Why Wilder Didn't Want Anyone to Know He Had Alzheimer's

'He simply couldn't bear the idea of one less smile in the world'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2016 8:47 AM CDT
Why Wilder Didn't Want Anyone to Know He Had Alzheimer's
In this Aug. 27, 1981, file photo, Gilda Radner, center, and Gene Wilder, right, perform in a scene from the film "Hanky Panky," directed by Sidney Poitier, in Boston.   (AP Photo/Bill Polo, File)

Willy Wonka, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein clips are all over social media to honor Gene Wilder, who died of Alzheimer's complications Monday at the age of 83, as are the deeper reads and looks back on Wilder's life. Some notable picks:

  • The New York Times offers a glimpse into the life of the man born Jerome Silberman, with his "haunted blue eyes" and a comedic philosophy based on empathy and authenticity. "I'm an actor, not a clown," was his famous take.

  • There was a reason why Wilder kept his Alzheimer's diagnosis from the public, and it's a poignant one, STAT News reports. "He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world," his family said.
  • Wilder appeared for only a few minutes in Bonnie and Clyde, his big-screen debut in 1967. But as Malcolm Jones writes at the Daily Beast, Wilder's memorable performance in that film underscores the "weirdly lighter-than-air quality that [he] brought to everything he did on screen."
  • The Los Angeles Times reaches into its archives for a revealing interview with Wilder about playing his first romantic lead in 1990's Funny About Love. He talks about working with director Leonard Nimoy and how he shifted gears after wife Gilda Radner's death in 1989 from ovarian cancer, as well as observing, "I'm an alright actor. … But I'm a great reactor."
  • The Wilder-Radner love affair is laid out beautifully on EW.com with a photo gallery and quotes from the couple on their relationship.
  • Rolling Stone presents the "10 greatest performances" of this "impossible-to-dislike" actor, complete with a short YouTube clip for each; CNN offers its own favorites.
  • DIGG notes that Wilder was "the king of flipping a s--t": i.e., having the "amazing ability to freak out on cue." You won't want to miss this compilation.
(Read more Gene Wilder stories.)

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