Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Billy Wilder

Born 105 years ago today, one of the all time greatest Hollywood writer/directors, Billy Wilder. Originally planning to become a lawyer, Billy Wilder abandoned that career in favor of working as a reporter for a Viennese newspaper, using this experience to move to Berlin, where he worked for the city’s largest tabloid. He broke into films as a screenwriter in 1929, and wrote scripts for many German films until Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Wilder immediately realized his Jewish ancestry would cause problems, so he emigrated to Paris, then the US. Although he spoke no English when he arrived in Hollywood, Wilder was a fast learner, and thanks to contacts such as Peter Lorre (with whom he shared an apartment), he was able to break into American films.

His partnership with Charles Brackett started in 1938 and the team was responsible for writing some of Hollywood’s classic comedies, including ‘Ninotchka’ (1939) and ‘Ball of Fire’ (1941). The partnership expanded into a producer-director one in 1942, with Brackett producing, and the two turned out such classics as ‘Five Graves to Cairo’ (1943), ‘The lost Weekend’ (1945) (Oscars for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay) and ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (1950) (Oscars for Best Screenplay), after which the partnership dissolved. (Wilder had already made one film, ‘Double Indemnity’ (1944) without Brackett, as the latter had refused to work on a film he felt dealt with such disreputable characters.) Wilder’s subsequent self-produced films would become more caustic and cynical, notably ‘Ace in the Hole’ (1951), though he also produced such sublime comedies such as his most well known movie ‘Some Like It Hot’ (1959) and ‘The Apartment’ (1960) (which won him Best Picture and Director Oscars). He retired in 1981.

3 responses

  1. What a great man! Just love his films!

    June 22, 2011 at 8:54 pm

  2. Pingback: Saul Bass « socialpsychol

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