Gene Wilder - Pure Imagination
A Look Back at Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner's Tragic Romance
Their marriage was short but their love story is one for the ages. Actor and screenwriter Gene Wilder, who passed away Sunday at the age of 83, metSaturday Night Livealum Gilda Radner on the set of their 1982 movieHanky Panky.
"On the first night of filming near the Hudson River, she looked at me and started to cry," said Wilder in a 2012 interview, according to Yahoo. "I asked, 'Why are you crying?' and she said, 'because I know I'm going to marry you.'"
Radner was 13 years younger than Wilder and married to someone else at the time. Wilder had been married and divorced twice already.
Still, their connection was undeniable. One of Radner's closest friends, psychotherapist Pain Katz, toldPeopleof visiting the set, "There was a chemistry that was palpable and an electricity in the air. They hadn't been together yet, but there was no chance that they weren't going to be."
The chemistry was palpable...They hadn't been together yet, but there was no chance that they weren't going to be.
In her 1989 memoir,It's Always Something,Radner wrote, "The first time I saw him in person, my heart fluttered — I was hooked. Gene was funny and athletic and handsome, and he smelled good. I was bitten with love."
When filming wrapped and Radner was getting ready to fly home, she kissed Wilder and said, "If you ever want to get in touch with me, tell my manager Bernie Brillstein, 'The ducks are in the pond.'"
"When I got back home I suddenly dropped to my knees and started weeping that she wasn't there," said Wilder. "So, I called Bernie and told him, 'The ducks are in the pond.' He said, 'OK, I understand,' and we were together for a long time after that."
The couple lived together for two years before marrying in southern France in September 1984, according to Yahoo. They starred in two more movies together:The Woman in Red(1984) andHaunted Honeymoon(1986).
Being with Gene brought Gilda's life "from black and white to Technicolor," she would later write.
In 1986, after 10 months of suffering from bouts of sudden fatigue and seeing doctor after doctor, Radner was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. The disease ran in her family. Wilder would later be haunted by the fact that a basic test could have detected his wife's cancer much earlier, giving her a better shot at survival. "Gilda didn't have to die," he would say.
Gilda wrote that, after meeting Gene, her life went 'from black-and-white to Technicolor.'
Director Carl Reiner recalls visiting the couple in France during Radner's battle with cancer. "He was holding their little dog and it was nestled in his neck and he had his arm around Gilda," Reiner toldPeople. "She said, 'This is the happiest I'll ever be.'" They were really meant for each other."
Radner underwent chemotherapy and radiation successfully, but the cancer returned two years later. Even in the face of terminal illness, the comedian never lost her funny outlook on life. In a 1991 interview withPeople, Wilder recalled how Radner would reenact her "infamous"SNLcharacter Roseanne Roseannadanna, yelling at the cancer cells attacking her body, ''Hey, what are you trying to do in here? Make me sick?''
She made jokes about her hair falling out, too, despite being "devastated," Wilder toldPeople. "Of all the mistakes I made dealing with her illness, and I promise you I've made some I'm too ashamed to talk about, it was never an issue when Gilda lost her hair," he said. "Those little bean sprouts growing on top of her head were adorable, like a newborn baby."
Radner died on May 20, 1989, at the age of 42, not even five years since their wedding day.
After her death, a "devastated" Wilder spent months researching ovarian cancer, and testified before Congress about Radner's misdiagnoses in 1991. He started a New York-based center for cancer patients called Gilda's Club, which later merged with the Wellness Community to form the nation's largest cancer support network.
Wilder married costume designer Karen Boyer in 1991. He told Larry King in a 2002 interview that Radner would always have a special place in his heart—something that Boyer understood without jealousy. Wilder and Boyer were married for 25 years until his death from complications from Alzheimer's disease this week.
Video: Gene Wilder Obituary
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