Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder: A love story

01:48 - Source: CNN
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Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner had a romance ripped from the movies

Wilder died Monday at 83

CNN —  

Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner’s first meeting was like a scene out of a romantic comedy, complete with a funny kicker. In fact, the same can be said of much of their Hollywood romance.

They met on August 13, 1981, as the sun had just started to hide behind the Hudson River, according to Wilder’s detailed account in his 2006 memoir “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art.”

Wilder was dressed in a tuxedo. He had just finished shooting a scene on the set of “Hanky Panky,” in which he was set to star with Radner.

Gene Wilder and his wife Gilda Radner attend the premiere of the film, 'Hannah And Her Sisters,' 1986.
Fotos International/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Gene Wilder and his wife Gilda Radner attend the premiere of the film, 'Hannah And Her Sisters,' 1986.

Their location for the evening was “where the the ocean liners docked on the East River,” he wrote. Scenic no doubt.

He walked over to introduce himself to Radner, who he knew from her work on “Saturday Night Live,” but not personally.

What happened next was a point of disagreement between the two in the years that followed.

Gilda said that I rubbed my crotch against her knee when I asked her if I could bring her some tea or coffee,” he wrote in his book. “When she told me this story, I said, ‘You’re nuts!’ And she said, ‘No, they were your nuts.’”

“Well…it was a beginning.”

Radner later wrote of this meeting in her own book: “My heart fluttered – I was hooked. It felt like my life went from black and white to Technicolor.”

02:01 - Source: CNN
'Willy Wonka' star Gene Wilder dead at 83

It took two weeks for Radner to make a move on Wilder. When it finally happened, she threw him on his hotel room bed and, according to Wilder, said “I have a plan for fun.” He rejected her advance.

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Radner was married to guitarist G.E. Smith at the time, but she told Wilder that she was unhappy.

“I knew I was going to fall in love with you and leave my husband,” Wilder quotes her as saying the morning after he sent her home in a cab.

Wilder was baffled and overwhelmed.

“Gilda, you’re talking like this is a fairy tale, and you’re going to meet Prince Charming, and everything’s going to be all right, and we’ll both live happily ever after,” he told her, according to his book.

Her reply? “So what’s wrong with that?”