The actor famously teamed up with writing guru Mel Brooks in the 1974 classic "Blazing Saddles." He also collaborated with comedian Richard Pryor in other cinematic hits such as the 1980 comedy "Stir Crazy."
Gene Wilder died from complications of Alzheimer's disease at his home in Connecticut at age 83. Wilder's nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, said the actor decided to keep his illness secret so that children who knew him as Willy Wonka would not equate the playful character with an insidious disease.
"He simply couldn't bear the idea of one less smile in the world," Walker-Pearlman said.
Wilder earned global fame in the children's classic "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
Mel Brooks said working with Wilder and being friends with him were both blessings.
Wilder's other well-known collaborations with Brooks included "Young Frankenstein" and "The Producers" in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.
Wilder also memorably teamed up with comedian Richard Pryor in hits "Silver Streak" and "Stir Crazy."
The actor became active in promoting ovarian cancer awareness and treatment after his wife, "Saturday Night Live" comedian Gilda Radner, whom he married in 1984, died of the disease in 1989.
Wilder helped found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founded Gilda's Club, a support group with branches across the country.
Wilder is survived by his wife, Karen, whom he married in 1991.
bk/gsw (AP, Reuters)