American author and actor Jerome Silberman, professionally popular as Gene Wilder – died on 29 August 2016 at 83 of complications from Alzheimer’s. He was best known for his ability to make people laugh. His unforgettable roles in classic movies like See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Young Frankenstein remain memorable to date. But the comic genius was a gentle person who knew how to love truly.
The filmmaker married four times in his lifetime but is probably best remembered for his relationship with the American actress-comedian Gilda Radner. Wilder met Radner in 1982 when he was shooting for Hanky Panky. Wilder was two decades into his career when Sidney Poitier, the film’s director suggested that Radner, who was 13 years younger than him and a member of the original cast of Saturday Night Live, should play the female lead.
In 1991, Wilder tied the knot with his fourth wife, secretly. He went on air to say that he was happier than ever in his life as a husband to Karen. The two were settled in an 18th-century colonial property – their home – the one he shared with Radner, where he lived his remaining days writing his books – and promoting cancer awareness and treatment, co-founding the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center and Gilda’s Club, a cancer support group. But what led to the ending of Gene and Gilda’s Gene’s marriage and more importantly, did fans of his and Radner’s would want Gene to mourn forever instead of being happy? Let’s find out.
Love at first sight
Gene and Gilda’s first meeting was a scene out of a romantic comedy but with a twist – funny kicker. The same goes for their Hollywood romance. They met in the year 1981 on August 13, just as the sun started to set behind the gorgeous Hudson River, per what is mentioned in Wilder’s account in his memoir.
Wilder was in a tuxedo. He had just completed shooting a scene for the movie Hanky Panky, in which his co-star would be the talented Radner. The location was where all ocean liners would dock on the East River. Scenic isn’t it?
Wilder walked over confidently to introduce himself to Radner, who he had known from her work on the set of Saturday Night Live. What followed remained a point of controversy between the two in the coming years. Gilda would say that he rubbed his crotch against Radner’s knees when he sought her permission to get her some coffee or tea. And the Willy Wonka actor vehemently defends what she says.
But we can well say it was a beginning. Was it a fairy-tale-ish beginning to their story or a heart-wrenching one? We sure will get to that. But if you are liking the story so far, we would request you to pause for a moment to like and subscribe to our channel.
Later, Radner wrote of their first meeting in her book. She described how her heart fluttered and she was hooked. According to the comedienne, it felt like her life went straight from being monochromatic to technicolor.
It had taken two weeks for Radner to make her move on Wilder. When it finally happened, she threw him in his hotel room bed.
Radner was then married to a well-known guitarist G.E. Smith when she fell head over heels in love with Wilder. She has reportedly confessed of being unhappy in her married life. In many an interview, Wilder has said that Radner confessed to him that she knew she was falling for him and would also be leaving her husband for him. Wilder was, obviously, both overwhelmed and baffled when he heard this.
Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner Suffered Infertility
The celebrity couple’s attempts to have children were initial hints of the tragedy that was about to unfold. Let’s see how.
In between their constant globetrotting and collaborations, the couple did attempt to have children. Unfortunately, Radner suffered miscarriage twice, including one while they were filming their third movie Haunted Honeymoon in London. She chose to undergo IVF but that didn’t help either. Doctors told her that she was infertile and gave her no hope. What they failed to realize was why she was having trouble conceiving or being able to carry a child to term.
During this time, Radner began feeling faint and quite exhausted, unable to be awake during routine engagements. At first, the doctors informed her that she had Epstein-Barr virus that was the cause of mononucleosis. But her fatigue soon turned worse with bad symptoms. Her legs would begin shaking uncontrollably and her stomach would become so bloated that Radner would not even manage to button her own pants. She would frequently feel feverish. Such things kept happening in cycles and were connected to the time of menstruation, yet, no physician could pinpoint the problem.
When the duo visited Paris, Wilder had taken her to his favorite bistro. Soon after eating, Radner began to feel uncomfortable and the discomfort gradually grew when they went outside and started walking. Apparently, Radner was complaining of cramps, stomach pain, and extreme bloating. She was lying down and was doubling over the curb while Wilder was trying to catch a taxi to go back to their hotel.
