Karen Boyer was the wife of iconic comedian, Gene Wilder. Her beloved husband of 25-years sadly has passed at age 83.
The actor, screenwriter, director and author known for roles such as Willy Wonka, died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in Stamford, Connecticut.
Gene was born Jerry Silbermanin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of a Russian jew, who made spirit miniatures. He trained at university, at the Bristol Old Vic in England and the Actors’ Studio in New York. He worked on and off Broadway but his big break came in the movies.
He had been active since 1961 but it was a cameo role as an undertaker, quivering in the back of Bonnie & Clyde’s car, launched him in 1966.
Actor Gene Wilder made his first huge splash as the title character in Mel Stuart’s film adaptation of ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.’
Gene’s talent gained him a number of roles for which he was twice Oscar nominated. First, for his role in “The Producers” and for co-penning “Young Frankenstein” with Mel Brooks.
Working with Brooks spurred Wilder to write and direct his own comedies, though none reached the heights of his collaborations with Brooks. The first of these was “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” (1975), in which he included such Brooks regulars as Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman. It was followed by 1977’s “The World’s Greatest Lover,” which he also produced.
He later would work with Richard Pryor –for which he is also well known.
As for his personal life; Karen Boyer became Gene’s fourth and last wife. He was previously married to Mary Mercier from 1960-1965. The couple met while he attended HB Studio in New York and wedded shortly after.
Following his divorce he began dating Mary Joan Schutz, a friend of his sister. The couple tied the knot in 1967 and Wilder became a father figure to Schut’z daughter Katharine. His second marriage lasted seven-years ending in his second divorce in 1974.
Wilder was romantically linked to his Young Frankenstein co-star, Teri Garr. In 1981 he met actress Gilda Radner during the filming of Hanky Panky. The two became so inseparable that she divorced her then husband, G. E. Smith, in order to be with Wilder. They became husband and wife in 1984 but five years later she died due to ovarian cancer.
The actor found love once again in Karen Boyer, a former clinical supervisor for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing –whom he had met after Karen Boyer helped him to prepare for his role as a deaf man in See No Evil, Hear No Evil.
They reconnected after he became a widow and eventually married in 1991. According to a story on The Telegraph, Karen Boyer lived for a long time in the shadows of Wilder’s death wife, Gilda.
The actor recognized her unconditional support in his quest to set up clubs for cancer patients and their families. During a speech at Gilda’s Clubs, a charity Wilder set up in memory of the late comedian Gilda Radner, he said “I have a surprise, a special presentation,” he announced unexpectedly at a gala dinner and it was “The Gene Wilder Unconditional Love Award for the rest of her life”. Karen Boyer sobbed and kissed him. The audience applauded wildly.
Karen Boyer said during an interview, she had lost hope that marriage would happen for her.
The couple lived together at the Connecticut home, Gilda had left him.