Gene Wilder is one of the great comic actors who defined the 1970s and 1980s in movies. From his early work with Woody Allen to the rich group of movies he made with Mel Brooks to his partnership on screen with Richard Pryor, Wilders performances are still discussed and celebrated today. Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an intimate glimpse of the man behind the image on the screen. In this book, Wilder talks about everything from his experiences in psychoanalysis to why he got into acting to how a midwestern childhood with a sick mother changed him. He writes about the creative process on stage and on screen, and divulges moments from life on the sets of the some of the most iconic movies of our time. He also opens up about his love affairs and marriages, including his marriage to comedian Gilda Radner. But the core of Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an actors search for truth and a realization of why the choices he madesome of them so serendipitous they were practically accidentalchanged the course of his life.
Gene Wilder was an American Emmy Award-winning and twice Academy Award-nominated stage and screen comic actor, screenwriter, film director, and author.
Wilder began his career on stage, making his screen debut in the film Bonnie and Clyde in 1967. His first major role was as Leo Bloom in the 1968 film, The Producers. This was the first in a series of prolific collaborations with writer/director Mel Brooks, including 1974's Young Frankenstein, the script of which garnered the pair an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Wilder was known for his portrayal of Willy Wonka on Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) and for his four films with Richard Pryor: Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991). Wilder directed and wrote several of his films, including The Woman in Red (1984).
His marriage to actress Gilda Radner, who died from ovarian cancer, led to his active involvement in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda's Club.
In more recent years, Wilder turned his attention to writing, producing a memoir in 2005, Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, and the novels My French Whore (2007) and The Woman Who Wouldn't (2008).
Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art by Gene Wilder
I have always enjoyed the comedic humor of Gene Wilder but really didn't know anything about him except he was married to Radner ( who I also loved) at one time. This book takes the reader through his whole life. Childhood, school, family life, boarding school, bullies, love life, adulthood, professional life, love life, marriages. His grief, his happiness, what it felt like to be a Jew and bullied, his battle with cancer, watching Glenda's battle with cancer, and so much more.
I picked this up for a couple of bucks on Chirp and Wilder narrates it himself. It's so open and honest to the point of being shocking in spots. It's heartwarming and heartfelt as he lays his life open for all to see. I don't think I could be that brave. He wrote this when his cancer was in remission in 2005. He died in 2016 after battling three years of dementia. I looked this up after I finished the book. That made me cry. Such a brilliant and witty mind and it was crippled in the end.
This is a good memoir. I didn't know a lot about Gene's personal life and it was fun to read about his time making Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles (although he didn't write as much about Blazing Saddles as I would have liked). It was a quick read and I do recommend it especially if you are a fan.
Just a little addition to my review- in light of the fact that Gene Wilder passed away from complications of Alzheimer's disease this week. This is a good book written by Gene. May he rest in peace.
Before reading this book, I was a huge fan of Gene Wilder and included him on my list of "Celebrities I'd Like to Get a Drink With." I am still a fan of and believe that he is one of the funniest actors ever, but I no longer want to have a drink with him. Why? Because this book made me realize on thing: Gene Wilder is kind of an asshole.
Amazing, amazing, amazing. I've always loved Gene Wilder, and usually I shy away from autobios by people I love, just for the simple fact that I might end up not liking them as much once I hear them speak. But Gene Wilder is Gene Wilder, and I snatched this up as soon as I found it.
I was not disappointed. He was different than I thought he'd be - of course - but there were so many things I could relate and sympathize to, I was suprised. It was one of those wonderful realizations of finding a kindred spirit in somebody, even if or when you've never met them, or when your lives are so vastly different that it seems impossible.
I've always admired Gene for his acting, but now I admire him much more for his life and his spirit. This is a true artist, a true actor. And while I'm not an actress, by any means, I'd like to think of myself as an artist, and this...just helped me so much. So unbelivably much.
Honestly, whether you consider yourself artistic or spiritual or not, read it. It won't take very long, his narrative is bouncy and light, and you'll be better off.
