In a sad story out of Hollywood Monday, it has been announced that Gene Wilder has passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. While the news is not terribly surprising due to his age (he was 83-years-old), many believe he would have preferred his memory to be celebrated rather than tears. As his nephew told Variety,in memory of Gene Wilder, his uncle and the family deliberately kept the news of Gene Wilder’s heartbreaking diagnosis and physical/mental condition out of the public eye for years leading up to his death.
Thank you Gene Wilder for all that you've given us. You'll be missed. pic.twitter.com/JU4GngwjqV— The Academy (@TheAcademy) August 29, 2016
According to the nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, Gene Wilder didn’t want his deteriorating health to take away a single smile from the world.
“We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him ‘there’s Willy Wonka,’ would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”
In honor of the memory of Gene Wilder, known to most of the world as the iconic “Willy Wonka” he played so well, we’ve compiled a selection of some of Wilder’s most iconic and memorable moments, words of wisdom, as well as some of the condolences that have followed the news of his Monday passing. Perhaps the most memorable moment of Wilder’s legendary career is his rendition of the song “Pure Imagination” in the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
In honoring the memory of Gene Wilder, one also can’t leave out his performance in the movie Blazing Saddles. In the iconic western comedy, Wilder played the incomparable Jim. One of the most hilarious scenes in the movie was all about morons.
One of the most beloved Gene Wilder films in memory has to be Young Frankenstein. In the movie, Wilder played the title character, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. The 1974 classic was directed by the incomparable Mel Brooks, who worked repeatedly with Gene Wilder over the course of both men’s careers. The men became lifetime friends, and reportedly the news of Gene Wilder’s passing has come as a heartbreaking shock to Brooks.
As Parade reports, Mel Brooks shared a touching and emotional tribute to the actor and dear friend, honoring the life, career and memory of Gene Wilder in true Mel Brooks fashion.
“Gene Wilder—one of the truly great talents of our time,” Mel Brooks wrote of his long-time friend on Twitter on Monday. “He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.”
Gene Wilder-One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.— Mel Brooks (@MelBrooks) August 29, 2016
Mel Brooks was far from the only star to pay tribute to the memory of Gene Wilder in the wake of the news of the star’s passing. Many celebrities have taken to social media to share their condolences and memories and pay their respects to the life and talent of Gene Wilder today.
Jim Carrey invoked the memory of Wilder’s role as Willy Wonka in his touching tribute to the beloved star.
Gene Wilder was one of the funniest and sweetest energies ever to take a human form. If there's a heaven he has a Golden Ticket. ;^)— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) August 29, 2016
Even politicians and movie studios have taken a moment to honor the memory of Gene Wilder, a star whose career spanned decades and whose wit and talent touched the lives and hearts of more people than he could ever possibly have known.
Here's to Gene Wilder, an incomparable talent whose smile & life's work made the world brighter. You will be missed but never forgotten.— Mayor of Los Angeles (@MayorOfLA) August 29, 2016
He breathed life & joy into everything he touched. Rest in peace, Gene Wilder. pic.twitter.com/r7ufUDbyMq— 20th Century Fox (@20thcenturyfox) August 29, 2016
Perhaps the memory of Gene Wilder is best preserved in the actor’s own words as the world mourns his passing. Bustle captured some of his best gems, words that give readers some insight into the mind behind the man.
“You’re fooled by the applause into thinking that they love me, they really, really love me. Actors fall into this trap if they missed being loved for who they really were and not for what they could do.”
Fortunately for Gene Wilder, and the world, the man behind the mask was just as lovable as the characters he portrayed. He was also much humbler than most of the roles that he showcased on stage and screen. And, if possible, more whimsical in his own mind than any acting role or camera could ever capture.
“On stage or in the movies I could do whatever I wanted to. I was free.”
As his nephew told the world today when the news of his passing broke, even in his last days he hid his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s from the world for three years to preserve happiness of his fans. A class act and wonderful man to the very end. Rest in peace. In memory of Gene Wilder, June 11, 1933 to August 28, 2016.
[Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images]