Gene Wilder's loves: From Gilda Radner to Karen Boyle
Comedic legend Gene Wilder passed away on Monday at 83 after complications from Alzheimer's disease, and while it is sad to lose a legend, he touched many people along the way. Not only did he bring the world incredible movies like, "The Producers," "Blazing Saddles," "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," and "Young Frankenstein," he also shared his love of life with those around him.
Wilder was definitely a lover of love -- he was married four times. He was married to his first wife, Mary Mercier, from 1960-1965 and his second wife, Mary Joan Schutz, from 1967-1974, but he is definitely best known for his romances with his last two spouses, Gilda Radner and Karen Boyer.
PHOTOS: A look back at his love with Gilda Radner
Radner, who was a lead on "Saturday Night Live," met Wilder on the set of "Hanky Panky" and they frequently collaborated on television and in films like, "The Woman in Red" and "Haunted Honeymoon." After five years on "SNL," she left the show to pursue film work, and married Wilder in 1984 (after divorcing from first husband, "SNL" bandleader G.E. Smith). Their chemistry was reportedly the stuff of legend and Wilder once wrote in his book, "Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search for Love and Art," "When Gilda arrived, I thought she looked radiant. She was calm, cheerful, sensitive."
Their incredible romance, which took them from New York to Los Angeles to Paris, was sadly short-lived after Radner got ovarian cancer, which went undiagnosed for 10 months. Doctors originally believed she had chronic fatigue before eventually diagnosing her with cancer.
Of her time doing chemotherapy, Wilder once commented to People, "When her hair fell out, she was devastated, but eventually she made jokes about that too. 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. Those little bean sprouts growing on top of her head were adorable, like a newborn baby. I thought it was sexy. And the more I thought that, the happier it made Gilda."
In her final days, Radner underwent a CAT scan, which she feared she may never wake up from. Sadly, she never did and to his dying day, Wilder said he regretted not being able to say goodbye to his love.
He said his final goodbye when she, now 42, was unconscious and slipping away from the world. "When I got there, a night nurse, whom I still want to thank, had washed Gilda and taken out all the tubes. She put a pretty yellow barrette in her hair. She looked like an angel. So peaceful. She was still alive, and as she lay there, I kissed her. But then her breathing became irregular, and there were long gaps and little gasps. Two hours after I arrived, Gilda was gone. While she was conscious, I never said goodbye."
PHOTOS: Wilder's life with Karen Boyer
After Gilda's death, Wilder dedicated much of his life to pursuing better treatment and detection for women with cancer. He founded the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founded Gilda's Club.
Wilder actually met his fourth wife, Karen Boyer, while he was still married to Radner. The duo never had a romantic relationship while Radner was alive, but Boyer helped him prepare for his role in "See No Evil, Hear No Evil." She was a clinical supervisor for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing and also worked as a speech pathologist.
The pair married in 1991, two years after Gilda's passing, and Wilder would go on to call Boyer the love of his life. Boyer helped Wilder move on with his life. He once remarked, "For years I have thought about Gilda and cancer every day. The time has come for me to rejoin the human race ... I am happier than I have ever been, thanks to Karen."
Of their meeting and their subsequent courtship Wilder once told Larry King, "It was like a flower that's blooming. I went out a second time with her to a restaurant with a tape recorder. And the third time I said leave the tape recorder at home. And that's the time I was in love. And then we got married 10 years later."
Wilder is survived by Boyer. He passed away at the Connecticut home they shared together and they were last seen together at the U.S. Open last year.
PHOTOS: The most popular Wilder movies