Inside Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner's 'Mythological' Love Story During Her Cancer Journey

The comic actors were married from 1984 until 1989, when the original 'Saturday Night Live' cast member died of ovarian cancer

<p>MYCHELE DANIAU / AFP</p> Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder in 1984.


Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder in 1984.

A new documentary on Gene Wilder's life and career is revisiting the legendary actor's marriage to Saturday Night Live star Gilda Radner.

Remembering Gene Wilder dives into Wilder's childhood in Wisconsin and creative partnership with Mel Brooks. The documentary also shares insights into his relationship with Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989 at age 42. Wilder himself died at 83 in 2016.

"The day Gilda and I met, I was in my makeup and dressed in a tuxedo when I walked up to her to say hello," Wilder shares in the film, which utilizes narration from the actor's 2006 memoir Kiss Me Like a Stranger. The couple met while making the 1982 movie Hanky Panky with director Sidney Poitier. Screenwriter Alan Zweibel, a friend of both Wilder and Radner, recalls in the documentary that Radner was unhappy in her marriage to Saturday Night Live bandleader G.E. Smith at that time.

"When she told me that she's becoming very friendly with Gene Wilder — very friendly, alright — that was a euphemism for 'I'm going to end up with Gene Wilder,'" he says.

Related: From the PEOPLE Archives: Gene Wilder's Tearful Goodbye to Wife Gilda Radner

<p>Kino Lorber</p> The Remembering Gene Wilder movie poster.

Kino Lorber

The Remembering Gene Wilder movie poster.

Radner and Wilder married on Sept. 18, 1984, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France. As both Robin and Alan Zweibel claim in the documentary, Wilder helped the actress recover from substance abuse issues and eating disorders once they began living together in Los Angeles. Brooks, 97, recalls that he and his wife Anne Bancroft often dined out with Wilder and Radner, saying, "We were best friends, it was wonderful."

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<p>Ted Dully/The Boston Globe via Getty</p> Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder during a 1984 interview.

Ted Dully/The Boston Globe via Getty

Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder during a 1984 interview.

"Gilda was the most generous and compassionate and original person I had ever met," Wilder says in the documentary's narration. "It was wonderful to be with Gilda, most of the time. She was so strong-willed and yet so fragile."

As Robin remembers in the documentary, some time after her and Wilder's wedding, Radner experienced an ectopic pregnancy, which she described as "devastating" for the couple. The actress was diagnosed with ovarian cancer several months later.

"There's something mythological about somebody going through all of this, finding the love of their lives and then God saying, 'Ha! You're not going to enjoy this,' " Alan says. He also recalls that Wilder "was terrific" in helping Radner through her illness.

Related: Inside Gene Wilder's Love Story with Gilda Radner

<p>Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty</p> Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner.

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner.

The documentary shows footage of Wilder at a 2006 event at 92NY, saying he never really thought she would die from cancer. "I was stupid, because everyone else seemed to know, but I didn't," he remarked.

Radner died on May 20, 1989. Wilder "buried her in front of a tall white ash tree three miles from her home in Connecticut," as he recounts in the documentary.

"I used to worry all my early life about being good enough to please God. Gilda didn't think about those things; she was just naturally good," he adds. "I don't want to be a better person than Gilda — she was just human. And that's all I want to be — just human."

Remembering Gene Wilder is now playing in theaters in New York and Los Angeles and will soon expand to screens nationwide.

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