Documentary “Remembering Gene Wilder” leaves no question as to who the love of his life was

Actor Gene Wilder, star of the original “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and beloved Mel Brooks films “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein,” was on his fourth marriage at the time of his death in 2016 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease but his widow, Karen Boyer, is not the name he’s most often associated with.

For many, the next name to come to mind when thinking of Wilder’s is Gilda Radner, a member of “Saturday Night Live‘s” original ensemble who Wilder met and fell in love with while co-staring in Sidney Poitier’s “Hanky Panky” in 1981, marrying a few years later and remaining together until her death from ovarian cancer in 1989. And although their relationship remains at the forefront of fans’ memory the new documentary, “Remembering Gene Wilder,” makes it clear that she was not the love of his life and that Wilder was unhappy in their relationship for years. A fact that’s difficult to come to terms with.

In a 2018 interview with Woman’s World, Brian Scott Mednick, author of the biography “Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad,” touched upon this, saying, “Gene called Karen the great love of his life. It was his fourth marriage and the longest; he died shortly before their 25th wedding anniversary. Gene admitted he was very unhappy for a long time with Gilda. He didn’t think he’d get married again, and he said he didn’t believe in fate.” And in this new documentary directed by Ron Frank, Boyer is candid about the great love they shared, even revealing Wilder’s last words to her just prior to passing away.

She describes the last conversation they had as taking place while listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s classic song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” saying, “The music was playing in the background and I was lying next to him and he sat up in bed and he said, ‘I trust you.’ And then he said, ‘I love you.’ That’s the last thing he said.”

Watch the trailer for “Remembering Gene Wilder,” playing in theaters in New York now prior to national release: