- Billy Wilder
bgcolour = silver
name = Billy Wilder
birthname = Samuel Wilder
birthdate = birth date|1906|6|22|mf=y
location = nowrap|
Sucha, Galicia, Austria-Hungary(now Sucha Beskidzka, Poland)
deathdate = death date and age|2002|3|27|1906|6|22|mf=y
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
yearsactive= 1929 - 1995
spouse = nowrap|Judith Coppicus (1936-1946)
Audrey Young (1949-2002)
academyawards = Best Director
1945 "The Lost Weekend"
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Lost Weekend"
Best Original Screenplay
1950 "Sunset Blvd."
The Apartment" Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
1988 Lifetime achievement
baftaawards = Best Film
goldenglobeawards = Best Director - Motion Picture
The Lost Weekend"
1951 "Sunset Blvd."
awards = NYFCC Award for Best Director
The Lost Weekend"
NYFCC Award for Best Screenplay
The Apartment" AFI Life Achievement Award
1986 Lifetime Achievement
imdb_id = 0000697
Billy Wilder (
June 22, 1906– March 27, 2002) was an Austrian-born, Jewish-American journalist, 6 time Academy Award-winning film director, screenwriter, and producer, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age. Many of Wilder's films achieved both critical and public acclaim.
Life and career
Born Samuel Wilder in
Sucha Beskidzka, Austria-Hungary(now Poland) to Max Wilder and Eugenia Dittler, Wilder was nicknamed Billie by his mother (he changed that to "Billy" after arriving in America). Soon the family moved to Vienna, where Wilder attended school. After dropping out of the University of Vienna, Wilder became a journalist. To advance his career Wilder decided to move to Berlin, Germany.
While in Berlin, before achieving success as a writer, Wilder allegedly worked as a
taxi dancer.Fact|date=August 2008 After writing crime and sports stories as a stringer for local newspapers, he was eventually offered a regular job at a Berlin tabloid. Developing an interest in film, he began working as a screenwriter. He collaborated with several other tyros (with Fred Zinnemannand Robert Siodmak, on the 1929 feature, "People on Sunday"). After the rise of Adolf Hitler, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for Parisand then the United States. His mother, grandmother and stepfather died at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
After arriving in Hollywood in 1933, Wilder continued his career as a screenwriter. He became a
naturalizedcitizen of the United States in 1934. Wilder's first significant success was " Ninotchka", a collaboration with fellow German immigrant Ernst Lubitsch. Released in 1939, this screwball comedystarred Greta Garbo(generally known as a tragic heroine in film melodramas), and was popularly and critically acclaimed. With the byline, "Garbo Laughs!", it also took Garbo's career in a new direction. The film also marked Wilder's first Academy Award nomination, which he shared with co-writer Charles Brackett. For twelve years Wilder co-wrote many of his films with Brackett, from 1938 through 1950. He followed "Ninotchka" with a series of box officehits in 1942, including his " Hold Back the Dawn" and " Ball of Fire", as well as his directorial feature debut, " The Major and the Minor".
Wilder established his directorial reputation after helming "Double Indemnity" (1944), an early
film noirhe co-wrote with mystery novelist Raymond Chandler, with whom he did not get along. "Double Indemnity" not only set conventions for the "noir" genre (such as "venetian blind" lighting and voice-over narration), but was also a landmark in the battle against Hollywood censorship. The original James M. Cainnovel "Double Indemnity" featured two love triangles and a murder plotted for insurance money. The book was highly popular with the reading public, but had been considered unfilmable under the Hays Code, because adultery was central to its plot. "Double Indemnity" is credited by some as the first true film noir, combining the stylistic elements of " Citizen Kane" with the narrative elements of " Maltese Falcon".
Two years later, Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay
Academy Awardsfor the adaptation of a Charles R. Jacksonstory " The Lost Weekend". This was the first major American film to make a serious examination of alcoholism. Another dark and cynical film Wilder co-wrote and directed was the critically acclaimed "Sunset Boulevard" in 1950, which paired rising star William Holdenwith Gloria Swanson. Swanson played Norma Desmond, a reclusive silent film star who dreams of a comeback; Holden is an aspiring screenwriter and becomes a kept man.
In 1951, Wilder followed up "Sunset Boulevard" with the remarkably cynical "Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival)", a tale of media exploitation of a mining accident. It was a critical and commercial failure, but its reputation has grown over the years. In the fifties, Wilder also directed two vibrant adaptations of Broadway plays, the POW drama "
Stalag 17" (1953), which resulted in a Best Actor Oscar for William Holden, and the Agatha Christiemystery "Witness for the Prosecution" (1957).
