BILLY WILDER BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Billy Wilder was born on June 22, 1906 with the birth name Samuel Wilder of Jewish parents Max and Eugenia (née Dittler) Wilder. An American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, 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. Wilder is one of only five people to have won Academy Awards as producer, director, and writer for the same film "The Apartment".
After arriving in Hollywood in 1933, Wilder continued his career as a screenwriter. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1934. Wilder's first significant success was "Ninotchka" in 1939, a collaboration with fellow German immigrant Ernst Lubitsch. This screwball comedy starred 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 (although their collaboration on "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" and "Midnight" had been well received). For twelve years Wilder co-wrote many of his films with Brackett, from 1938 through 1950. He followed Ninotchka with a series of box office hits in 1942, including his Hold Back the Dawn and Ball of Fire, as well as his directorial feature debut, "The Major and the Minor".
With Gloria Swanson during filming of "Sunset Boulevard", His third film as director, "Double Indemnity" (1944) was a major hit. A film noir, nominated for Best Director and Screenplay, it was co-written with mystery novelist Raymond Chandler, although the two men 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. Cain novel Double Indemnity featured two love triangles and a murder plotted for insurance money. While the book was highly popular with the reading public, it 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 "The Maltese Falcon" (1941).
During the liberation of concentration camps in 1945, the Psychological Warfare Department (PWD) of the United States Department of War produced an American propaganda documentary film directed by Billy Wilder. The film known as Death Mills, or Die Todesmühlen, was intended for German audiences to educate them about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. For the German version, Die Todesmühlen, Hanus Burger is credited as the writer and director, while Wilder supervised the editing. Wilder is credited with the English-language version.
Two years later, Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story "The Lost Weekend" (1945), the first major American film to make a serious examination of alcoholism, another difficult theme under the Production Code. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the dark and cynical "Sunset Boulevard", which paired rising star William Holden with Gloria Swanson. Swanson played Norma Desmond, a reclusive silent film star who dreams of a comeback; Holden is an aspiring screenwriter who becomes a kept man. It was critically acclaimed. In 1951, Wilder followed Sunset Boulevard with "Ace in the Hole" (aka The Big Carnival), a tale of media exploitation of a caving accident. The idea for the film was pitched over the phone to Wilder's secretary by Victor Desny. Desny successfully sued Wilder for breach of an implied contract in the influential California copyright case Wilder v Desny. Although a critical and commercial failure at the time, its reputation has grown over the years.
In the fifties, Wilder also directed two adaptations of Broadway plays, the prisoner of war drama "Stalag 17" (1953) starring William Holden, which resulted in a Best Actor Oscar for William Holden, and the Agatha Christie mystery "Witness for the Prosecution" (1957). In the mid-1950's, Wilder became interested in doing a film with one of the classic slapstick comedy acts of the Hollywood Golden Age. He first considered, and rejected, a project to star Laurel and Hardy. He then held discussions with Groucho Marx concerning a new Marx Brothers comedy, tentatively titled "A Day at the U.N." This project was abandoned when Chico Marx died in 1961.
From the mid-1950s onwards, Wilder made mostly comedies. Among the classics Wilder created 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 sometimes sardonic. In "Love in the Afternoon" (1957), a young and innocent Audrey Hepburn does not wish to be young or innocent with playboy Gary Cooper, and pretends to be a married woman in search of extramarital amusement. The film was Wilder's first collaboration with writer-producer I. A. L. Diamond, an association that continued until the end of both men's careers.
In 1959, United Artists released Wilder's Prohibition-era farce Some Like It Hot without a Production Code seal of approval, withheld due to the film's unabashed sexual comedy, including a central cross-dressing theme. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play musicians who disguise themselves as women to escape pursuit by a Chicago gang. Curtis's character courts a singer played by Marilyn Monroe, while Lemmon is wooed by Joe E. Brown-setting up the film's final joke in which Lemmon reveals that his character is a man and Brown blandly replies "Well, nobody's perfect".
After winning three Academy Awards for 1960's "The Apartment" (for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay), Wilder's career slowed. His Cold War farce "One, Two, Three" (1961) featured a rousing comic performance by James Cagney. It was followed by apparently lesser films that now are of cult status, such as Irma la Douce and Kiss Me, Stupid. Wilder gained his last Oscar nomination for his screenplay The Fortune Cookie (UK: Meet Whiplash Willie) (1966). His 1970 film "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" was intended as a major roadshow release, but was heavily cut by the studio and has never been fully restored. Later films such as "Fedora" (1978) and "Buddy Buddy" (1981) failed to impress critics or the public. After that Wilder complained, futilely, that he was being discriminated against, due to his age. For whatever reason, the studios were unwilling to hire him. One "consolation" which Wilder had in his later years, besides his art collection, was the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical version of Sunset Boulevard.
Wilder married Judith Coppicus on December 22, 1936. The couple had twins, Victoria and Vincent (born 1939), but Vincent died shortly after birth. They divorced in 1946.
Billy met Audrey Young at Paramount Pictures on the set of "The Lost Weekend" in 1945 and she became his second wife onJune 30, 1949.
Wilder died March 27, 2002 of pneumonia at the age of 95 after battling health problems, including cancer, in Los Angeles, California and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles, California near Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Marilyn Monroe's crypt is located in the same cemetery. Wilder died the same day as two other comedy legends: Milton Berle and Dudley Moore.
1934 Mauvaise Graine aka Bad Seed
1942 The Major and the Minor
1943 Five Graves to Cairo
1944 Double Indemnity
1945 The Lost Weekend
1945 Death Mills
1948 The Emperor Waltz
1948 A Foreign Affair
1950 Sunset Boulevard
1951 Ace in the Hole
1953 Stalag 17
1955 The Seven Year Itch
1957 The Spirit of St. Louis
1957 Love in the Afternoon
1957 Witness for the Prosecution
1959 Some Like It Hot
1960 The Apartment
1961 One, Two, Three
1963 Irma la Douce
1964 Kiss Me, Stupid
1966 The Fortune Cookie
1970 The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
1974 The Front Page
1981 Buddy Buddy