Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA
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Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory
Actor/Actress, Writer, Soundtrack
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Profile Bio Text
Jerome Silberman (June 11, 1933 – August 29, 2016), known professionally as Gene Wilder, was an American stage and screen comic actor, screenwriter, film director, and author.
Wilder began his career on stage, and made his screen debut in the TV-series Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1962. Although his first film role was portraying a hostage in the 1967 motion picture Bonnie and Clyde, Wilder's first major role was as Leopold Bloom in the 1968 film The Producers for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This was the first in a series of collaborations with writer/director Mel Brooks, including 1974's Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, which Wilder co-wrote, garnering the pair an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Wilder is known for his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) and for his four films with Richard Pryor: Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991). Wilder directed and wrote several of his own films, including The Woman in Red (1984).
His third wife was actress Gilda Radner, with whom he starred in three films. Her death from ovarian cancer led to his active involvement in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda's Club.
After his last contribution to acting in 2003, Wilder turned his attention to writing. He produced a memoir in 2005, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art; a collection of stories, What Is This Thing Called Love? (2010); and the novels My French Whore (2007), The Woman Who Wouldn't (2008) and Something to Remember You By (2013).
Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on June 11, 1933, Wilder was the son of William J. and Jeanne (Baer) Silberman. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, as were his maternal grandparents. He adopted "Gene Wilder" for his professional name at the age of 26, later explaining, "I had always liked Gene because of Thomas Wolfe's character Eugene Gant in Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. And I was always a great admirer of Thornton Wilder." Wilder first became interested in acting at age 8, when his mother was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and the doctor told him to "try and make her laugh."
At the age of 11, he saw his sister, who was studying acting, performing onstage, and he was enthralled by the experience. He asked her teacher if he could become his student, and the teacher said that if he were still interested at age 13, he would take Wilder on as a student. The day after Wilder turned 13, he called the teacher, who accepted him; Wilder studied with him for two years.
When Jeanne Silberman felt that her son's potential was not being fully realized in Wisconsin, she sent him to Black-Foxe, a military institute in Hollywood, where he wrote that he was bullied and sexually assaulted, primarily because he was the only Jewish boy in the school. After an unsuccessful short stay at Black-Foxe, Wilder returned home and became increasingly involved with the local theatre community. At age 15, he performed for the first time in front of a paying audience, as Balthasar (Romeo's manservant) in a production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Gene Wilder graduated from Washington High School in Milwaukee in 1951.
Wilder was raised Jewish, but he held only the Golden Rule as his philosophy. In a book published in 2005, he stated, "I have no other religion. I feel very Jewish and I feel very grateful to be Jewish. But I don’t believe in God or anything to do with the Jewish religion".
Wilder studied Communication and Theatre Arts at the University of Iowa, where he was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity.
Wilder met his first wife, Mary Mercier, while studying at the HB Studio in New York. Although the couple had not been together long, they married on July 22, 1960. They spent long periods of time apart, eventually divorcing in 1965. A few months later, Wilder began dating Mary Joan Schutz, a friend of his sister. Schutz had a daughter, Katharine, from a previous marriage. When Katharine started calling Wilder "Dad", he decided to do what he felt was "the right thing to do", marrying Schutz on October 27, 1967, and adopting Katharine that same year. Schutz and Wilder separated after seven years of marriage, with Katharine thinking that Wilder was having an affair with his Young Frankenstein co-star, Madeline Kahn. After the divorce, he briefly dated his other Frankenstein co-star, Teri Garr. Wilder eventually became estranged from Katharine.
Wilder met Saturday Night Live actress Gilda Radner on August 13, 1981, while filming Sidney Poitier's Hanky Panky. Radner was married to guitarist G. E. Smith at the time, but Wilder and she became inseparable friends. When the filming of Hanky Panky ended, Wilder found himself missing Radner, so he called her. The relationship grew, and Radner eventually divorced Smith in 1982. She moved in with Wilder, and the couple married on September 14, 1984, in the south of France. The couple wanted to have children, but Radner suffered miscarriages, and doctors could not determine the problem. After experiencing severe fatigue and suffering from pain in her upper legs on the set of Haunted Honeymoon, Radner sought medical treatment. Following a number of false diagnoses, she was found to have ovarian cancer in October 1986. Over the next year and a half, Radner battled the disease, receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. The disease finally went into remission, giving the couple a respite, during which time Wilder filmed See No Evil, Hear No Evil. By May 1989, the cancer returned and had metastasized. Radner died on May 20, 1989. Wilder later stated, "I always thought she'd pull through."
Following Radner's death, Wilder became active in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda's Club, a support group to raise awareness of cancer that began in New York City and now has branches throughout the country.
While preparing for his role as a deaf man in See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Wilder met Karen Webb (née Boyer), who was a clinical supervisor for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. Webb coached him in lip reading. Following Gilda Radner's death, Wilder and Webb reconnected, and on September 8, 1991, they married. The two lived in Stamford, Connecticut, in the 1734 Colonial home that he shared with Radner.
Washington High School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States (1951)
B.A. Communication And Theater Arts, University Of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, United States (1955), Old Vic Theatre School, Bristol, England, United Kingdom
Full Name at Birth
Blue Eyes, Voice, Smile, Curly Hair
William J. Silberman (He Was A Bottlemaker)
Jeanne Baer Silberman
Corrine Silberman (1927-Present)
Albert Finney, Anouk Aimee
Jerome Silberman (June 11, 1933 – August 29, 2016), known professionally as Gene Wilder, was an American comic actor in film and theater, screenwriter, film director, and author.
Actor, Director, Screenwriter, and Author
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Celebrity Talent International
(1965) TV commercial: Gillette razors, (1960s) TV commercials: Alka Seltzer
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