I read this after reading Gilda Radner's "It's Always Something". I thought it would be interesting to read the other side of the story and see what his perspective was. I had come away from Gilda's book with the idea that Gene Wilder was a saint. From his book, I concluded that he is altogether human, with faults and all. Still, he comes across as very down-to-earth, humble, and unfailingly kind.
He went through a lot of tough times, in his career and his personal life. With regards to Gilda, a lot of the same incidents were mentioned, but his views of them were never as in-depth. He was still quite honest about her faults, but he was crazy about her. He has since remarried. One review of this book said that he really portrayed Gilda as monsterous, and that he gushed too much about his new wife. He never seemed (to me) to say an absolutely unkind thing about Gilda, and if he now "gushes" about his new wife, with whom he has found happiness, than he has earned the right.
I probably would have given the book 3 and a 1/2 stars, if possible. I found the writing not too much better than that found in Gilda's book, but it was a bit more cohesive. And the truth is purely personal - I liked Gene Wilder before, now I am truly a fan.
Finishing the book, I immediately wanted to do two things: 1) Rent every movie he has ever done, the ones I've seen, the ones I haven't. Now, that I know the creative process behind them, it would be so much more interesting, and 2) Write Mr. Wilder a fan letter. Okay, not so much a fan letter, more a note, just three words: "Good for you!"
I loved some of Gene Wilder films, making some of the best comedies of recent years, Silver Streak, Woman In Red, Young Frankenstein, and Willy Wonka but to me especially See No Evil, Hear No Evil.
So was he like his screen personality in real life... I am not sure.
Read his autobiography but feel I still do not know his personality that well, and want I did find out through reading the book, to me he was not quite as a carefree cheerful character as I suspected.
I personally found he spent more talking about his sexual relationships and success than he did the films, the co-stars. How quickly he bedded his new girlfriends. Hey, I know I am sounding a bit old fashioned but I am not, just find in not very interesting in a book.
Some interesting parts, but rather shocking, especially with his lack of support with Gilda Radner, and her fight for life and such a tough battle with cancer, the hard times he gave her.
I really enjoyed Woman In Red, in this book the film is mentioned in one paragraph, Kelly Le Brock not mentioned at all. Yes he worked with so many greats Marty Feldman, Mel Brooks and of course four films with Richard Pryor, but little spoken about in the books.
Married four times, and quite a bit in between, including quick relationships, abortions, ill health and his own battle with cancer..
Okay, first off, let's just get this off the table before we do anything else. Is there really anybody in the whole world who wants to know the intimate details of Willy Wonka's love life? Hm. Right. I thought not. Now that that's cleared up. This predictably egocentric book about the jerk that is Gene Wilder reaches a point of inane self-obsession when Wilder asserts that his pre-marriage affair with Gilda Radner was the supreme act of unselfishness on his part. I had no idea when I picked up the book that the subtitle: My Search For Love and Art would be code for My Search for Women and Fame. But that doesn't sound nearly as artistic. Wilder specializes in "blaming the victim," an annoying habit that grows tiresome quickly. It's his first wife's fault that he married her, he did it out of guilt. It's his second wife's fault that they got married, he did it out of guilt. It's his adopted daughter's fault that they don't speak anymore, it's because she's angry at "all men." It couldn't possibly be because Gene Wilder is a complete and unmitigated jerk. Wilder also has a horribly predictable writing style. It goes, invariably, like this (you can insert your own favorite celebrity names in the provided spaces.) "I met with _____________ (famous producer), who hired ____________ (famous director), and ____________ (drop name of famous actor) and ________________(drop name of famous actor number 2). Then I did _____________(insert romantic tryst) with _____________ (drop name of famous actress.) We stayed at _____________(name of hotel) and it cost ____________(amount of money), nowadays it would cost ___________. Can you believe it?!" The wearisome pattern in the book never seems to end. He tries to throw in some acting tips too, but it all gets muddled badly. It's just a travelogue/name dropping circus, until you get to the parts about Gilda Radner, which are marginally more interesting. By the way, did Gene Wilder mention that he is NOT gay? Because he really wants you to know. You already knew, right? Wilder is a great character actor, but he seems to have forgotten that and now, in the delusional stages of seniority, thinks he is a massively famous worldwide star. Don't read this book.
