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Wilder, Gene



  • Existence: 1933


Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 11, 1933, Gene Wilder is the son of William J. and Jeanne (Baer) Silberman. He adopted Gene Wilder for his professional name at the age of 26, because he had always liked Gene because of Thomas Wolfe's character Eugene Gant in Look Homeward, Angel, and Of Time and the River. And he was always a great admirer of Thornton Wilder.   He briefly attended the Black-Foxe Military Institute in Los Angeles, then completed high school in Milwaukee in 1951. A student of acting from the age of twelve, he attended the University of Iowa, took part in student dramatic productions, played in summer stock during vacations, and obtained his B.A. degree in 1955, then enrolled in the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, England, where he studied judo, fencing, gymnastics, and voice.   Wilder's 1961 off-Broadway New York debut was in Arnold Wesker's Roots. In his first Broadway appearance, November 1961, he played in Graham Greene's comedy The Complaisant Lover, winning the Clarence Derwent Award.   Wilder went to Hollywood in the late 1960's to perform first in Bonnie and Clyde, then in The Producers, and later in Young Frankenstein (1974), which he co-wrote, and in The World's Greatest Lover (1975), of which he was star, writer, director, and producer. Other films included Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Paramount, 1971), Stanley Donen's The Little Prince (Paramount, 1974), Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (United Artists, 1972), and Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles (Warner Brothers, 1974). He directed his own script, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1975) and played the lead in Silver Streak (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1976). More recent films include The Frisco Kid (1979) , Stir Crazy (1980), The Woman in Red (1984), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991).   Wilder has also taken on numerous television roles including three NBC's Dupont Show of the Week presentations during 1962. He appeared as the Head Waiter in Reunion with Death on The Defenders (CBS, 1962), Yonkel in Home for Passover on Eternal Light (NBC, 1966), and Bernard in Death of a Salesman (CBS, 1966). Recent appearances have included a series Something Wilder (1994), Murder in a Small Town (1999), Alice in Wonderland (1999), and The Lady in Question (1999). Gene Wilder died in Connecticut on August 29, 2016.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Gene Wilder Papers

Identifier: MsC0526

Actor, film star, writer, director and producer, University of Iowa alumnus (1955). The Wilder papers include scripts and drafts of scripts, contracts and related papers, and a group of photographs.

Dates: 1961-2000; Majority of material found within 1970-1979