Gene Wilder Biography

(Actor, Comedian)

Birthday: June 11, 1933 (Gemini)

Born In: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

Jerome Silberman, who was famous by his stage name Gene Wilder, was an American actor, director, screenwriter, and author. He was born into a Jewish family in Wisconsin and had an interest in acting from a very young age. He started taking an interest in the local community theatre in Wisconsin. He served some time in the army as a paramedic but kept pursuing his dream of acting by studying at HB Studio at the same time. He was later offered admission to Actors Studio and started doing small stints in the Off-Broadway scene. His first big role was in the movie called The Producers. After that, he did some comedies and worked in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex. He also appeared as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which became one of the most memorable roles of his life. Wilder used to write scripts for his films and directed some movies as well. He has worked with great artists like Harrison Ford, Gilda Radner, and Richard Pryor, etc. He had four marriages and one of his marriages was with his Hanky Panky co-star, Gilda Radner.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Jerome Silberman

Died At Age: 83


Spouse/Ex-: Gilda Radner (1984–89), Karen Boyer (1991–present), Mary Joan Schutz (1967–74), Mary Mercier (1960–65)

father: William J. Silberman

mother: Jeanne Baer Silberman

children: Katharine Wilder

Born Country: United States

Quotes By Gene Wilder Jewish Actors

Died on: August 29, 2016

place of death: Stamford, Connecticut, United States

Ancestry: Russian American

Diseases & Disabilities: Alzheimer

U.S. State: Wisconsin

City: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Founder/Co-Founder: Gilda's Club, Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center

More Facts

education: University Of Iowa

Childhood & Early Life

Gene Wilder was born on 11 June 1933, in a Jewish family, to William J. Wilder and Jeanne Silberman, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He started taking a great interest in acting at the age of 8, from the time his mother had rheumatic fever.

His mother recognized his talent and knowing that Wisconsin was not a good place to become an actor, she sent him to Black-Foxe. Wilder was bullied and sexually assaulted there and returned back home.

Wilder got involved in the local community theatre in Wisconsin and by the time he was 15, he performed for the first time in the production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. He graduated from Washington High School.

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In 1955, Gene Wilder got admission to Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Bristol, England. He studied fencing there and became the All-School Fencing Champion. He returned to the U. S. during the same time and got enrolled at the HB Studio.

In 1956, he joined the army and went to Fort Sam Houston. To remain close to New York in order to learn acting, he served as a paramedic in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology in an army hospital, in Pennsylvania.

In 1957, after the death of his mother, Wilder was relieved from military service and he started learning acting at HB Studio and side by side did odd jobs like fencing instructor, limousine driver, etc. to support himself.

After years of studying acting at HB Studio, he left the studio and took private lessons from Lee Strasberg and got selected into the Actors Studio, and started getting noticed in the Off-Broadway scene.

In 1963, Wilder got his first lead role in the Broadway production called Mother Courage and Her Children opposite Anne Bancroft. Around the same time, he toured for Death of a Salesman which was televised by CBC.

In 1967, Wilder got his first role in a motion picture called Bonnie and Clyde, which was directed by Arthur Penn. The same year, he did his first lead role in the movie, The Producers, for which he auditioned with Zero Mostel.

In 1969, Wilder went to live in Paris to act in Start the Revolution Without Me, which was directed by Bud Yorkin. It was a comedy based on the French Revolution. He did the script for ‘Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx’.

In 1971, Wilder’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was released. It was directed by Mel Stuart. The movie did not do very well commercially. He did a segment for Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.

In 1974, while working on the script of Young Frankenstein, he did a cameo for Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles which was offered to him at the last minute, and The Little Prince which was a musical film shot in London.

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Around the same time, Young Frankenstein was released and became a huge hit at the box office. Wilder sold its rights to 20th Century Fox. It received the Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay category.

In 1975, Gene Wilder made his directorial debut with The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. He also wrote the script of the movie. Next year, he starred in Silver Streak along with Richard Pryor, who got the role on his recommendation.

In 1977, he wrote, produced, and directed the film called The World’s Greatest Lover, an idea that was inspired by Fellini’s The White Sheik. The movie failed commercially and critically. He did The Frisco Kid along with Harrison Ford in the same year.

In 1980, Stir Crazy came out in which Wilder starred along with Richard Pryor. The movie became an international hit instantly. It was and is still considered one of the best comedies in Hollywood.

In 1982, he did Hanky Panky starring opposite comedienne Gilda Radner. Around the same time, he directed another movie The Woman in Red, in which he acted with Radner and Kelly LeBrock. It won an Academy Award.

In the late 1980s, Wilder starred in another movie With Gilda Radner, Haunted Honeymoon, which did not impress the audience as well as the critics. He also did a movie called See No Evil, Hear No Evil.

In the 1990s, he did movies like: Funny About Love, Another You, Murder in a Small Town, Alice in Wonderland, and The Lady in Question. He also did a NBC sitcom Something Wilder but it lasted for only one season.

In 2003, he guest-starred in NBC sitcom, Will & Grace, and won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor on a Comedy Series for his role. In 2005, he starred in the historical documentary film ‘Expo: Magic of the White City’ as the narrator. This was his last final film role.

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Personal Life & Legacy

In 1960, Gene Wilder got married to his girlfriend Mary Mercier. He met her while he was studying acting at the HB studio. For most of their married life, they remained apart from each other and they separated within 5 years.

In 1967, Wilder got married for the second time to Mary Joan Schutz. Schutz had a daughter named Katherine from her previous marriage whom he adopted after marriage. They both got divorced after being together for 7 years.

In 1984, he got married for the third time to his co-star Gilda Radner. They got married in the south of France but within two years of marriage, it was diagnosed that Radner had ovarian cancer. She died after battling it for 3 years.

In 1991, Wilder got married for the fourth time to Karen Webb, a clinical supervisor for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. He had met her on the sets of ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil’. They live in Connecticut.

Gene Wilder died on August 29, 2016, at the age of 83, at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. He was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.


Gene Wilder’s mother and his third wife, Gilda Radner, both died of ovarian cancer.

He has a nephew who is a Director/Screenwriter in Hollywood - Jordan Walker-Pearlman. He considers himself his son.


Gene Wilder Movies

1. Young Frankenstein (1974)


2. Blazing Saddles (1974)

  (Western, Comedy)

3. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

  (Family, Musical, Fantasy)

4. The Frisco Kid (1979)

  (Western, Comedy, Drama)

5. The Producers (1967)


6. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

  (Drama, Crime, Action, Biography)

7. Stir Crazy (1980)

  (Crime, Comedy)

8. Silver Streak (1976)

  (Romance, Thriller, Action, Crime, Comedy)

9. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)


10. See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

  (Crime, Comedy)


Primetime Emmy Awards
2003 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Will & Grace (1998)

See the events in life of Gene Wilder in Chronological Order

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