Yvonne Wilder, the actor known for her work in West Side Story, Seems Like Old Times and numerous TV shows, has died on November 24 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 84.
Wilder played the role of Consuelo in Robert Wise’s landmark 1961 film adaptation of the Broadway musical West Side Story.
She also appeared in a West End production of West Side Story and in the first international touring production of the Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim musical.
Wilder was remembered by friends for her love of dancing and her fiery sense of humour. West Side Story co-star George Chakiris recently hailed her contributions to the stage production and the movie.
“Yvonne Wilder had an extraordinary, unique sense of humour. I did the play in London with Yvonne so I knew her before the movie,” George Chakiris told TCM in May. “But Yvonne’s humour was adopted by all of us.”
Born Yvonne Othon in the Bronx, Wilder grew up in New York’s Upper West Side in a family with Puerto Rican and Cuban roots.
She attended New York’s High School of Performing Arts and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
In the mid-1960s, after changing her last name, Wilder was part of a comedy duo with actor Jack Colvin.
Colvin and Wilder played West Hollywood’s Troubadour, and the pair also made numerous appearances on TV variety shows including The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and programs hosted by Merv Griffin and Dean Martin.
On-screen, Wilder co-starred with Goldie Hawn and Charles Grodin in 1980’s Seems Like Old Times, and she had a small role in Mel Brooks’ 1976’s Silent Movie.
She logged dozens of TV credits over the years, from Bracken’s World, Room 222 and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father in the late 1960s and early 1970s to Archie Bunker’s Place, Gimme a Break, Operation Petticoat and Full House.
With her third husband, Bob Kelljan, Wilder co-wrote and co-starred in the 1971 cult-favourite horror movie The Return of Count Yorga.
That film also marked early credits for future stars Mariette Hartley and Craig T Nelson.
In the 1990s, Wilder turned her attention to painting and sculpting. Her work has been shown at the Santa Monica Art Institute.
She is survived by Zach Kleiman, her fifth husband of 21 years and companion of 42 years. Survivors also include a son, Chris, and two grandchildren.
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