After Gene Wilder’s death last week, I binged on interviews he did at various stages of his career. The most poignant was in 2013 at the 92nd Street Y because you can see that he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but the most in-depth interview, unsurprisingly, was with Terry Gross in promotion of this book. The interview, like the book, covers his personal life as well as his career, but included things he never went public with anywhere else. The most notable of these, and the thing that made me pick up the book, was that for a time, he suffered from a compulsion to pray for hours at a time. He doesn’t name the disorder, but I recognized it immediately as scrupulosity, a form of OCD. Religious Jew that I am, I could not help but wonder how different his life might have been had he gone to a rabbi for help instead of a therapist. But while his therapist is a major character in the book, the scrupulosity part (lucky for him) didn’t last long.
Now, I should confess that when I was about twelve, I had a huge crush on Gene Wilder. No doubt it started with Willy Wonka, but it was really about him and what he brought to his characters. There’s nothing like a gentle intellectual to win over the heart of a Jewish woman. So it was an uncanny confirmation to me when he married Gilda Radner. In the years that I was crushing on him the hardest, she was at the height of her fame, and people everywhere were saying how much I resembled her. Plenty of people called me “Gilda” and sometimes, even worse, “Roseanna Danna.” Then came Coincidence #2: his longest and happiest marriage was with a woman named Karen, which happens to be my English name. So I always thought that if I would ever actually meet Gene Wilder, the attraction might be mutual. That’s the kiss he earned from this stranger, the kind of love he says he and so many other actors crave. Of course, we fans crave the kiss from those larger-than-life stars at least as much they do. That’s what keeps the wheels of the Hollywood dream machine turning.
All of that is my long way of saying that Gene Wilder had a pretty high pedestal to fall from where I’m concerned, and after this book, fall he did. I liked reading about his development as an actor, and the most poignant parts are at the end with his own triumph over cancer. He’s an authoritative voice on that subject, having experienced it both as a loved one and as a patient. But there was way Too Much Information about his romantic affairs. He’s certainly not one of Hollywood’s most shameful cads, but he was no saint either. So if you don’t want to tarnish your image of Gene Wilder as Charlie Bucket’s secret advocate (and we all envision ourselves in Charlie’s position in that scenario), stick with the interviews and skip this book.
When I first started reading this book, I felt uncomfortable -- maybe even a little embarrassed. It was almost like eavesdropping on a therapy session. But then, after a few chapters, I realized something -- Gene Wilder was being totally honest. He was sharing what he really thought, giving his real opinion, and telling about things he did or said, regardless of whether they would be judged as good or bad by his readers.
Don't read this book expecting Gene to be funny. Watch his movies for that. This book is about his career, his life, his friends, relationships, the ups and downs of his career, his marriages....his real feelings, his real struggles with mental illness and life in general. Creative people often have the hardest time with "real'' life. It makes sense -- if you spend more time pretending to be other people than being yourself....how do you remember who you really are?
He shares about his self doubt, talks about his failed marriages, loving and losing Gilda Radner, his own struggle with cancer and finally finding love again with his present wife.
It was nice to have a peek at the real man behind the acting skills. I was a fan of Gene Wilder before I read this book -- I am an even bigger fan now.
Thank you for being candid and real, Gene. Your story was amazing.
My rating: 8/10 Ages: 18+ Candid discussions of sex and adult situations
For someone who was a brilliant actor, he didn't write all that well. His topics were self-centered. His side of the Gilda Radner relationship was surprisingly cool, in a distant, egocentric manner. While I loved his work, now I realize the adage about watching sausage being made.
