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Wilder, Gene 1935–

WILDER, Gene 1935


PERSONAL


Original name, Jerome "Jerry" Silberman; born June 11, 1935, in Milwaukee, WI; son of William J. (an importer and bottle manufacturer) and Jeanne (maiden name, Baer) Silberman; married Mary Mercier (a playwright), July 22, 1960 (divorced); married Mary Joan Schutz, October 27, 1967 (divorced, 1974); married Gilda Radner (an actress and comedienne), 1982 (died, May 20, 1989); married Karen Boyer (some sources cite Karen Webb; a speech and hearing specialist and actress), September 8, 1991; adopted children: (first marriage) Katharine Anastasia. Education: University of Iowa, B.A., 1955; studied acting with Herman Gottlieb, 194651, at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, 195556, at Herbert Berghof Studio (now HB Studio), 195759, and at Actors Studio, New York City. Avocational Interests: Tennis, fencing, bridge, watercolor painting.


Addresses: Agent Nevin Dolcefino, Innovative Artists, 1505 10th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401. Manager Andrew Hersh, Howard Entertainment, 10850 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1260, Los Angeles, CA 90024.


Career: Actor, director, producer, and writer. Actors Studio, New York City, member, beginning 1961; appeared in commercials, including one for Gillette razors, 1965. CedarsSinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, cofounder of Gilda Radner Ovarian Detection Center, c. 1990; Gilda's Club (support group), founding member. Worked as a chauffeur, toy salesperson, and fencing instructor. Military service: U.S. Army, 195658.


Member: Actors' Equity Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, Writers Guild of America, Alpha Epsilon Pi (life member).


Awards, Honors: Clarence Derwent Award, Clarence Derwent Award Trust, 1962, for The Complaisant Lover; Academy Award nomination, best supporting actor, 1969, for The Producers; Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actor in a musical or comedy, 1972, for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; Academy Award nomination and Writers Guild of America Award nomination, both best screenplay adapted from other material (with Mel Brooks), 1975, and Nebula Award, best dramatic presentation, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 1976, all for Young Frankenstein; Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actor in a musical or comedy, 1977, for Silver Streak; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, best television feature or miniseries (with Gilbert Pearlman), Mystery Writers of America, 2000, for Murder in a Small Town; Emmy Award, outstanding guest actor in a comedy series, 2003, for Will & Grace; Lifetime Achievement Award, Las Vegas Film Critics Society, 2003.


CREDITS

Film Appearances:

Eugene Grizzard, Bonnie and Clyde (also known as Bonnie and Clyde ... Were Killers! ), Warner Bros., 1967.

Leo Bloom, The Producers, Embassy, 1967.

Quackser Fortune, Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (also known as Fun Loving ), UMC, 1970.

Claude Coupe and Philippe DeSisi, Start the Revolution without Me (also known as Two Times Two ), Warner Bros., 1970.

Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Paramount, 1971.

Dr. Ross, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex* (*but Were Afraid to Ask) (also known as Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex ), United Artists, 1972.

Jim (the Waco Kid), Blazing Saddles, Warner Bros., 1974.

The fox, The Little Prince, Paramount, 1974.

Stanley, Rhinoceros, American Film Theatre, 1974.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein (also known as Frankenstein, Jr. ), Twentieth CenturyFox, 1974.

Sigerson Holmes, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (also known as Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother ), Twentieth CenturyFox, 1975.

George Caldwell, Silver Streak, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1976.

Rudy Valentine, The World's Greatest Lover, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1977.

Avram Belinsky, The Frisco Kid (also known as No Knife ), Warner Bros., 1979.

Skip Donahue, Stir Crazy, Columbia, 1980.

Title role, "Skippy," a segment of Sunday Lovers (also known as An Englishman's Home, Les seducteurs, and I seduttori della domenica ), United Artists, 1980.

Michael Jordon, Hanky Panky, Columbia, 1982.

Theodore Pierce, The Woman in Red, Orion, 1984.

Larry Abbot, Haunted Honeymoon, Orion, 1986.

Hello Actors Studio (documentary), Actors Studio, 1987.

Dave Lyons, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, TriStar, 1989.

Duffy Bergman, Funny about Love, Paramount, 1990.

George/Abe Fielding, Another You, TriStar, 1991.

Voice of Snowbell, Stuart Little, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1999.

Film Director:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (also known as Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother ), Twentieth CenturyFox, 1975.

(And producer) The World's Greatest Lover, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1977.

"Skippy," a segment of Sunday Lovers (also known as An Englishman's Home, Les seducteurs, and I seduttori della domenica ), United Artists, 1980.

The Woman in Red, Orion, 1984.

(And producer) Haunted Honeymoon, Orion, 1986.

Television Appearances; Series:

Voice of Letterman, The Electric Company, 19721977.

