Gene Wilder Dead at 83

[Entertainment ★★★]


(P1) Gene Wilder, the iconic star of such comedy classics as Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, is dead at age 83. The actor’s nephew tells Variety Wilder died at his Stamford Connecticut home of Alzheimer’s complications Monday. Jordan Walker-Pearlman says in a statement that Wilder’s family was “lucky”: “This illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality.”

(P2) The family did not disclose Wilder’s illness not because of “vanity,” the statement continues, “but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him ‘there’s Willy Wonka.” He would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble. They didn’t want delight to travel to worry, disappointment, or confusion. Mr. Wilder simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.” Variety notes that Wilder did not work regularly after the death of his wife, Gilda Radner, from ovarian cancer in 1989, but he did win an Emmy in 2003 for a guest role on Will & Grace. He is survived by his fourth wife, Karen Boyer whom he married in 1991.

WORDS: 203


VOCABULARY: iconic, complications, affirming, disclose, vanity, bear


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. If you had Alzheimer’s, would you want to go out in public? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think there will ever be a cure for Alzheimer’s? Why or why not?
  4. Who are some other iconic actors and actresses you know?


  1. Mr. Wilder was a co-star in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (T or F)
  2. What did Mr. Wilder die from?
  3. The public knew Mr. Wilder had Alzheimer’s. (T or F)
  4. Who was Mr. Wilder married to who later died of cancer?
  5. How many times was Mr. Wilder married?


What do the following expressions or phrases mean?

  • such comedy classics (P1)
  • illness-pirate (P1)
  • core personality (P1)
  • countless young children (P2)
  • call out (P2)
  • guest role (P2)

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