Gilda Radner (Gilda Radner)

Gilda   Radner

Actress, Comedienne. She gained wide fame in the mid-1970s as an original cast member of television’s hit comedy series, “Saturday Night Live” (SNL). Born Gilda Susan Radner in Detroit, Michigan, to Henrietta Dworkin Radner, a legal secretary, and Herman Radner, a businessman who operated Detroit’s Seville Hotel, where many nightclub performers and actors stayed when performing in the city. Radner attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, dropping out in her senior year to follow her Canadian boyfriend, Jeff Rubinoff, to Toronto, Canada, where he intended to become a sculptor. It was in Toronto that she made her professional acting debut in the 1972 production of Godspell. Shortly afterwards, Radner joined the Toronto Second City comedy troupe. For the next several years, she worked on the National Lampoon Radio Hour, a comedy program on radio, where she met and worked with future famous actors John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. In 1975 she was one of the first actresses cast for the first season of Saturday Night Live (SNL), where she would become famous for creating her SNL characters, such as Roseanne Roseannadanna (who she reportedly modeled after real-life New York ABC news anchor Rose Ann Scamardella), Baba Wawa (supposedly modeled after real life news person Barbara Walters), and Emily Litella (a made up name, who’s character gave misinformed editorials on the Weekend Update segment of SNL). In 1978, Radner won her first Emmy Award for her work on SNL. During this time, she began a relationship with fellow SNL cast member Bill Murray, which ended badly, and which together with her newly developed bulimia would cause her distress in the years to come. In 1979, she was offered her own television show, but she refused the offer, but went to Broadway to star in her own successful one-woman show, “Gilda Radner – Live from New York.” The show was filmed in 1981 as “Gilda Live!” (1981) and released. During the production, she met George E. Smith, a musician on the show, and in 1980, they were married, only to divorce two years later without children. In 1982, as her marriage to Smith was dissolving, she met actor Gene Wilder on the set of the film “Hanky Panky” (1982) and they quickly became attracted to each other. She would later describe their first meeting as love at first sight. In 1984, Radner made a second film with Wilder, “The Woman in Red” (1984), and their relationship grew deeper. They were married on September 18, 1984, in France. Two years later, the couple would make a third film together, “Haunted Honeymoon” (1986). Radner experienced severe pain and fatigue while filming “Haunted Honeymoon” and sought out medical treatment. For ten months, doctors misdiagnosed her condition; finally, in October 1976, they announced she had ovarian cancer. Radner’s grandmother, aunt and cousin had all died of ovarian cancer, which doctors knew was genetically passed on, and the ten month delay in proper diagnosis delayed her treatment. With the support of her husband, she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment until the cancer went into remission. They would later right a book, “It’s Always Something” (1988), in which she described her ordeal in fighting cancer. Later that fall, her cancer returned, and she was admitted on May 17, 1989 for a CAT scan. During the scan, she passed into a coma, and died three days later, on May 20, after regaining consciousness for about two hours. Her husband, Gene Wilder, was at her side virtually the entire three days. She was buried on May 24, 1989, in Connecticut. Since that time, her death has raised public awareness of the importance of early detection and the genetically family connections of ovarian cancer. Since her death, a research database of families having ovarian cancer has been created at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, and named the Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry in her honor. In 1990, Radner was given a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word or non-Musical Recording. In 2003, she received a belated star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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  • June, 28, 1946
  • USA
  • Michigan


  • May, 20, 1989
  • USA
  • California


  • Long Ridge Union Cemetery
  • Connecticut
  • USA

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