I once saw a meme that pinned Gene Wilder's Wonka against Johnny Depp's and it said something to the effect that Wilder is a nobody and Depp is an acting god, it annoyed me. Now I had a wall of Depp pictures that I had cut out from magazines but I will be the first to say that Wilder's Willy Wonka was far superior to Depp's very entertaining rendition. Also, Gene Wilder has been in many other amazing films...Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Blazing Saddles and the Richard Prior/Gene Wilder films are classics!
In other words, I love Gene Wilder and if you have something bad to say about him, I'll cut you!
The content of this book was about 20% childhood, 20% showbiz, 58% personal life and...
What percent was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? I don't know about percentage but it was like 3 paragraphs. Yep, that's it. I found this to be greatly disappointing since the film is in my top ten movies of all time list but his film career wasn't the focus, and I admire that. Instead of listing out his filmography he sieved through movie trivia and provided anecdotes that supported his themes of love and art and illustrated how he grew as an artist and a person.
The narration felt very honest and intimate as Wilder takes the reader through his life and all the women who greatly influenced him from his mother to his adopted daughter Katie to Gilda and their dog Sparkles.
I have heard people complain that Gene is a jerk because he kissed another woman when he was still with Gilda, but it was just a kiss. He never made any excuses like they did for Jim Henson: The Biography and he never tried to paint himself as a saint like Dick Van Dyke did in My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business and those men actually slept with other women while they were married. I also never found the tone to be pretentious as Gene airs out his own personal demons and mental illness.
I found Gene to be incredibly sincere and sensitive. His writing was peppered with humor but it was also very introspective, reflective, and at times poetic. I was moved to tears at the death of Gilda and again when Gene was battling his own run in with cancer. This was beautifully written and wonderfully rhythmic at times it felt less like a piece of non-fiction and more like a story that was often bittersweet. Reading this increased my love for Gene twofold!
Gene Wilder's autobiography, narrated by Gene Wilder! What an absolute delight. He speaks with great honesty about his years of therapy, his four wives, Gilda Radner's death, his troubled relationship with his daughter, and his deep love for his parents and sister. The book is poignant and hilarious.
He has worked with many of the greatest actors and directors of the twentieth century: such as Helen Hayes, Anne Bancroft, Arthur Penn, Sidney Poitier, Richard Pryor, Mike Nichols, Woody Allen, Lee Strasburg, Mel Brooks, Zero Mostel, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Gene Hackman, Terry Garr, Cleavon Little, and Harrison Ford.
In the early 1960's Wilder auditioned for and was admitted to The Actor's Studio under the great Lee Strasburg where he learned the Stanislavski method. There he learned many techniques such as sense memory that served him well in his career. Another one was: if you are doing something funny, you don't need to act funny. Some of his great roles: Leo Bloom in The Producers (1967), the title role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles (1974), Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein (1974) - He also wrote the screenplay, Rudy Hickman in The World's Greatest Lover (1977) - he wrote, directed, produced and starred, and Skip Donahue in Stir Crazy (1980).
I particularly enjoyed Wilder's description of how he wrote Young Frankenstein and his collaboration with Mel Brooks. I couldn't keep the grin off my face.
I listened to the book in one sitting. It is that good! I recommend it highly.
In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Gene Wilder's character says, "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." This idea has become his persona in the movies which has brought him many fans over the years. Wilder, star of hits like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, has written his autobiography. The title Kiss Me Like A Stranger was given to him by his late wife Gilda Radner of Saturday Night Live fame. While they were married, she vivaciously yelled out the title and told him to use it for something. Only after she had passed did he realize the significance it had for his life.
"I thought I'd go crazy if I didn't have something artistic to do... I started writing, and whatever had built up, after Gilda, then finding my wife, Karen, and then memories from childhood... it just started pouring out," said Wilder.