Gene Bergman, Something Wilder (also known as Young at Heart ), NBC, 19941995.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Happy Penny, "Wingless Victory," Play of the Week, WNTA, 1961.

Muller, "The Sound of Hunting," Dupont Show of the Week, NBC, 1962.

The reporter, "Windfall," Dupont Show of the Week, NBC, 1962.

Wilson, "The Interrogators," Dupont Show of the Week, NBC, 1962.

German voice, The Twentieth Century, CBS, 1962.

Head waiter, "Reunion with Death," The Defenders, CBS, 1962.

Armstrong Circle Theatre, CBS, 1962.

Yonkel, "Home for Passover," Eternal Light, NBC, 1966.

Interviewee, Inside the Actors Studio, 1995.

Himself, The Frank Skinner Show, 1997.

Mr. Stein, "Boardroom and a Parked Place," Will & Grace, NBC, 2002.

Mr. Stein, "Sex, Losers, and Videotape," Will & Grace, NBC, 2003.

Appeared as himself in an episode of Sesame Street.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow, "The Scarecrow," Hollywood Television Theatre, PBS, 1972.

Harry Evers, Thursday's Game (also known as The Berk ), ABC, 1974.

Larry "Cash" Carter, Murder in a Small Town, NBC, 1999.

Mock Turtle, Alice in Wonderland, NBC, 1999.

Larry "Cash" Carter, The Lady in Question, Arts and Entertainment, 1999.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Bernard, Death of a Salesman, CBS, 1966.

Ernie, "The Office Sharers," The Trouble with People, NBC, 1972.

Marlo Thomas in Acts of Loveand Other Comedies, ABC, 1973.

Home for Passover, NBC, 1973.

Annie and the Hoods, ABC, 1974.

Baryshnikov in Hollywood, CBS, 1982.

The Making of "The Woman in Red, " 1984.

Face to Face with Connie Chung, CBS, 1990.

A Party for Richard Pryor, CBS, 1991.

Laughing Matters (also known as Funny Business ), Showtime, 1993.

Gilda Radner: In Her Own Words, Arts and Entertainment, 1993.

Countdown to Christmas (also known as Santa's Journey ), NBC, 1994.

Interviewee, Gilda Radner: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 1997.

Interviewee, 20th Century Fox: The Blockbuster Years, AMC, 2000.

Stage Appearances:

(Stage debut) Balthazar, Romeo and Juliet, Milwaukee Playhouse, Milwaukee, WI, 1948.

Rosen, The Late Christopher Bean, Reginald Goode Theatre, Poughkeepsie, NY, 1949.

The Cat and the Canary, Reginald Goode Theatre, 1949.

Vernon, Summer and Smoke, Tower Ranch Tenthouse Theatre, Eagle River, WI, 1951.

The Drunkard, Tower Ranch Tenthouse Theatre, 1951.

Mansky, The Play's the Thing, Tower Ranch Tenthouse Theatre, 1951.

Mr. Weatherbee, Arsenic and Old Lace, Tower Ranch Tenthouse Theatre, 1951.

Howard, Death of a Salesman, Tower Ranch Tenthouse Theatre, 1952.

Ed, Come Back, Little Sheba, Tower Ranch Tenthouse Theatre, 1952.

The principal, The Happy Time, Tower Ranch Tenthouse Theatre, 1952.

Twelfth Night, Cambridge Drama Festival, Cambridge, MA, 1959.

Macbeth, Cambridge Drama Festival, 1959.

(OffBroadway debut) Frankie Bryant, Roots, Mayfair Theatre, 1961.

Andrew, All the Way Home, Playhouse in the Park, Philadelphia, PA, 1961.

Hotel valet, The Complaisant Lover, Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York City, 1961.

The captain, Mother Courage and Her Children, Martin Beck Theatre, New York City, 1963.

Billie Bibbit, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Cort Theatre, New York City, 1963.

Smiley, Dynamite Tonight, York Theatre, New York City, 1964.

Multiple roles, The White House, Henry Miller's Theatre, New York City, 1964.

Harry Berlin, Luv, Royal Poinciana Playhouse, Palm Beach, FL, then Booth Theatre, New York City, both 1966.

Max Prince, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Queens Theatre, London, 1996.

Major Tours:

Hotel valet, The Complaisant Lover, U.S. cities, 1962.

Julius Sagamore, The Millionairess, Theatre Guild, U.S. cities, 1963.

Various roles, The White House, U.S. cities, 1964.

Stage Work; Fencing Choreographer:

Twelfth Night, Cambridge Drama Festival, Cambridge, MA, 1959.

Macbeth, Cambridge Drama Festival, 1959.

