skip navigation
Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (17)

Also Known As: Samuel Wilder, Billie Wilder, Billie Wilder Died: March 27, 2002
Born: June 22, 1906 Cause of Death: pneumonia
Birth Place: Austria Profession: director, screenwriter, producer, newspaper reporter, dancer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

First and foremost a writer, Billy Wilder became, by his own admission, a director in an effort to protect his scripts from directors who he felt misinterpreted his work. Sometimes criticized for tempering the harshness of his vision in deference to commercial needs, Wilder operated with assurance across all genres, compiling an impressive body of work featuring dialogue over character - its wit and astringent bite setting his oeuvre refreshingly apart from mainstream Hollywood fare. With the help of co-writer Raymond Chandler, he directed a masterpiece of film noir, "Double Indemnity" (1944), which he followed with "The Lost Weekend" (1945), a social drama that delivered an uncompromising look at alcoholism. After the great war drama "Stalag 17" (1953), Wilder created a variation on the comedy of manners and seduction in films such as "Sabrina" (1954) and "Love in the Afternoon" (1957), mixed black comedy and farce for "Some Like It Hot" (1959) - his most entertaining movie - and alienated Hollywood with the cruel and haunting "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). Wilder had long collaborations with writers Charles Brackett and I.A.L. Diamond, and directed his greatest achievement, "The Apartment" (1960), in...

First and foremost a writer, Billy Wilder became, by his own admission, a director in an effort to protect his scripts from directors who he felt misinterpreted his work. Sometimes criticized for tempering the harshness of his vision in deference to commercial needs, Wilder operated with assurance across all genres, compiling an impressive body of work featuring dialogue over character - its wit and astringent bite setting his oeuvre refreshingly apart from mainstream Hollywood fare. With the help of co-writer Raymond Chandler, he directed a masterpiece of film noir, "Double Indemnity" (1944), which he followed with "The Lost Weekend" (1945), a social drama that delivered an uncompromising look at alcoholism. After the great war drama "Stalag 17" (1953), Wilder created a variation on the comedy of manners and seduction in films such as "Sabrina" (1954) and "Love in the Afternoon" (1957), mixed black comedy and farce for "Some Like It Hot" (1959) - his most entertaining movie - and alienated Hollywood with the cruel and haunting "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). Wilder had long collaborations with writers Charles Brackett and I.A.L. Diamond, and directed his greatest achievement, "The Apartment" (1960), in partnership with the latter. After the comedies "One, Two, Three" (1961) and "Irma La Douce" (1963), Wilder spent the next decade and a half in a career slide that ended with the slight "Buddy, Buddy" (1981), his last directing effort. Though away for the camera for the next two decades, Wilder lived on as one of classic Hollywood's most accomplished directors.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Buddy, Buddy (1981) Director
2.
  Fedora (1978) Director
3.
  The Front Page (1974) Director
4.
  Avanti! (1972) Director
6.
  The Fortune Cookie (1966) Director
7.
  Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) Director
8.
  Irma La Douce (1963) Director
9.
  One, Two, Three (1961) Director
10.
  The Apartment (1960) Director

