Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder’s Late Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Gene Wilder has died in his home in Stamford, Connecticut, which leaves many saddened by the loss of such a legend in comedy. In Wilder’s life, he was married a total of four times and he leaves behind wife Karen in the wake of his death. Prior to marrying Karen, Wilder was married to comedienne Gilda Radner, who passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989. Get to know more about Radner’s life with Wilder, her years before meeting Wilder and her sad death by reading on below.

1. Radner’s Cancer Was Originally Misdiagnosed

When Radner and Wilder first went to a doctor to figure out where her intense fatigue was coming from, she was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus, chronic fatigue. The doctor told her to “Go home, relax, don’t worry about it.” Unfortunately, there was a disease much worse that was taking over. And months went by without proper treatment. It was 10 months before doctors realized she had a malignancy and had ovarian cancer, according to Wilder.

The day that Radner lost consciousness, she was being put under for a cat scan, but was afraid she wouldn’t wake up again. People reports Wilder telling her everything would be alright. Unfortunately, Radner was correct and she never regained consciousness. Wilder said he stayed at her side and one day he arrived to find his wife near death. Wilder remembered:

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.

2. Her Death Prompted Wilder to Get Heavily Involved In Cancer Awareness

After Radner’s death, Wilder came out to speak publicly on his loss in hopes that he could raise awareness for “all the other Gildas out there.” He became actively involved in charity and raising awareness for cancer, even helping to found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Detection Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. The purpose of this was to screen high-risk candidates and run basic diagnostic tests, according to People. When the first Gilda’s Club opened in New York City, Telegraph reports Wilder talking about Radner’s death and how it couldn’t have been prevented:

To have prevented her death she would have to have had her ovaries removed at the age of 35. At the time she didn’t know she was at risk, nor did the cancer specialist or her gynecologist, so I can’t feel angry. She’s at peace now, and I’m at peace finally. I don’t have to think about her, or cancer, every day. When I do think about Gilda it’s like noticing something pleasant, such as the colour of the sky. In that respect she’s here all the time. And, having fulfilled my unspoken promise to her, I believe it is time for me to get back to the theatre, where I belong.

When Radner was diagnosed with the disease, she was all ready at stage IV.

3. Gene Wilder Met His Fourth Wife While Still Married to Radner

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In his passing, Wilder leaves behind his wife Karen Boyer, who he married in 1991. The couple actually met when Radner was still alive. Wilder was not carrying on a relationship with Boyer, but he was getting help from her in preparation for his role in See No Evil, Hear No Evil. Boyer was a clinical supervisor for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing and also worked as a speech pathologist in her career.

4. The Couple Starred In Three Films Together

Like Wilder, Radner was a comedian who enjoyed a good laugh. Telegraph reports Wilder even saying that:

I think one of the things that would make Gilda happiest is if Sparkle, her Yorkshire terrier, pee-peed right on top of her grave. One for Mama. She’d laugh.

In her career, Radner was most known for her characters on Saturday Night Live, aka SNL. Click here to check out her list of characters and skits on the show over her years as a cast member. Bill Murray said on Jimmy Kimmel that he actually modeled some of his auditions after Radner because he said she came from money. Murray said she had a confidence about her since she didn’t need the money.

Radner and husband Wilder starred in three films together in their careers – Hanky Panky, The Woman In Red, and Haunted Honeymoon.

5. Radner Was Previously Married to Hall & Oates Lead Guitarist George Edward Smith

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Prior to her marriage to Wilder, Gilda Radner was actually married to George Edward Smith from 1980 until 1982. G.E. Smith was the lead guitarist for Hall & Oates as well as Bob Dylan. He also worked as the musical director for Saturday Night Live, one of Radner’s work places as well. But, it was when Smith worked as a guitarist for Gilda Radner’s 1979 Broadway show Gilda Live, that the couple became friends and engaged in a romantic relationship.