WRITINGS

Screenplays:

(With Mel Brooks) Young Frankenstein (also known as Frankenstein, Jr. ), Twentieth CenturyFox, 1974.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (also known as Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother ), Twentieth CenturyFox, 1975.

(And songwriter, "Ain't It Kinda Wonderful") The World's Greatest Lover, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1977.

"Skippy," s segment of Sunday Lovers (also known as An Englishman's Home, Les seducteurs, and I seduttori della domenica ), United Artists, 1980.

(And songwriter) The Woman in Red, Orion, 1984.

(With Terence Marsh) Haunted Honeymoon, Orion, 1986.

(With Earl Barret, Arne Sultan, Eliot Wald, and Andrew Kurtzman) See No Evil, Hear No Evil, TriStar, 1989.

Television Writing; Movies:

(With Gilbert Pearlman) Murder in a Small Town, NBC, 1999.

The Lady in Question, Arts and Entertainment, 1999.

Books:

(With M. Steven Piver) Gilda's Disease: Sharing Personal Experience with a Medical Perspective on Ovarian Cancer, Prometheus Books, 1996.

ADAPTATIONS

Wilder's screenplay Young Frankenstein was adapted as a novel by Gilbert Pearlman and published by Ballantine Books in 1974.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, St. James Press, 1996.

Periodicals:

People Weekly, February 21, 2000, p. 60.

TV Guide, November 18, 2000, pp. 3438.

Us, May 29, 1989, pp. 3037.

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"Wilder, Gene 1935–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Wilder, Gene 1935–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wilder-gene-1935

"Wilder, Gene 1935–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wilder-gene-1935

Wilder, Gene

WILDER, Gene


Nationality: American. Born: Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 11 June 1935. Education: Attended Black-Foxe Military Institute, Los Angeles; Washington High School, Milwaukee, graduated 1951; studied acting with Herman Gottlieb in Milwaukee; University of Iowa, Iowa City, B.A. 1955; Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, England 1955; Herbert Berghof Studio, New York; Actors Studio, New York, 1961. Military Service: Served in the U.S. Army at the neuropsychiatric ward of the Valley Forge Hospital, Pennsylvania, 1956–58. Family: Married 1) the actress Mary Mercier, 1960 (divorced), adopted daughter: Katharine Anastasia; 2) Mary Joan Schutz, 1967 (divorced 1974); 3) the actress Gilda Radner, 1984 (died 1989); 4) Karen Boyer, 1991. Career: 1961—stage debut in Roots, New York: later roles in Mother Courage and Her Children, 1963, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1963, and Luv, 1966; 1967—film debut in Bonnie and Clyde; 1975—directed first film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother; 1994–95—in TV series Something Wilder. Address: c/o Pal-Mel Productions, 1511 Sawtelle Boulevard, Suite 155, Los Angeles, CA 90025, U.S.A.


Films as Actor:

1967

Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn) (as Eugene Grizzard, undertaker)

1968

The Producers (Mel Brooks) (as Leo Bloom)

1970

Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx (Hussein) (title role); Start the Revolution without Me (Yorkin) (as Claude/ Philippe)

1971

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Stuart) (title role)

1972

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask (Woody Allen) (as Dr. Ross); Scarecrow (Schatzberg)

1974

Thursday's Games (Moore—for TV, produced in 1971); Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks) (as Jim: The Waco Kid); The Little Prince (Donen) (as the Fox); Rhinoceros (O'Horgan) (as Stanley); Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks) (title role, + co-sc)

1976

Silver Streak (Hiller) (as George Caldwell)

1979

The Frisco Kid (Aldrich) (as Avram)

1980

Stir Crazy (Poitier) (as Skip Donahue)

1982

Hanky Panky (Poitier) (as Michael Jordon)

1989

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (Hiller) (as Dave Lyons, + co-sc)

1990

Funny about Love (Nimoy) (as Duffy Bergman)

1991

Another You (Phillips) (as George/Abe Fielding)

1994

Something Wilder (series for TV) (as Gene Bergman)

1999

Murder in a Small Town (Joyce Chopra—for TV) (as Larry "Cash" Carter + co-sc); Alice in Wonderland (Willing) (as Mock Turtle); The Lady in Question (Joyce Chopra—for TV) (as Larry Carter + co-sc)

Films as Actor, Director, and Scriptwriter:

1975

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (as Sigerson Holmes)

1977

The World's Greatest Lover (as Rudolph Valentino)

1981

"Skippy" ep. of Sunday Lovers (Les Seducteurs) (title role)

1984

The Woman in Red (as Teddy Pierce)

1986

Haunted Honeymoon (as Larry Abbot)



Publications


By WILDER: books-


Gilda's Disease: Sharing Personal Experiences and a Medical Perspective on Ovarian Cancer, with M. Steven Piver, Amherst, 1996.

By WILDER: articles—

Interview with R. Appelbaum, in Films (London), July 1981.