The book is candid and entertaining. It is not laugh out loud funny as one might expect from a comic actor like Wilder. In many places it is sad and thoughtful. Wilder writes of his struggles with his family, women, religion, acting, and cancer. He utilizes dialogue between himself and his therapist to tell or to interpret events in his life. It employs a large font and substance for only two-hundred seventy-two pages which makes it easy to read but void of details about films. There is generally only one or two behind-the-scenes stories about each movie and none are outstanding.
Janet Maslin, writer from The New York Times said, "Though this book is true to the nice guy persona that Mr. Wilder has used to such a fine comic effect as an actor, it is not without claws." It is obvious that women are prominent in Wilder's life and that his career takes a backseat to them. He is emotional but fair to the women involved in the various embarrassing scenarios mentioned. It does not seem that he is attempting to soil their names. He owns up to his mistakes and identifies the positives in the people he has surrounded himself with.
The stance that Wilder takes on his many relationships is illustrated when he says, "How could it have happened that I found her at this stage of my life? If we had met twenty years earlier, it wouldn't have worked. I know that. I wasn't ready for her, and she probably wasn't ready for me." It seems that Wilder believes that the hardships in his life have shaped him and have given him the opportunity to experience happiness.
Kiss Me Like a Stranger is not a quotable book but it is filled with insight. It is very frank about the fact that Wilder is not different from the masses. It might be slightly disappointing to fans solely of Wilder's films, but it should please those interested in his personality and life experiences.
I have no idea why I read this book -- downloaded as a whim. I enjoyed it, and I like his simple, straightforward prose. It wasn't knock-your-socks-off profound, and it wasn't funny, but it was real. When I read reviews of other readers who thought he came across as unsympathetic, I was tempted to bump up my rating in protest. He is honest. That includes the parts of his life when he was not mature, not very wise, sometimes actively troubled. He doesn't dwell on his pain or confusion, but he reports how he acted and why. I appreciated that.
An interesting memoir, a real sharing of a life and times, with some profound insights. I've always liked him and found him facinating. It's well written, he uses an intermittant conversation with his therapist as a writing tool which works well. Very engaging. He was mentioned at a writing class I took last summer and it piqued my interest, I didn't know he was an author.
Dag, I forgot how effortless a writer Mr. Wilder is. This is my third book of his, and the first non-fiction. Reading this autobiography is like sitting and catching up with an old friend—sit back and relax, and get ready to smile to yourself on your mass-transit system of choice. If you haven't read Wilder's fiction, DO IT!
What a wonderful, warm, flawed human being. Gene Wilder reads the audiobook of his own memoir in his own gentle voice. I most enjoyed the parts about his training as an actor, and his creative process. In a way, the book seems too short after his career takes off. People seem to pass by in a blur: Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Mike Nichols, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Sellers, etc.
There are some interesting insights into Richard Pryor, although Pryor remained a bit of a mystery to Wilder. They weren't really friends outside of work, as you might imagine, although Wilder credits Pryor with adding improvisation to his acting arsenal.
There's a lot in the book about Wilder's relationship with Gilda Radner. He describes her as charismatic, but often needy. And this neediness resulted in a lot of stress in the relationship.
Perhaps the saddest part of the book is the dissolution of Wilder's relationship with his adopted daughter, Katharine. She stopped speaking to him in the 70s, under a misapprehension that he was having an affair with Madeline Kahn during the filming of Young Frankenstein (he wasn't), and she remained estranged from him until the day he died.
Wilder's own fight with cancer followed closely on the heels of the illness and death of Radner, but his fourth and final wife, Karen Webb, saw him through to recovery. Wilder lived another eleven years after this book was written.
I was so excited to read this book...I was greatly looking forward to learning more about the man who kept me captivated as a child watching Willy Wonka; & the man who kept me laughing as an adult watching Young Frankenstein & Blazing Saddles. While this book delves into Gene's at times odd childhood & his experiences as an adult in the acting world, it left me feeling sorry that I had read it. I think the thing that bothered me the most was when he spoke of Gilda Radner...it has very little emotion. He states in the book about her treatments for cancer, but he does not discuss how this affected him other than that he became upset with her yelling at him & their arguments while she was going through this difficult time in her life. To my great dismay, he seemed to only want to focus on the woman whom he married after Gilda's passing. Gilda deserved better than that. To keep things brief, do not get this book thinking you will get a deep insight into Gilda & Gene's relationship. You will be sadly disappointed. If you do want to hear about Gene's weird sexual experiences, his odd few marriages, and failed movie attempts...read on and enjoy.
