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FLASHBACK: A Look Back at Gene Wilder's Greatest Loves, From Gilda Radner to Mary Mercier

by Raphael Chestang 5:21 PM PDT, August 30, 2016
Playing FLASHBACK: A Look Back at Gene Wilder's Greatest Loves, From Gilda Radner to Mary Mercier

Comedy legend Gene Wilder, who died on Sunday at 83, was loved by many, but perhaps no one cared for him as much as the women in his life. The actor had a great capacity for love and his endless search for it led him down the aisle four times.

Before fame and stardom, Wilder said "I do" with his first wife, actress and playwright Mary Mercier in 1960. The two appeared in a New York production of Roots, which would mark Wilder's professional debut.

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When Wilder and Mercier divorced in 1965, Wilder soon fell for Mary Joan Schultz and wed her in 1967. When they became a family, Wilder adopted Schultz's daughter Katharine from a previous marriage. But after Wilder and Schultz divorced in 1974, Katharine severed ties with Wilder, according to his book Kiss Me Like a Stranger.

In 2005, Wilder told the New York Daily News that he hoped the book would "explain some things she didn't want to understand."

Wilder took another giant swing at love by marrying his third wife, Gilda Radner, in 1984.The Oscar-nominated actor and the Saturday Night Live star fawned over each other when they sat down with ET in 1986.

"To me it's irresistible -- a funny man," Radner told ET, explaining their attraction.

"More than anything she's always a sucker for a big laugh," Wilder chimed in.

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The couple met on the set of their 1982 film, Hanky Panky, and were virtually inseparable.

"She is my teacher, because she tells the truth more than I do," Wilder said.

The funnyman admitted that sometimes the truth hurts, but they were able to express their frustrations with each other in a healthy way.

"I respect her enough to get angry with her and let her have it. Not in order to punish her, but to say what's truly on my heart," Wilder said. "Because if you harbor it, it comes out in another way, but if you say it at the time, it's gone."

Tragically, Wilder lost Radner to ovarian cancer in 1989. He opened up about the loss the following year while promoting his movie, Funny About Love.

"After Gilda died, a lot of emotion was not coming out of me, and I'd come home at night and instead of being exhausted, I felt relieved because I could cry and laugh," Wilder said. "And I said, 'I am finally healing.'"

Wilder met his fourth wife, Karen Webb, while doing research for his 1989 film, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and they tied the knot in 1991.

When Wilder introduced ET to Karen in 1995, he couldn't have been more thrilled with their relationship.

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"We're married for three years now, three wonderful years, and I'm happier than I have ever been in my life," he said.

The couple looked just as happy last September when they were photographed arm-in-arm at the U.S. Open.

Karen was also by his side when the Hollywood icon died holding hands with his family on Sunday while listening to Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Wilder had been battling Alzheimer's for the past three years, with the actor and his family choosing to keep his illness private.

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