed to Transylvania to claim his inheritance, at a steamy American train station, Madeline Kahn as fiancè Elizabeth, who has a couple hangups, in the celebrated satire Young Frankenstein, 1974.
Young Frankenstein (1974) - A Temporary Companion Actually borrowing from Bride Of Frankenstein, 1935, director Mel Brooks’ escaped monster (Peter Boyle) drops in on the altogether uncredited lonely blind monk played by Gene Hackman, in Young Frankenstein, from a screenplay by Brooks and star Gene Wilder.
Young Frankenstein (1974) - What Hump? Arrived in Transylvania to claim his inheritance, professor Victor Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) explains his pronunciation to Igor (Marty Feldman), who has his own, and meets his unexpected personal assistant Inge (Teri Garr) for a hayride, in Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein, 1974.
Stir Crazy (1980) - Our Lucky Town Fleeing New York for Hollywood, out-of-work actor Harry (Richard Pryor) and writer Skip (Gene Wilder) improvise when their van breaks down in a Western town, early in Stir Crazy, 1980.
Frisco Kid, The (1979) - That's A Real Woman! Cowboy Tommy (Harrison Ford) has reluctantly joined rabbi Avram (Gene Wilder), come from Poland and trying to reach the San Francisco congregation that sent for him, together exploring some crude language and some unexpected action, Robert Aldrich directing, in The Frisco Kid, 1979.
Blazing Saddles (1974) - Where Would I Find Such A Man? Crooked Attorney General “Hedley Lamarr” (Harvey Korman) needs an idea to deliver an incompetent new sheriff to Rock Ridge, so he snags Bart (Cleavon Little) from the medieval hangman, then visits the governor (writer-director Mel Brooks), who’s easily led, in Blazing Saddles, 1974.
Blazing Saddles (1974) - In My Dwessing Woom Wrapping up her Dietrich-roasting anachronistic saloon number (an original by writer-director Mel Brooks), Lili Von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn) has been hired to seduce the resourceful new sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little), now running with “The Waco Kid,” rude business, in Blazing Saddles, 1974.
Blazing Saddles (1974) - I Wouldn't Do That One of the best gags, the nasty for-hire cowboys (led by Slim Pickens) don’t know what they’re getting into when the threaten the black sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little), now aided by his sobered up gunfighter pal “The Waco Kid,” (Gene Wilder), in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles< 1974.
Start The Revolution Without Me (1970) - How Many Pillows Did We Get? Director Bud Yorkin with a gag in which the text and narration was run twice, to the first scene for now grown-up switched-twin brothers, the peasant pair, Claude and Charles (Gene Wilder, Donald Sutherland), running afoul of their compromised French Revolution boss Jacques (Jack MacGowran), in Start The Revolution Without Me, 1970.
Frisco Kid, The (1979) - God Made Me A Rabbi Robbed by grifters in Philadelphia, found by benevolent Amish farmers, Polish rabbi Avram (Gene Wilder) gets a kindly sendoff from the elders (Walter Janowitz, Henry Rowland), heading to his new congregation in 1850 San Francisco, in The Frisco Kid, 1979, also starring Harrison Ford.
Frisco Kid, The (1979) - Oy Gevalt! Cowboy Tommy (Harrison Ford) has reluctantly joined rabbi Avram (Gene Wilder), come from Poland and trying to reach the San Francisco congregation that sent for him, together exploring some crude language and some unexpected action, in The Frisco Kid, 1979.

Trailer

Promo

Family

William J Silberman
Father
Bottle manufacturer. Russian immigrant; manufactured miniature beer and whiskey bottles.
Jeanne Silberman
Mother
Katharine Anastasia Silberman
Daughter
Mother, Mary Joan Schutz.

Companions

Mary Mercier
Wife
Playwright. Divorced.
Mary Joan Silberman
Wife
Married on October 27, 1967; divorced in 1974.
Gilda Radner
Wife
Actor, comedienne. Married from September 18, 1984 until her death from cancer on May 20, 1989.
Karen Webb
Wife
Hearing specialist. Married on September 8, 1991; born c. 1950; met in 1988 while helping Wilder prepare to play a deaf man in the film "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" (1989); administrator for New York League for the Hard of Hearing.

Bibliography

"Kiss Me Like a Stranger"
Gene Wilder (2005)

Notes

Wilder won a 1975 Nebula Award (best dramatic presentation) for "Young Frankenstein".

He enjoys watercolor painting in his spare time.