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Wilder, Billy


Nationality: Born Samuel Wilder in Sucha, Austria (now part of Poland), 22 June 1906; became U.S. citizen, 1934. Family: Married Audrey Young. Military Service: Served in U.S. Army as colonel in Psychological Warfare Division of the Occupational Government, Berlin, 1945. Career: Journalist in Vienna, then in Berlin, from 1926; collaborated with Robert and Kurt Siodmak, Edgar Ulmer, Fred Zinnemann, and Eugen Schüfftan on Menschen am Sonntag, 1929; scriptwriter, mainly for UFA studios, 1929–33; moved to Paris, co-directed Mauvaise graine, first directorial effort, then moved to Hollywood, 1933; hired by script department at Columbia, then Twentieth Century-Fox; hired by Paramount, began collaboration with Charles Brackett on Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, 1937; directed first American film, The Major and the Minor, 1942; began making films as independent producer/director with The Seven Year Itch, 1955; began collaboration with writer I. A. L. Diamond on Love in the Afternoon, 1957; directed The Front Page for Universal, 1974. Awards: Oscars for Best Direction and Best Screenplay (with Charles Brackett), and Best Direction Award, New York Film Critics, for The Lost Weekend, 1945; Oscar for Best Story and Screenplay (with Charles Brackett), for Sunset Boulevard, 1950; Oscars for Best Direction and Best Screenplay (with I. A. L. Diamond), Best Direction Award and Best Writing Award (with Diamond), New York Film Critics, for The Apartment, 1960; American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award, 1985; Irving G. Thalberg Award, 1988; Kennedy Center Award, 1990; National Medal of Arts, 1993. Address: c/o Equitable Investment Corporation, P.O. Box 93877, Hollywood, CA 90093, U.S.A.

Films as Director:


Mauvaise graine (co-d)


The Major and the Minor (+ co-sc)


Five Graves to Cairo (+ co-sc)


Double Indemnity (+ co-sc)


The Lost Weekend (+ co-sc)


The Emperor Waltz (+ co-sc); Foreign Affair (+ co-sc)


Sunset Boulevard (+ co-sc)


Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival) (+ co-pr, co-sc)


Stalag 17 (+ pr, co-sc)


Sabrina (+ pr, co-sc)


The Seven Year Itch (+ co-pr, co-sc)


The Spirit of St. Louis (+ co-sc); Love in the Afternoon (+ co-sc, pr)


Witness for the Prosecution (+ co-sc)


Some Like It Hot (+ co-sc, pr)


The Apartment (+ co-sc, pr)


One, Two, Three (+ co-sc, pr)


Irma La Douce (+ co-sc, pr)


Kiss Me, Stupid (+ co-sc, pr)


The Fortune Cookie (+ co-sc, pr)


The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (+ co-sc, pr)


Avanti! (+ co-sc, pr)


The Front Page (+ co-sc)


Fedora (+ co-pr, co-sc)


Buddy Buddy (+ co-sc)

Other Films:

(in Germany)


Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday) (Siodmak) (co-sc); Der Teufelsreporter (co-sc)


Seitensprünge (story)


Ihre Hoheit befiehlt (co-sc); Der falsche Ehemann (co-sc); Emil und die Detektive (Emil and the Detectives) (sc); DerMann der seinen Mörder sucht (Looking for His Murderer) (Siodmak) (co-sc)


Es war einmal ein Walzer (co-sc); Ein blonder Traum (co-sc); Scampolo, ein Kind der Strasse (co-sc); Das Blaue vonHimmel (co-sc)


Madame wünscht keine Kinder (co-sc); Was Frauen träumen (co-sc)

(in the United States)


Adorable (Dieterle) (co-story, based on Ihre Hoheit befiehlt)


Music in the Air (co-sc); One Exciting Adventure (co-story)


Lottery Lover (co-sc)


Champagne Waltz (Sutherland) (co-story)


Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (Lubitsch) (co-sc)


Midnight (Leisen) (co-sc); What a Life (co-sc); Ninotchka (Lubitsch) (co-sc)


Arise My Love (Leisen) (co-sc)


Hold Back the Dawn (Leisen) (co-sc); Ball of Fire (Hawks) (co-sc)


By WILDER: book—

Conversations with Wilder, with Cameron Crowe, New York, 1999.

By WILDER: articles—

"Wilder in Paris," with John Gillett, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1956.

