US comedy actor Gene Wilder, perhaps best known for his starring role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died at the age of 83, his family confirmed.

The twice Oscar-nominated actor who rose to prominence in comedy gems The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Stir Crazy died on Monday at his home in Stamford, Connecticut.

His nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said he died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Mr Walker-Pearlman said they did not disclose his condition until now because his uncle did not want to alarm young fans of Willy Wonka.

"The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him, 'there’s Willy Wonka' would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing... worry, disappointment or confusion," said Wilder's nephew.

"He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world."

He added: "We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones.

Evening Times:

"This illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality."

His nephew noted that when Wilder passed, a recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow was playing. She was one of his favourite artists.

Mr Walker-Pearlman said his uncle "had continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years" his fourth wife Karen.

Evening Times: Gene Wilder, born on this day in 1933

"He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones," added Mr Walker-Pearlman.

Wilder had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

Stars of stage and screen were swift to pay their tributes.

Mel Brooks, who collaborated with Wilder in The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein paid tribute calling his friend  "one of the truly great talents of our time".  He added "He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship."

Evening Times:

Like many others, comedian Ricky Gervais picked up on one of Wilder's famous lines as Wonka, and said, simply: "Good Day Sir! RIP Gene Wilder".

Movie star Russell Crowe also took to Twitter to relive a childhood memory involving Gene's films.

He wrote: "I saw Blazing Saddles 7 times at the cinema with my school friends . George St. Cows outside.

"Gene Wilder you were a genius. Rest in Peace."

Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee on June 11, 1933, Wilder, with his wild, curly hair and wide blue eyes was in his 30s by the time he broke through in Hollywood.

The star first made waves on Broadway before transitioning to the silver screen beginning his movie career with a brief role as a kidnapped undertaker in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde.

Evening Times:

He took on his first major role in The Producers. While the film was a box office flop and received mixed reviews,  Wilder earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.

But it was the creation of the warm-hearted but slightly mad Willy Wonka in 1971's Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory that is still considered one of his most iconic. 

Willy Wonka brought to life the weird Roald Dahl book of the same name, and established Wilder as a leading man who could hold his own.

Evening Times:

Wilder's other well-known roles included the Waco Kid in the 1974 cult classic Blazing Saddles, the title character in Young Frankenstein in the same year and Doctor Ross in Woody Allen's 1972 film, Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask.

Besides his classic collaborations with Brooks, Wilder paired memorably with comedian Richard Pryor.

They first teamed up on the 1976  train comedy Silver Streak followed by 1980's Stir Crazy, 1989's See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Another You in 1991, with Wilder writing and directing the latter pair.

Evening Times:

His father was a Russian immigrant who imported and sold miniature beer and whiskey bottles. His mother had a heart attack when he was six, leaving her an invalid.  She would die at the age of just 23.  

He graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in theatre and studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.    

Evening Times:

He taught fencing to support himself while searching for theatre roles and received his first break was in an off Broadway production of Roots.

His third wife, actress Gilda Radner, with whom he starred in three film died from ovarian cancer on May 20, 1989, at the age 42. 

This led to his active involvement in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda's Club.

Evening Times:

Gene Wilder starring with Gilda Radner in the 1986 movie Haunted Honeymoon