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1914:
Moved to Vienna at age 8 (date approximate)
:
Joined staff of DIE STUNDE as journalist
:
Moved to Berlin aged 20; worked various jobs including crime reporter and (allegedly) arts critic, dancer and gigolo
1929:
First film as co-screenwriter (with Curt Siodmak), the pseudo-documentary "Menschen am Sonntag/People on Sunday", co-directed by Robert Siodmak and Edgar G Ulmer
1929:
Worked as a screenwriter for UFA; among his sound pictures was Gerhard Lamprecht's version of "Emil and the Detectives" (1931)
1933:
Fled from Nazi Germany to Paris
1933:
In France, made co-directing debut with Alexander Esway on "Mauvaise Graine/Bad Blood"; also co-wrote script
1933:
First Hollywood credit, "Adorable", (shared a "from story" credit as film was based on 1931 German picture "Ihre Hoheit befiehlt")
1934:
Moved to Hollywood via Mexico; shared a room and "a can of soup a day" with actor Peter Lorre
1934:
First screen credits after moving to Hollywood; "One Exciting Adventure" (co-story) and "Music in the Air" (as co-writer, billed as 'Billie Wilder'); latter starred Gloria Swanson
1936:
Teamed with Charles Brackett; first produced script, Ernst Lubitsch's "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" (1938)
1939:
With Brackett and Walter Reisch, co-wrote Lubitsch's "Ninotchka"; received first of 20 Academy Award nominations
1941:
Scripted (with Brackett) Howard Hawks' "Ball of Fire"; Oscar-nominated for Best Original Story; also received Best Screenplay nomination (shared with Brackett) for "Hold Back the Dawn"
1942:
Hollywood directing debut (also co-writer with Brackett), "The Major and the Minor", starring Ray Milland and Ginger Rogers
1943:
First film directing actor Erich von Stroheim, "Five Graves to Cairo"
1944:
Co-author (with Raymond Chandler) and director of "Double Indemnity", starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray; received first Best Director Academy Award nomination; also shared Best Screenplay nomination
1945:
Returned to Berlin as colonel in charge of US Army Psychological Warfare Division
1945:
Captured first two Oscars for direction and script (written with Brackett) for "The Lost Weekend", starring Milland as an alcohlic in relentless pursuit of the next drink
1948:
Savagely sent-up America's military presence in post-World War II Berlin in "Foreign Affair"
1950:
Directed last collaboration with Charles Brackett, "Sunset Boulevard", collecting two more Oscar nominations (and a win for Best Screenplay); starred Swanson, William Holden and von Stroheim
1951:
First film as producer, "Ace in the Hole/The Big Carnival"; also directed and co-wrote
1953:
Directed first of three successive adaptations of stage plays, "Stalag 17", picking up an Oscar nomination for Best Director; second film with Holden (who picked up a Best Actor statue)
1954:
Helmed and co-adapted "Sabrina", earning Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay; third film with Holden
1955:
First time directing Marilyn Monroe, "The Seven Year Itch"
1957:
Picked up Oscar nomination for directing "Witness for the Prosecution", adapted from the play by Agatha Christie
1957:
First collaboration with co-writer and producer I.A.L. Diamond, "Love in the Afternoon"; has been called "Wilder's most emphatic tribute to Lubitsch," a romantic comedy of the greatest elegance and charm
1959:
Received Oscar nominations for directing and co-writing (with Diamond) "Some Like It Hot", starring Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon
1960:
Won three Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (shared with Diamond) for "The Apartment", which reunited him with MacMurray and Lemmon; first screen collaboration with Shirley MacLaine
1963:
Reteamed with MacLaine and Lemmon for "Irma la Douce", his last box-office hit
1964:
"Kiss Me Stupid" condemned by the Legion of Decency
1966:
Final Oscar nomination for writing (with Diamond) "The Fortune Cookie", starring Lemon; also directed; Walter Matthau received Best Supporting Actor Oscar
1968:
"Promises, Promises", a musical by Neil Simon, Burt Bacharach and Hal David based on "The Apartment", opened on Broadway; produced by David Merrick
1970:
Extremely personal Wilder film, "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes", received only a moderately warm reception at the time of its release
1972:
Helmed, produced and co-wrote (with Diamond) the underrated comedy "Avanti!", starring Lemmon and Juliet Mills
1972:
"Sugar", an ill-fated musical adaptation of "Some Like It Hot" with a score by Jule Styne, opened on Broadway; produced by Merrick
1974:
Reunited with Lemmon and Matthau for ill-fated remake of "The Front Page"
1978:
Mined the themes of "Sunset Boulevard" in "Fedora", starring Holden as fading producer Dutch Detweiler; adapted from a short story by Tom Tryon about a Garboesque star
1981:
Final film as writer-director, "Buddy Buddy", starring Lemmon and Matthau
1993:
Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical based on "Sunset Boulevard" returned Wilder to public consciousness
1995:
Approached by director Cameron Crowe to play cameo role of a legendary agent (Dickie Fox) and mentor to "Jerry Maguire"; Wilder refused role
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Vienna: -

Notes

"People will do anything for money. Except some people. They will do almost anything for money." --Billy Wilder.

"All that's left on the cutting-room floor when I'm through are cigarette butts, chewing gum wrappers and tears. A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant, and a bastard." --Billy Wilder.

In late 1989, Wilder put 94 works of art (many by modern masters) up for auction at Christie's in New York City.

Awarded the Grand National Prize of Austria in October 1985.

On working with Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot": "You can learn to live with an actress who is tempermental, if she is consistent as well as tough. But Marilyn would throw you for a loop. She would have a week where she was flawless, never missed a mark or forgot a line. Then, the next week, a total mental block would descend on her. She'd look at me and say, 'What's the name of the picture?'

"After redoing the same shot 42 times I took her aside and hugged her and said, to calm her down, 'Don't worry, Marilyn,' and she looked at me with wide-open eyes and said, 'Don't worry about what?'

"But she was absolutely unique. They try to imitate her. It's not the same.

"She had something like Garbo had: When she was on-screen, the voltage increased tenfold ... Her simplest lines have a third dimension of sensuality.

"She could give a great delivery of a joke. She would stand there with those cement boobs of hers and the innocence in her eyes. The mouth-watering flesh package. She would look around in amazement and ask, 'Why do people look at me?' And, like Garbo, on celluloid it comes out amplified. Damn thing just jumps off the screen at you." --Billy Wilder quoted in New York Newsday, May 10, 1991.

At the 1994 Academy Awards ceremony, Fernando Trueba, director of the winning contender for Best Foreign-Language Film, "Belle Epoque", tipped his hat to his guru by saying, "I would like to believe in God so that I could thank Him, but I just believe in Billy Wilder. So thank you, Billy Wilder." Wilder called him the next day and said "It's God!" --and later told the Los Angeles Times "I wish he hadn't said that [because] people start crossing themselves when they see me!" --From GQ, October 1994.

About serving with the Psychological Warfare Division in Germany after World War II: "One day a letter came from the director of the Passion Play in Oberammergau. He was requesting permission to perform the play, with Anton Lang as Jesus. I translated the letter and was asked my opinion. Anton Lang was a Nazi, so I said, 'Permission granted, but the nails have to be real.'" --Billy Wilder to Los Angeles Times, February 17, 1997.

In March 2000, Wilder was presented with the Federal Republic of Germany's Knight Commander's Cross (badge and star).

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Judith Coppicus Iribe. Married in 1936; divorced; one daughter together.
wife:
Audrey Wilder. Actor. Born c. 1923; married in 1949; was the brunette at the opera with Gary Cooper in "Love in the Afternoon" (1957).

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Eugenie Wilder. Killed by Nazis.
father:
Max Wilder. Hotel proprietor, businessman. Died in 1928.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Billy Wilder in Hollywood" G.P. Putnam's Sons
"Wilder Times" Henry Holt & Co
"On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder" Hyperion
"Conversations With Wilder"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute