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Hollywood Legend Gene Wilder Dies Following Private Battle With Alzheimer's

Hollywood Legend Gene Wilder Dies Following Private Battle With Alzheimer's | Country Music Videos
Photo credit: Chronicle/Chris Hardy

A beloved actor known for his roles in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Producers and many collaborations with Mel Brooks including Blazing Saddles has passed away.

Gene Wilder was 83-years-old when he passed away on Monday, August 29. 

He played a hostage in his first film role in the 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde and his first major role was as Leopold Bloom in the 1968 film The Producers, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. 

Wilder went on to work with Mel Brooks quite frequently and even co-wrote Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein with him. Their work on Young Frankenstein earned them an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Wilder is widely known for playing Willy Wonka in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Besides becoming a Hollywood legend, he was a huge advocate in promoting cancer awareness because his third wife, actress Gilda Radner, had passed away at age 42 from ovarian cancer. He helped found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and Gilda's Club, a community organization for people living with cancer and their families.

According to Variety, Wilder's nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman released a statement confirming that he passed away due to complications from Alzheimer's disease.

“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," he said in the statement. "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."

Wilder is survived by his wife of 25 years, Karen Boyer, and his nephew. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this time.

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