The Incredibly Moving Reason Gene Wilder Kept His Illness A Secret

Gene Wilder, one of America’s most popular actors, has passed away at the age of 83 due to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.

The actor was nominated for an Oscar twice: a Best Supporting Actor nod for “The Producers“…

…and a screenplay nomination for “Young Frankenstein.”

In a statement to the AP, Wilder’s nephew said the actor and writer died late Sunday at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. Jordan Walker-Pearlman said that Wilder was diagnosed with the disease three years ago, but kept the condition private so as not to disappoint fans. The reason?

“He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”

Wilder is survived by his fourth wife, Karen Webb, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Katherine, from whom he was estranged.. He had been married to Saturday Night Live actress Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. He became an advocate for ovarian cancer screening and research.

He may have been most famous for his role in “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory:

Other popular movies he starred in included “Blazing Saddles,” and “Stir Crazy” (with Richard Pryor).

5 Things You Might Not have Known About Gene Wilder:

1. He last appeared on TV in 2003 in an episode of “Will & Grace”.

2. Like Radner, his mother also died from ovarian cancer.

3. He co-founded “Gilda’s Club,” an ovarian cancer community organization.

4. His birth name was Jerome Silberman.

5. His professional name was a composite of two separate people/characters: Thomas Wolfe’s character Eugene Gant in “Look Homeward,” “Angel” and “Of Time and the River”, and Thornton Wilder.