This short, charming autobiography is unlike any other actor bio I have ever read. Instead of hashing out major notable career moments and gossipy stories, he focuses on his own neuroses, women, and major lessons in acting from his life. In this way, the book provides infinitely more insight into Wilder's character than more traditional biographies. And despite the lack of trashy content, Wilder does not sugar coat people in his life (particularly Gilda) and it's refreshing to have a writer allow such honesty. It's a humble and sweet read.
Gene Wilder has always held a unique fascination for me. I'll never forget watching Willy Wonka on TV as a child; I was simultaneously enthralled and terrified. I clearly remember cowering behind an armchair during the infamous boat scene. Later on I discovered his comedy talents in the films like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. So I was naturally curious to learn a bit more about him.
But be forewarned - this autobiography does not focus on Wilder's film career. It mainly concentrates on his relationships, the awkward fumblings of his teenage years and his many marriages. I can't say his attitude to women impressed me that much. He seems to have left his first two wives purely out of boredom, and poor Gilda Radner was barely in her grave when he had hooked up with Mrs Wilder number four. But he can really write, and the book is at its most candid and touching when he talks about both his and Radner's struggle with cancer. I'd like to have read more about his movie exploits (my beloved Wonka only gets a couple of pages) but this is an honest, unflinching account from one the twentieth century's finest comedic actors.
Hay una tendencia cada vez mayor de calificar las memorias de acuerdo a la simpatía o antipatía que nos generan las confesiones del autor o autora. ¿Qué hace que una memoria sea buena? Para mí, primero, que esté bien escrita y que sea honesta: esto quiere decir que quien la escribe no intenta convencernos de nada, sino de abrir su vida para que sus confesiones, errores y aprendizajes sirvan a otros. Habrá momentos de franco egoísmo, estupidez, ceguera, arrogancia; pero también de pasión, creatividad, alegría, generosidad. Y si están ahí esas cosas, significa que no nos están siendo ocultadas. Nos están siendo contadas para ver el proceso de cómo se llega a ser actor, cantante, bailarina, comediante o cual sea haya sido la profesión de quien escribe. En el caso de Gene Wilder, un gigante de la comedia, un guionista genial, sus memorias no ocultan lo feo. Solo lo muestran como parte de un aprendizaje hecho gracias a las sesiones con su psicoanalista. Todo el libro es como una gran sesión, en donde una idea lleva a otra, en donde la culpa no tiene lugar por mucho tiempo porque regodearse en ésta solo lleva a la victimización, y negarla te vuelve un canalla. Wilder no quería ser un canalla, y su lucha por no serlo es conmovedora.
