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Love, Gilda examines the funny, loving life of Gilda Radner, cut far too short

The New Year’s Day broadcast premiere of CNN Films documentary Love, Gilda pays homage to comedic genius Gilda Radner. This touching documentary will bring a flood of memories back for old-school Saturday Night Live fans.

In Love, Gilda, the documentary on the late Saturday Night Live player who stole scenes, we see her life told in ephemera and voice-over, photos showing us who she was and where she came from.

Radner was the groundbreaking comedienne of the 1970s and 1980s, with a trailblazing career established before she was hired as the first cast member of the brand new TV show, Saturday Night Live, for NBC overseen by Lorne Michaels.

In some ways, Radner echoed a bit of Midge, the “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” of her era. And even in the face of grave illness, she selflessly entertained others during her battle with ovarian cancer.

Turning this tragedy into something positive, she left a legacy of the healing power of hope for cancer fighters through her Gilda’s Clubs across North America. Gilda wanted people to be able to laugh, live and love despite the disease.

Gilda Radner here with husband Gene Wilder. Pic credit: Turner Broadcasting (CNN)
Gilda Radner here with husband Gene Wilder. Pic credit: Turner Broadcasting (CNN)

That infectious smile and those unforgettable characters created to make us laugh stay with us still. We owe so much to the late Gilda Radner for getting us through a tumultuous decade where few laughs were had.

Growing up in Detroit, her education at an all-girls school is where the theater bug bit. Then a jump over the river to Toronto where she cut her teeth on the amazing comedy incubator, Second City.

Gilda then took her talents to New York City and hooked her comedic craft to the National Lampoon troupe wagon.

Her star was well on the rise before Lorne Michaels hired her as the first cast member of Saturday Night Live, an audacious live sketch comedy show unlike anything seen on modern TV.

Director Lisa D’Apolito’s touching homage of Radner includes Gilda’s own narration of her career achievements and her personal lows and setbacks, read from her autobiography It’s Always Something.

We are treated to some famous funny peers reading from her diary. Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Melissa McCarthy are joined by Martin Short, Paul Shaffer and Alan Zweibel, who all knew her personally.

We learn what we know in our core, this zany fearless comic talent was above all else, kind. She worked alongside John Belushi, Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase.

Gilda Radner had a trailblazing career before she was hired as the first cast member of Saturday Night Live. Pic credit: Turner Broadcasting (CNN)
Gilda Radner had a trailblazing career before she was hired as the first cast member of Saturday Night Live. Pic credit: Turner Broadcasting (CNN)

Later, she drew actor Gene Wilder to her and the two married after working together on a film.

In a revealing and rare interview on What What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Curtin was asked about some of the cast members not welcoming the female players. She said the late John Belushi was one who thought that “women should not be there.”

When Cohen asked about Gilda Radner and if Belushi thought she was funny, Curtin said, “He thought Gilda was funny, but she really — he didn’t classify her as a woman. She was Gilda.”

Love, Gilda is a wonderful documentary to remember those years past, the funny voices and unforgettable characters lost and loved and to celebrate a comedic genius who has never been equaled in her range of talent. You will love Gilda Radner. Everyone did.

Love, Gilda the documentary feature airs New Year’s Day, Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 9:00 pm and 11:00 pm Eastern (6:00 pm and 8:00 pm Pacific), with limited commercial interruption, only on CNN.


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