Gene Wilder, "Blazing Saddles" and "Willy Wonka" star, dead at 83

Last Updated Aug 29, 2016 3:07 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- Gene Wilder, the star of such comedy classics as “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles,” has died. He was 83.

Wilder’s nephew said Monday that the actor and writer died earlier this month in Stamford, Connecticut from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.  

“It is with indescribable sadness and blues, but with spiritual gratitude for the life lived that I announce the passing of husband, parent, and universal artist Gene Wilder, at his home in Stamford Connecticut. It is almost unbearable for us to contemplate our life without him,” Wilder’s nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, said in a statement.

“The cause was complications from Alzheimers Disease with which he co-existed for the last three years. The choice to keep this private was his choice, in talking with us and making a decision as a family. We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones -- 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. It took enough, but not that.”

“He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones.”

The frizzy-haired actor was a master at playing panicked characters caught up in schemes that only a madman such as Mel Brooks could devise, whether reviving a monster in “Young Frankenstein” or bilking Broadway in “The Producers.”

But he also knew how to keep it cool as the boozy gunslinger in “Blazing Saddles” and as the charming candy man in the children’s favorite “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Just this week, Brooks had made his case to Vanity Fair that “Blazing Saddles” was the funniest movie ever made. 

Brooks himself reacted quickly to news of Wilder’s death.

Wilder developed a special onscreen relationship with “Blazing Saddles” co-writer Richard Pryor, going on to co-star with him in a series of films including “Stir Crazy” and “See No Evil, Hear No Evil.”  

Wilder was married four times. His most famous relationship was with “Saturday Night Live” vet Gilda Radner, to whom he was married from 1984 until her death from cancer in 1989. Following Radner’s passing, he married Karen Boyer in 1991. 

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: Pure Imagination Gene Wilder (1971) by TheRealWhatTheFudge on YouTube