The structure was at first annoying - telling his story through his visits to his therapist, and the first quarter of the book, the writing seemed so elementary, but I ended up loving this book. Good person with a good story, mostly untainted by Hollywood
I've been brooding over this one. Things I didn't know about Gene Wilder: he's written many screen plays, he adopted a daughter, he studied acting quite a bit, and he's a part of the Actor's Studio. I had an affection for Gene Wilder. He's someone I always liked seeing on the screen, starting with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to Young Frankenstein to pretty much anything. But I probably should have been a bit more cautious about buying his book. I'd heard that he was doing a reading of new work at the 92nd Street Y. I wanted to go but didn't. And thus i decided to read this so that I could decide that I wanted to read his fiction. I suppose none of this says anything about the book. About the book, it's entertaining. But I'm a little disappointed on a personal level. You want to think people's work you like is as good as they are. But what i learned made me a little sad. I'm sad that Gene Wilder fell in love with someone else while his wife was dying. I'm sad he admits that he married someone he didn't love so that he could be a father. I'm really sad that he writes this his daughter refuses to talk to him and he has no idea why. It contradicts the narrative of himself, that he's this sensitive man. Though he may in fact be emotive, he lacks the capacity to empathize. It must be truly terrible to have a spouse that is so sick. But i just got confused that he discuss his sexual needs in that context. Do they not go on the back burner? Is that him being honest about what every non sick spouse feels? I also thought it strange the way he juxtaposes Gilda Radner to his new wife. I don't have the book in front of me but he calls her a child, a selfish child. He remembers her yelling something like, 'but who else can i be like this with if not you?" And then his new wife comes along in her shiny adult armor with a sentimental poem about love on her cupboard. The exact opposite. It may be a funny thing that things line up in certain ways to give you certain experiences that make your life wonderful. But it seems women are so lacking and replaceable. And that makes me a little down.
I wish Goodreads had 1/2 stars because I actually would have given this 2 1/2 stars. I picked this book up because I had heard of the great love story between Gene Wildre and Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 43 while they were married. If you read this book for the reason I did, you will be disappointed as he doesn't even mention Gilda's name until Chapter 25 (page 187 of a 247 page book). I was also disappointed in him as a person -- he cheated on his first wife, he left his second wife for no good reason; he just wanted out of the marriage even though he speaks very highly of her. Gilda was his 3rd wife and he kissed another woman (his 4th and current wife) while she was dying of cancer and in between all these marriages, he got a woman pregnant who proceeded to have an abortion and it didn't really seem to phase him. I don't agree with any of the above. However, it is his life and his memoir and he was very candid and genuine with his thoughts and I did find it interesting to hear all about the behind the scenes details about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Young Frankenstein, etc.
I have spent the last half hour crying in varying degrees. I chose to listen to the audiobook of this as Gene Wilder read it himself and I prefer to hear a memoir straight from the author. He was never someone I knew personally but he was always a figure in my youth. My mother loved him and I always found a strange comfort in his presence. Hearing his story solidified that he was exactly as I always viewed him. A bit damaged, sweet, gentle, romantic, emotional, and incredibly poetic. He was a beautiful soul and the world is dimmer without his light.
This also stands as a testament to the necessity to the idea that...there is no good reason why curing cancer isn’t the only thing we as a society are doing. Gilda’s lost potential and Gene’s own struggle are more than enough yet year after year there is always talk of a miracle cure before, presumably, some pharmaceutical slime suppresses it. I imagined being a poor ill child with very little time and realizing that I was in a hospital getting treated alongside Willy Wonka and it was quite sobering. But I cried not for that, but for the love in his heart. I wish people were more comfortable to love so openly.
After his recent passing, I felt it was necessary for me to read one of his written works. Mr. Wilder only wrote a small number of novels, but now I want to read them all. He is one of my favorite actors of all time, and left an everlasting impression on me from when I first watched Willy Wonka. If there are those of you out there who haven't seen Young Frankenstein, well in my most humble opinion, you need to. This book is on the author's life and search for works of art that make up his life. His actual art, his marriages and his body of work in movies. This is a very personal door that has been opened up to us as readers and fans of Mr. Wilder. It made me laugh in many places and yet the overall loss of such a wonderful person to the world is very sad. Still, the book is well written and I enjoyed it very much.
I saw a lot of bad reviews about this book, regarding Gene Wilder's character more than anything else. Maybe because I don't know a lot about his work and I knew even less about him personally, the book didn't ruin any preconception about him I might have had, and it was an enjoyable read. Sure, he took a lot of misteps, specially in what regarded being faithful to his wives (yes, plural - 4 of them), but the account he makes of his life seems honest and open. I did enjoy his writing, I'm still curious to read one of his novels, The French Whore. The only criticism I have about the book is it's length: it's too short, a bit over six hours, I wish he had gone into more detail about his work and personal life.