Jewish-American actor Gene Wilder, remembered for his memorable and iconic comedy roles in the 1970s and 1980s, died on Monday, according to CNN.
Wilder was 83.
He was born as Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to William J. and Jeanne (Baer) Silberman. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, as were his maternal grandparents, though he described himself as a “Jewish-Buddhist-Atheist” in Abigail Pogrebin’s 2005 book “Stars of David: Prominent Jews talk about being Jewish”.
He adopted the professional name Gene Wilder at the age of 26.
Wilder is best known for his collaborations with director Mel Brooks, starring as Leo Bloom in Brooks’ 1967 film “The Producers” and later in the monster movie spoof “Young Frankenstein.” He also portrayed a boozing gunslinger in “Blazing Saddles.”
Brooks eulogized Wilder in a statement Monday, calling him “one of the truly great talents of our time.”
“He blessed every film we did with his magic and he blessed me with his friendship,” Brooks wrote.
Wilder might be best remembered for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” playing the mysterious candy tycoon in the 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book.
He also appeared in several films with Richard Pryor, including “Stir Crazy” and “Silver Streak,” as well as solo vehicles like “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” and “The World’s Greatest Lover,” which he also directed.