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Release: June 7, 2001

Actor, writer, UI alumnus Gene Wilder donates papers to UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Actor, writer and comedian Gene Wilder and his brother-in-law Gilbert Pearlman recently donated a significant collection of Wilder's scripts and an assemblage of correspondence and photographs to the University of Iowa special collections department.

Wilder, who earned a bachelor's degree from the UI in 1955, and Pearlman have given scripts of such films as "Young Frankenstein" (4th draft, 1974), "Stir Crazy" (1980), and television's "The Lady in Question" (1999). In all, the pair donated 20 completed and draft scripts of films that were either produced or killed prior to production, such as "Dying for a Laugh" (1999).

The two also donated the final version of the script for the 1977 slapstick comedy "The World's Greatest Lover," starring Carol Kane and Dom DeLuise, and Wilder, who also wrote and produced the film. Photographs, screenplay concepts for the never-produced "Henry Orlow," publicity packets for "Haunted Honeymoon," and other legal notes and correspondence were included in the donation.

"This collection adds substantially to our current program of adding resources to an already distinguished collection of materials relating to film and television history," said Sid Huttner, head of the Libraries' special collections department.

"These include the papers of Norman Felton, Richard Maibaum, Federal Communications Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, and many others. We’re grateful to Wilder and Pearlman for their generosity and to Professor Emeritus Sam Becker, an old friend to them both who is a wonderful supporter of the Libraries' collections."

Wilder's popularity and skill as an actor took off after his 1961 off-Broadway performance in "The Complaisant Lover," for which he won the Clarence Derwent Award, given to the most promising New York theatre performers. Wilder has starred in 12 films including "Bonnie and Clyde" (1960); "The Producers" (1968); "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (1971); and "Blazing Saddles" (1974). He has written numerous scripts for television, most recently "Alice in Wonderland (1999)" and "The Lady in Question" (1999).

Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in 1933. He took his new name based on Thomas Wolfe's character Eugene Gant in "Look Homeward, Angel" and "Of Time and the River," and from Thornton Wilder. For additional information about the Gene Wilder Papers, visit or contact Sid Huttner (319) 335-5921.