"Why Did Gilda Die?," in People Weekly (New York), 3 June 1991.


On WILDER: articles—

Current Biography 1978, New York, 1978.

Swertlow, Frank, "Gene & Gilda," in TV Guide (Radnor, Pennsylvania), 4 September 1993.

Wolf, M., "Wilder at Heart," in Variety (New York), 21/27 October 1996.


* * *

Both the modest success and the larger failure of Gene Wilder's film career must be traced to the contradictory images of masculinity which the American public has demanded of its movie industry in the last 20 years. On the one hand, Wilder's unthreatening sensitivity, his lack of strong sex appeal and charisma suit a public taste for more androgynous (or perhaps prepubescent) masculine figures. On the other hand, generally organized around idealized romantic fantasy, film narratives only with difficulty find a place for sensitized, androgynous males (unless of course, such a protagonist, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins, can embody a humorously unstable mixture of power and harmlessness).

Wilder's ordinary looks, unmanageable hair, and underdeveloped body make such impersonations impossible for him. This inability is ironically most evident in a film Wilder not only starred in but directed: The Woman in Red. The production belongs to a subgenre that attained a good deal of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s: the male midlife crisis romance/comedy. Though a partial critical success, the film was a commercial failure for a number of reasons, including its inability to combine humorous and serious approaches to infidelity and marital dissatisfaction. More important, however, Wilder could not project the sexual energy and despair needed to motor the plot; his character's obsession lacks a romantic intensity that can be sustained.

Woody Allen makes better use of Wilder's limitations in a minor role: that of the general practitioner who falls in love with a sheep in Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask. Here Wilder's ordinariness and desire for comfortable routine make the joke work: the doctor's sodomy is hopelessly absurd. Successful characterizations for Mel Brooks depend on similar ironic contrasts. As the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles, Wilder is the antithesis of the coolly masculine gunslinger; his draw is so fast no human eye can follow it (and that is because he does not really draw at all). Young Frankenstein and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother both offer Wilder as a junior, hungrier version of a more famous and accomplished relative: the first film works better than the second because its ensemble cast prevents a focus on Wilder's one-dimensional protagonist (Sherlock, though a Brooksinspired parody/pastiche, was directed by Wilder himself).

Sharing the narrative accounts for Wilder's success in two films where he co-starred with Richard Pryor, Stir Crazy and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. In the former of these, Wilder's Skip Donahue is a restless idealist whose best friend (Pryor) is more streetwise. Sent to prison by mistake, Pryor convinces Wilder that he must "be bad" in order to survive, but Wilder defeats the conventionality of this wisdom by finding other conversions, the sensitive songster inside a huge fellow inmate, former terror of the institution. In the latter film Wilder's deaf character becomes allied with Pryor's blind man: at first full of self-pity, alienated from others, Wilder's character becomes sensitized and benevolent. The commercially successful Silver Streak is much the same, featuring a conversion to action and engagement, though this thriller lacks the romantic intensity of its obvious model, Hitchcock's North by Northwest.

Wilder's androgynous character suits him well for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; he does an interesting and similar turn as the Fox in The Little Prince. Given a religious and political inflection, however, this persona can be put to unusually effective use. In contrast to his other roles (with the exception of the highly anxious and hysterical Leo Bloom in The Producers), which do not utilize his Jewishness, Wilder's Avram in The Frisco Kid is a rabbi, fresh from yeshiva in Poland, who emigrates to San Francisco to pastor a new congregation. Surviving a series of catastrophes, Avram meets up with a good/bad cowboy (played by Harrison Ford), from whom he learns about the gentile world. Avram falls into secularity, abandoning for a time the black coat and hat of the shtetl, though he is eventually reclaimed for an assimilationist form of Judaism. This extraordinary, if somewhat Capraesque film brings out the philosophical idealism implicit in the sensitivity and friendliness of the Wilder persona. The more recent Funny about Love elicits these qualities from the Wilder character's relationship with a young child.

Perhaps his most affecting performance, however, works yet another variation on androgyny: the genuine naïf, the mental defective whose goodness is reflexive, unalloyed, and presexual. As the title character in Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx, Wilder plays a man who takes continuing joy in the only job life has made available to him: collecting horseshit from the streets of Dublin. Like Avram, Quackser accepts the world as he finds it and loves other people for what he finds in them. Other people, however, do not measure up to his standards of loving kindness. In the larger context of the contemporary American cinema, however, these roles offer exceptional (and thus not widely appealing) versions of masculine strength and virtue. His undoubted success in them therefore could not make Wilder a star.

—R. Barton Palmer, updated by Linda J. Stewart

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"Wilder, Gene." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Wilder, Gene." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/wilder-gene

"Wilder, Gene." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/wilder-gene