Physicians suggested it could be her stomach, but that didn’t check out. Some believed it was partly mental and was related to depression. Radner’s pelvic cramps were becoming worse, but gynecologists kept saying that they had nothing to worry. In her memoir, Radner states that she was having mittelschmerz (a term used to denote cramping during ovulation) and Epstein-Barr virus.
The pattern continued. Radner would feel better and again be hit by incapacitating pain. The doctor she was seeing then would still tell her that tests were negative and she just needed to relax – one asked her to take antidepressants as if those would relieve her bodily pain.
The Tragic End of Wilder-Radner Romance
Radner, whose father had died of cancer, feared that she would get the disease too, and kept asking the doctors if it was a possibility. They waved her doubts off until they detected malignancy in the month of October 1986. Her prognosis suggested IV ovarian cancer and a tumor that was the exact size of a full-grown grapefruit.
She had undergone a hysterectomy and chemotherapy and was told that she is cancer-free in 1988. However, her cancer had returned in 1989. In the month of May, in the same year, she passed away after undergoing a CT scan. Radner was only 42 years old then and Gene, 55. A year after his wife’s death, Gene admitted in an interview that during her last days, he tried to continue making her laugh and kept the fact that Radner had only 20% chances of survival a secret.
After his wife’s untimely demise, Gene transformed mourning into action by raising awareness to detect ovarian cancer. He shot a video of himself and was dedicated to doctors regarding the early detection of cancers in women. In front of Congress, he testified, to rally to increase funding for women’s reproductive diseases. As one of the most enduring gifts he could ever gift her, he founded the Gilda’s Club, a support group for cancer survivors, patients, and their families, and the Gilda Radner Ovarian Detection Center (currently knows as the Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program).
How Gene Wilder Found Love Once Again
They say you happen to find love when you are least expecting it – well, that is exactly what happened with Gene Wilder when he met Karen Boyer, his future wife.
Jordan Walker-Pearlman, Wilder’s nephew, has told the PEOPLE magazine that the late actor would over and again question himself if he would ever be dating again. Reportedly, the legendary Willy Wonka superstar had not gone on a single date after Gilda had passed away. But after spending some time with himself to grieve about beloved Radner, Wilder again felt kind of comfortable to date – and this time, he knew exactly whom to call.
Walker-Pearlman went on to say that Wilder had claimed that even if sounded crazy, he would still call up Karen Boyer and ask her out for a date. This was almost more than a year after Gilda had passed away. Karen, on the other hand, was surprised to receive Wilder’s call.
Wilder met Boyer, a speech consultant while researching for the See No Evil, Hear No Evil, which was released in 1989. The two never really went for their first date until a year after meeting. But once they did manage to reconnect and re-bond, their partnership was indestructible. The pair dated for two long years before finally tying the knot in an extremely private manner at Wilder’s beautiful Connecticut property. The only invited people at the wedding ceremony were the couple’s family members and closest friends.
Throughout their 25-year marriage, the couple led a low-key life in their Connecticut home, where they spent their days writing, playing tennis, and painting together. Most people would consider their life to be a romantic vacation. According to Wilder’s nephew, after overcoming quite a troubled childhood and years at Hollywood, Wilder finally found peace in the simple life he spent with Boyer.
A part of the late author’s taste resembled that of a 19th-century impressionist. In other words, he simply loved to cherish a bottle of red wine, the sun, fresh homemade bread, and the company of his leading lady. Walker-Pearlman has confessed that his uncle was an extreme romantic. And on marrying Karen and all the different unseen, flawless parts of life fell into pieces. He became, what you could call, a Renaissance man. Wilder died on a warm Sunday at his own home in Connecticut – a few days before his 25th wedding anniversary with Boyer.
In their wedding vows, they had mentioned that they were going to dedicate their lives to one another. Needless to mention, that is exactly what they did. When Wilder passed away, it marked 27 years of his life without his favorite and most beloved ex-wife, Gilda.
That Wilder continued giving back in Gilda’s name and memories tells us so much about his love for her light years beyond what we tend to expect of today’s celebrity couples. Is this what you think too or do you have a different say? To share your thoughts and opinions with us, just tap on the comment section below and enter your reply.
Before you start playing the next Facts Verse video, please take a moment to like and subscribe to our channel, and don’t forget to press the bell icon to stay updated about all our latest videos.