In 1959 Wilder introduced crossdressing to American film audiences with "
Some Like It Hot". In this comedy Jack Lemmonand Tony Curtisplay musicians on the run from a Chicago gang, who disguise themselves as women and become romantically involved with Marilyn Monroeand Joe E. Brown.
From the mid-1950s on, Wilder made mostly comedies.cite book | author=Cook, David A. | title=A History of Narrative: Film Fourth Edition | publisher=W. W. Norton & Company | year=2004 | id=ISBN 0-393-97868-0] Among the classics Wilder produced in this period are the farces "
The Seven Year Itch" (1955) and " Some Like It Hot" (1959), satires such as " The Apartment" (1960), and the romantic comedy "Sabrina" (1954). Wilder's humor is cynical and sometimes sardonic. In " Love in the Afternoon" (1957), a young and innocent Audrey Hepburnwho doesn't want to be young or innocent wins playboy Gary Cooperby pretending to be a married woman in search of extramarital amusement. Even Wilder's warmest comedy, " The Apartment", features an attempted suicide on Christmas Eve.
In 1959, Wilder teamed with writer-producer
I.A.L. Diamond, a collaboration that remained until the end of both men's careers. After winning three Academy Awardsfor 1960's " The Apartment" (for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay), Wilder's career slowed. His Cold Warfarce " One, Two, Three" (1961) featured a rousing comic performance by James Cagney, but was followed by the lesser films " Irma la Douce" and " Kiss Me, Stupid". Wilder garnered his last Oscar nomination for his screenplay " The Fortune Cookie" in 1966. His 1970 film " The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" was intended as a major roadshowrelease, but was heavily cut by the studio and has never been fully restored. Later films such as "Fedora" and "Buddy, Buddy" failed to impress critics or the public.
Wilder's directorial choices reflected his belief in the primacy of writing. He avoided the exuberant cinematography of
Alfred Hitchcockand Orson Wellesbecause, in Wilder's opinion, shots that called attention to themselves would distract the audience from the story. Wilder's pictures have tight plotting and memorable dialogue. Wilder filmed in black and white whenever studios would let him. Despite his conservative directorial style, his subject matter often pushed the boundaries of mainstream entertainment.
Wilder was skilled at working with actors, coaxing silent era legends
Gloria Swansonand Erich von Stroheimout of retirement for roles in "Sunset Boulevard". For " Stalag 17", Wilder squeezed an Oscar-winning performance out of a reluctant William Holden(Holden wanted to make his character more likeable; Wilder refused). Wilder sometimes cast against type for major parts such as Fred MacMurrayin "Double Indemnity" and " The Apartment". Many today know MacMurray as a wholesome family man from the television series " My Three Sons", but he played a womanizing schemer in Wilder's films. Humphrey Bogartshed his tough guy image to give one of his warmest performances in "Sabrina". James Cagney, not usually known for comedy, was memorable in a high-octane comic role for Wilder's " One, Two, Three".
Jack Lemmonand was the first director to pair him with Walter Matthau, in " The Fortune Cookie" (1966). Wilder had great respect for Lemmon, calling him the hardest working actor he had ever met. Remarkably, the film was shot in black and white, as were the vast majority of Wilder's films throughout his career.
Wilder's films often lacked any discernible political tone or sympathies, which was not unintentional. He was less interested in current political fashions than in human nature and the issues that confronted ordinary people. He was not affected by the Hollywood blacklist, and had little sympathy for those who were. Of the blacklisted 'Hollywood Ten' Wilder famously quipped, "Of the ten, two had talent, and the rest were just unfriendly".
In 1988, Wilder was awarded the
Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Wilder died in 2002 of
pneumoniaat the age of 95 after battling health problems, including cancer, in Los Angeles, Californiaand was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemeteryin Westwood, Los Angeles, Californianext to Jack Lemmon.
Wilder died the same day as two other comedy legends:
Milton Berleand Dudley Moore.
Wilder holds a significant place in the history of Hollywood censorship for expanding the range of acceptable subject matter. He is responsible for two of the film noir era's most definitive films in "Double Indemnity" and "Sunset Boulevard". Along with
Woody Allen, he leads the list of films on the American Film Institute's list of 100 funniest American films with 5 films written and holds the honor of holding the top spot with " Some Like it Hot". Also on the list are " The Apartment" and " The Seven Year Itch" which he directed, and " Ball of Fire" and " Ninotchka" which he co-wrote. The AFI has ranked four of Wilder's films among their top 100 American films of the 20th century: "Sunset Boulevard" (no. 12), "Some Like It Hot" (no. 14), "Double Indemnity" (no. 38) and "The Apartment" (no. 93).
