Katharine Wilder is the only child of the late multi-talented American comic actor, Gene Wilder who was best known for his iconic portrayal of ‘Willy Wonka’ from the children’s movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Gene adopted Katherine after he got married to Katharine’s biological mother in 1967.
However, when the marriage broke down in 1974, Katharine became estranged from her father. Her belief that Wilder had an extramarital affair was contributory to the estrangement and this led her to sever all ties with her father. The relationship between father and daughter remained so even till he died in 2016.
Katharine Wilder’s Biography
Katharine Wilder is the daughter of Gene Wilder’s second wife from a previous marriage. Gene Wilder adopted her when he got married to her biological mother Mary Joan Schutz. It is believed in some quarters that Wilder got married to Katherine’s mother so that he could adopt her. Katharine was Gene Wilder’s only child even though he was married four times.
Katharine severed all contacts with her dad at age 23 when he got divorced from Katharine’s mother after several years of marriage. The divorce which had left Katharine devastated followed Gene Wilder’s alleged extramarital affair with his co-star in the movie Young Frankenstein, Madeline Khan.
At the release of his book Kiss me like a stranger, Wilder talked about his estranged daughter freely. He said that being someone who loved to always be the centre of all attention, he could not share that space even with his own daughter. It had felt “too crowded” for him and he was not able to provide emotional support even for a grown child.
Katharine probably never forgave her father. Gene Wilder had admitted that he wrote the book Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art for his daughter. However, he wasn’t sure if Katharine would ever read it. Nevertheless, Wilder remained hopeful that Katharine would read the book and that it would help make things better between them.
Katharine’s father, Gene Wilder was an iconic comedic actor who starred in such classics as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers. Asides from being a genius comedian, Gene Wilder was also a director, screenwriter, author, singer, songwriter and producer. He could be described as a man of many talents!
He died in 2016, at the age of 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. The actor had kept his illness secret so as not to taint the beloved comic character ‘Willy Wonka’ for children who loved the movie world over. He couldn’t bear having one less smile in the world on account of his illness. He was indeed committed to his art.
Her mother Mary Joan Schutz was a friend to Gene Wilder’s sister Corinne. She had Katharine from an earlier marriage before she met Wilder. However, Katharine started calling Wilder ‘Dad’ while he was dating her mother. This spurred Wilder ‘to do the right thing’ and in October 1967, the couple got married and Gene adopted Katharine.
The marriage lasted for seven years but they got divorced over Gene Wilder’s extramarital affair with a younger co-star.
Katharine Wilder’s Children and Family
After breaking all ties with her father at age 23, Katharine went off the media radar and very little is known about her recent activities. She probably went off the limelight to avoid being associated with Gene Wilder. It is not known whether she got married or had her own family.
Wilder never really got over his daughter leaving him and held onto hope that she would reconcile with him until his end in 2016. He admitted on several occasions that “losing” his daughter was really sad for him.
There were no reports about Katharine visiting her father at his wake. His death was announced by his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman, who referred to himself as ‘Gene’s kid’. Even though the relationship between father and daughter was questionable, Katharine remained Gene’s adopted daughter, bearing his last name and therefore deserved a part of Wilder’s $20 million net worth. It was speculated that Wilder’s estranged daughter would be chasing her inheritance, however, there was no official confirmation to that effect.
Facts About Katharine Wilder
1. Katharine is Gene Wilder’s only child
Even though the multitalented actor was married four times, Katharine was his only child.
2. Katharine was actually adopted by Gene Wilder
Katharine is the daughter of Gene Wilder’s second wife. Gene loved her deeply and went ahead to adopt her after they got married in 1967.
3. Katharine broke all contacts with her father when she was 23
She was devastated by her parents’ divorce and the fact that Gene was unfaithful to her mother.
4. Katharine never reconciled with her father Gene Wilder
Even though Gene Wilder deeply loved his only daughter and wished they could mend fences, Katharine never reached out to him till he died in 2016.
5. Katharine maintained a low profile
After she got separated from her father, she totally went off the media radar. Probably because that is the only way she could avoid being associated with her larger-than-life father, Gene Wilder.