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Ten Things To Know About Gilda Radner

Published: 5/20/2014
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Gilda Radner (Getty Images / NBC)

Gilda Radner died May 20, 1989, 25 years ago today, of ovarian cancer. In life, she brought laughter to millions as a comedian on film, television and in theater. In death, her memory raised awareness of the importance of cancer screening for patients with a family history of the disease. In honor of her life and death, we bring you 10 things to know about Radner.

1. According to her biography on the Gilda's Club of Seattle website, she was named after Rita Hayworth's character in the film Gilda.

2. A Detroit native, Radner made her professional acting debut in 1972 in Toronto, appearing in a stage production of Godspell. Her co-stars included Eugene Levy, Victor Garber and Martin Short.

3. Since Saturday Night Live premiered in 1975, 146 people have been hired as cast members. Radner was the very first one hired, according to her New York Times obituary.

4. In 1978 Radner's work on Saturday Night Live won her an Emmy Award for outstanding continuing or single performance by a supporting actress in variety or music.

5. In her memoir, It's Always Something, Radner said NBC offered her own prime-time variety show in 1979. She turned it down and remained a "Not Ready for Prime Time Player" on Saturday Night Live.

6. Radner took some of her racier material to Broadway in 1979 with a successful one-woman show, Gilda Radner – Live From New York. A film version flopped at the box office.

7. Radner was married twice, first to guitarist G.E. Smith and then to actor Gene Wilder. Radner and Wilder made three films together: Hanky Panky, The Woman in Red and Haunted Honeymoon.

8. After doctors told Radner that she had gone into remission from ovarian cancer, she wrote a memoir, It's Always Something. She won a posthumous Grammy Award in 1990 for her audio book recording.

9. Her gravestone reads "Gilda Radner Wilder – Comedienne – Ballerina 1946-1989."

10. News of Radner's death broke on a Saturday morning while Steve Martin was preparing to host the season finale of Saturday Night Live that night. The news came as a shock to the cast and crew, and they decided to skip Martin's opening monologue in favor of a skit he and Radner had performed together in 1978. Martin is visibly shaken during the introduction, and bandleader G.E. Smith, Radner’s former husband, can be seen in the background wearing a black armband.

Written by Seth Joseph. Find him on Google+.

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