*Wilder reveled in poking fun at those who took politics too seriously. In "Ball of Fire", his
burlesquequeen 'Sugarpuss' points at her sore throat and complains "Pink? It's as red as the " Daily Worker" and twice as sore." Later, she gives the overbearing and unsmiling housemaidthe name "Franco."
*Wilder is sometimes confused with director
William Wyler; the confusion is understandable, as both were German-speaking Jews with similar backgrounds and names. However, their output as directors was quite different, with Wyler preferring to direct epics and heavy dramas and Wilder noted for his comedies and film noirtype dramas.
Academy Awardnominations for screenwriting were a record until 1997 when Woody Allenreceived a 13th nomination for " Deconstructing Harry".
*Wilder once said: "My English is a mixture between
Arnold Schwarzeneggerand Archbishop Desmond Tutu."
Fernando Truebasaid in his acceptance speech for the 1993 Best Non-English Speaking Film Oscar: "I would like to believe in God in order to thank him. But I just believe in Billy Wilder... so, thank you Mr. Wilder." According to Trueba, Wilder called him the day after and told him: "Fernando, it's God."
*When Director Sam Mendes won the best director Academy Award for
American Beauty (film), while accpting the oscar he said he would just like to have some of Wilder's talent.
*Wilder died the same day as
Milton Berleand Dudley Moore. The next day, French top-ranking newspaper " Le Monde" titled its first-page obituary"Billy Wilder is dead. Nobody is perfect." This was a reference to the famous closing line of his film "Some Like it Hot".
*Wilder was the Editors Supervisor in the 1945 US Army Signal Corps documentary/propaganda film "
Death Mills". Academy Awards
*cite web | author=Clinton, Paul | title=Legendary director Billy Wilder dead at 95 | work=CNN | url=http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/Movies/03/28/billy.wilder.obit/ | accessdate=January 20 | accessyear=2006
Billy Wilder filmography
List of film collaborations
* Armstrong, Richard, "Billy Wilder, American Film Realist" (McFarland & Company, Inc.: 2000)
Dan Auiler, "Some Like it Hot" (Taschen, 2001)
* Chandler, Charlotte, "Nobody's Perfect. Billy Wilder. A Personal Biography" (New York: Schuster & Schuster, 2002)
* Crowe, Cameron, "Conversations with Wilder" (New York: Knopf, 2001)
* Guilbert, Georges-Claude, "Literary Readings of Billy Wilder" (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007)
* Hermsdorf, Daniel, "Billy Wilder. Filme - Motive - Kontroverses" (Bochum: Paragon-Verlag, 2006)
* Hopp, Glenn, "Billy Wilder" (Pocket Essentials: 2001)
* Hopp, Glenn / Duncan, Paul, "Billy Wilder" (Köln / New York: Taschen, 2003)
* Horton, Robert, "Billy Wilder Interviews" (University Press of Mississippi, 2001)
* Jacobs, Jérôme, "Billy Wilder" (Paris: Rivages Cinéma, 2006)
* Lally, Kevin, "Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder" (Henry Holt & Co: 1st ed edition, May 1996)
* Sikov, Ed, "On Sunset Boulevard. The Life and Times of Billy Wilder" (New York: Hyperion, 1999)
* Neil Sinyard & Adrian Turner, "Journey Down Sunset Boulevard" (BCW, Isle of Wight, UK, 1979)
* Wood, Tom, "The Bright Side of Billy Wilder, Primarily" (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc, 1969)
* Zolotow, Maurice, "Billy Wilder in Hollywood" (Pompton Plains: Limelight Editions, 2004)
Hellmuth Karasek, "Billy Wilder, eine Nahaufnahme" (Heyne, 2002)
* [http://www.nochedecine.com/index.asp?t=0&f=005114&BU=3 Ficha en Noche de Cine.com] (In Spanish)
* [http://www.germanhollywood.com/bwilder.html Billy Wilder - The German-Hollywood Connection]
* [http://www.imagesjournal.com/issue10/features/wilder/ Film Noir and Billy Wilder]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/wilder_b.html American Master - Billy Wilder]
* [http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/wilderbib.html Wilder Bibliography (via UC Berkeley)]
* [http://fan.nothingbutsong.org/billy Billy Wilder Fanlisting]
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5503804 Billy Wilder Tribute] at
NAME= Wilder, Billy
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Wilder, Samuel
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Austrian-born, Jewish-American
journalist, screenwriter, film director, and producer
DATE OF BIRTH=
June 22 1906
PLACE OF BIRTH=
Sucha, Galicia, Austria-Hungary(now Sucha Beskidzka, Poland)
DATE OF DEATH=
March 27 2002
PLACE OF DEATH=
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
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