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Billy Wilder

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Writer turned director turned producer Billy Wilder contributed to a plethora of highly successful films of varying genres over the course of his 50+ year Hollywood film career, receiving an incredible eight Academy Award nominations as Best Director (second only to William Wyler who had twelve). He won the award twice, but even more amazing is the fact that he was nominated twelve times for Best Screenplay awards, and he took three of these home.  Perhaps better than any other director of his time, Wilder succeeded in creating films of substance which appealed to (most) critics and audiences alike.

Claudette Colbert and Gary Cooper in BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE (1938), an Ernst Lubitsch comedy about a millionaire (Cooper) whose eighth wife (Colbert) tries to make sure she's the last.  Wilder co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Brackett based on a French play by Alfred Savoir.

Featuring Olivia de Havilland, Charles Boyer and Paulette Goddard, HOLD BACK THE DAWN (1941) is the story of a spinster American school teacher (de Havilland) taken advantage of by a foreign gigolo who wants to immigrate to the United States.  The film earned six Oscar nominations including one for Best Picture and one for the Wilder-Brackett screenplay based on Ketti Frings book.

Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in BALL OF FIRE (1941), a romantic comedy about a burlesque dancer (Stanwyck) hired by a group of stogy professors (led by Cooper) to teach them about 'slang'.  Also featuring Henry Travers, S.Z Sakall, Dana Andrews and Dan Duryea, BALL OF FIRE was directed by Howard Hawks and written by Wilder and Brackett from an original story by Wilder and Thomas Monroe.

Wilder made his Hollywood directorial debut with another comedy, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942) starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland.  Then in 1944, he branched out into the emerging genre of film-noir, writing and directing the now-classic DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) with Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurry and Edward G. Robinson, for which he received his third Academy Award nomination for Best Writing and his first nominated as Best Director.

Video Clip:

Click here "Speeding" with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray (a .AVI file courtesy Universal Pictures).

Proof that Wilder was more than just a writer who could direct, in 1945 he led Ray Milland to a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as a frustrated writer who spirals into alcoholism and lands in the psychiatric ward of a hospital after a weekend binge.  In addition to Milland's award, Wilder won his first two Academy Awards -- one as Best Director and one for the screenplay he co-wrote with Charles Brackett.  The film was also named Best Picture of the year.

Music Clips:

Click here"The Bottle, First Meeting" (clip) by Miklos Rozsa (a .MP3 file).
Click here"Love Scene and Finale" (clip) by Miklos Rozsa (a .MP3 file).

(For help opening the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins page.)

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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