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Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search for Love and Art Hardcover – February 24, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 174 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The man who created some of the funniest moments in film history talks about acting, adultery, neuroses and death in this intimate, unusual memoir. Wilder began acting as a teenager at summer camp and eventually earned some acclaim on Broadway but not much money - he says he was still collecting unemployment checks when he began shooting his breakout film role in Mel Brooks's original film version of The Producers (1968). The movie flopped commercially, but Wilder's comedic chops were established. A string of successes followed: Blazing Saddles; Young Frankenstein; Willy Wonka; Stir Crazy. Off camera, things were more complicated. After two troubled marriages, Wilder married Saturday Night Live's Gilda Radner - a brilliant, erratic woman who battled bulimia and wild mood swings. Wilder is unusually frank in documenting both Radner's faults and her long struggle with cancer. Honesty is a prevailing quality of this book, as Wilder freely discusses topics ranging from his own neuroses to the drug-fueled misbehavior of his great comedic partner, Richard Pryor. He also doesn't avoid telling the details of his own bout with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Wilder's fans may be disappointed to find relatively scant coverage of some of his triumphs, but Wilder clearly isn't interested in writing a conventional Hollywood memoir. His book candidly explores his own faults and feelings, as well as those of the people he's loved and lost. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Readers looking for a little comic relief will be disappointed by this thoughtfully serious memoir. Like that of many comics, Wilder's private life does not reflect his zany stage and screen persona. Introspective by nature, he provides a series of vignettes that he hopes will add clarity to his personal search for the truth about his family, his loves, the choices he has made, and his quest for artistic fulfillment. Unflinching in their honesty, these snippets constitute a revealing overview of an intriguing life. Wilder's formative relationship with his sick mother, his personal and professional associations with Richard Pryor and Mel Brooks, his complex marriage to the late Gilda Radner, and his attempts to make sense of it all through intense psychotherapy make fascinating reading. Framed like individual scenes from a movie, these recollections add up to a compelling portrait of a multifaceted man. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031233706X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312337063
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
About a month ago, I heard Gene Wilder being interviewed about this book on NPR from a theater in Berkeley, and was fascinated. He had a pleasant way of speaking, said intelligent things, and much to my delight, every time the audience would titter politely in the wrong places to show how hip they were, would ask in a perplexed voice, "What's funny about that?" (Are you listening Garrison Keillor?)

I remembered Wilder from "Young Frankenstein," but other than that, knew little about him, including his marriage to Gilda Radner. This was an advantage, since I approached the book without preconceived expectations.

Having enjoyed the interview, I bought the audio CD version, and listened to it in the evening over several weeks while nursing a bad back. Audio books read by the author are usually a good buy, because the author adds meaning through pronunciation, timing, and inflection. Moreover, Wilder as an actor knows how to deliver his lines.

He has spent his life as an intelligent misfit, and most of the book is taken up with his efforts to adjust to an outside world that proved both friendly and hostile. Thus his use of the psychiatrist Margie as a foil. One reader review suggests that Margie is merely a "hackneyed and lame device." I disagree; it's clear to me that Wilder has undergone psychoanalysis throughout his adult life, and because he prefers women to men, I suspect that the model for Margie actually exists.

The best parts of the book are his descriptions of various movies he worked in and people he has known. He makes a good case for at least some of the people in that world being decent, while excoriating others. I found his descriptions of dealing with racial issues to be particularly thoughtful and moving.
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Format: Hardcover
I read Gilda Radner's book, "It's Always Something" which she completed only weeks before she died. And so when I was recently taking a flight, I picked up Gene Wilder's book to read on the plane. Sadly, I DID need another book on the way back. This one won't take you cross country.

There are two camps in these reviews. People who blindly give this book 5 stars and say they love Gene Wilder. But they never actually tell us what they thought was so great about this book. WHY do they give it five stars?

The other group, generously giving this book 2 stars, comments on his narcissism, his unwillingness to feel needed by anyone in his life, his current wife's greatest asset being that she hangs poetry on her refrigerator reminding her she is on her own.

Here's the thing. Gilda Radner loved Gene Wilder unconditionally, even to the day she died. She loved every thing about him, even his insistence on pushing her away. She loved the way he smelled, his looks, his humor, his mind, his character. She loved him totally. Gene Wilder on the other hand, doesn't seem to have loved her at all. He seems at best to have tolerated her---and that not very well or consistently. In one chapter he describes not having had sex with Gilda for about 6 months, (because she had had a grapefruit sized tumor removed from her body, was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation!) and perhaps as a tribute to what he sees as his own nobility, comments that he didn't ask her to "relieve" him in other ways. He then goes on to describe how, as a result of his deprivation he was of course immediately attracted to the woman who became his fourth wife, when he saw her skirts swishing about her legs.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is just fine, not good or bad,

I have to say that the more that I got to know Gene Wilder in this book, the less that I like him (this may have a bearing on my enjoyment of the book)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If someone asked me to sum - up this book in one word, I'd say 'succinct'.

If a friend had given it to me as their autobiography and asked me for an opinion I'd tell them that it needed 'fleshing out'.

That's not to say it's a bad book - it really, really isn't! It's warm, funny, sad and an enjoyable read...but there are gaps: if you weren't a Gene Wilder fan, you'd have thought he'd made no films after 'Hear No Evil' as it's the last movie he mentions. Okay, as GW says, this isn't so much a biog as events in his life which have made an impact on his life (Serendipity?), but a better sense of 'history' would have been appreciated.

Now maybe I'm being a bit picky as I've been a fan of GW's since Young Frankenstein and would have preferred reading a 'proper' sutobiography with all his movies and recent TV work chronicled. I also have no sense of his family during this time: yes, we know how his marriage is failing, his adopted daughter angry...but they almost appear to be 'bit players' in the overall scheme of things. What did they think of his fame? How did they cope with that? What were THEY doing whilst GW made movies, etc.?

This work really ends with him getting over cancer and enjoying life with his current wife, Karen (nice Review Karen, BTW) and that's nice and warm and fuzzy...but it almost comes across as if his life has stopped somehow. And that's not true; even if you didn't know he'd recently worked in Theatre, you'd have seen Gene in Will & Grace, or his TV Movies, all of which garnered praise.

The writing style is easy to read and bounces along nicely, but there seems to me an underlying anger which was never really expressed in the words on the page, and oddly enough that sums up a lot of GW's life.

I only wish he'd told us more...
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