"One Head Is Better than Two," in Films and Filming (London), February 1957.

"The Old Dependables," with Colin Young, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1959.

Interview with Jean Domarchi and Jean Douchet in Cahiers duCinéma (Paris), August 1962.

"Meet Whiplash Wilder," with Charles Higham, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1967.

Interview with Robert Mundy and Michael Wallington in Cinema (London), October 1969.

"Billy Wilder: Broadcast to Kuala Lampur," with Vanessa Brown, in Action (Los Angeles), November/December 1970.

Interview with Michel Ciment in Positif (Paris), January 1974.

"In the Picture: The Front Page," with Joseph McBride, in Sight andSound (London), Autumn 1974.

Interview with Gene Phillips in Film/Literature Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Winter 1975.

"Wilder Bewildered," an interview with Gilbert Adair, in Sight andSound (London), Winter 1976/77.

"Going for Extra Innings," an interview with J. McBride and T. McCarthy, in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1979.

Interview with C. Columbus in American Film (Washington D.C.), March 1986.

"Billy Wilder: Sunset Boulevard's Creator Talks of the Town," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1994.

"Saul Bass and Billy Wilder: in Conversation," with Pat Kirkham, in Sight and Sound (London), June 1995.

"Irony," an interview with Film Comment (New York), November-December 1995.

"Billy's Excellent Adventure," an interview with Paul Diamond, in Fade In (Beverly Hills), vol. 2, no. 1, 1996.

"El cine de los noventa," an interview with Fernando Trueba, in ElAmante Cine, June 1996.

On WILDER: books—

Madsen, Axel, Billy Wilder, Bloomington, Indiana, 1969.

Wood, Tom, The Bright Side of Billy Wilder, Primarily, New York, 1970.

Corliss, Richard, Talking Pictures: Screenwriters in the AmericanCinema, New York, 1975.

Seidman, Steve, The Film Career of Billy Wilder, Boston, 1977.

Zolotow, Maurice, Billy Wilder in Hollywood, New York, 1977.

Dick, Bernard F., Billy Wilder, Boston, 1980.

Giannetti, Louis, Masters of the American Cinema, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1981.

Jacob, Jerome, Billy Wilder, Paris, 1988.

Seidl, Claudius, Billy Wilder: Seine Filme, sein Leben, Munich, 1988.

Sikov, Ed, On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder, New York, 1999.

On WILDER: articles—

Lightman, Herb, "Old Master, New Tricks," in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), September 1950.

McVay, Douglas, "The Eye of the Cynic," in Films and Filming (London), January 1960.

Higham, Charles, "Cast a Cold Eye: The Films of Billy Wilder," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1963.

Sarris, Andrew, "Fallen Idols," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1963.

"The Films of Billy Wilder," in Film Comment (New York), Summer 1965.

Mundy, Robert, "Wilder Reappraised," in Cinema (London), October 1969.

McBride, Joseph, and Michael Wilmington, "The Private Life of Billy Wilder," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1970.

Ciment, Michel, "Sept Réflexions sur Billy Wilder," in Positif (Paris), May 1971.

Farber, Stephen, "The Films of Billy Wilder," in Film Comment (New York), Winter 1971.

Onosko, Tom, "Billy Wilder," in Velvet Light Trap (Madison, Wisconsin), Winter 1971.

"Dialogue on Film: Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond," in AmericanFilm (Washington, D.C.), July/August 1976.

Sarris, Andrew, "Billy Wilder: Closet Romanticist," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1976.

Fedora Issue of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 November 1978.

Poague, Lee, "Some Versions of Billy Wilder," in Cinemonkey (Portland), no. 1, 1979.

Morris, G., "The Private Films of Billy Wilder," in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1979.

Allen, T., "Bracketting Wilder," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1982.

Billy Wilder Issue of Filmcritica (Florence), November/December 1982.

"Dossier Billy Wilder," in Positif (Paris), July/August 1983.

Billy Wilder Section of Positif (Paris), September 1983.

Gallagher, Brian, "Sexual Warfare and Homoeroticism in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 15, no. 4, 1987.

Willett, R., "Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair (1945–1948): 'The Trials and Tribulations of Berlin,"' in Historical Journal of Film,Radio and Television (Abingdon, Oxon), March 1987.

Canby, V., "Critic's Notebook: The Wonders of Wilder, the Movies' Master Wit," in New York Times, 10 May 1991.

Brown, G., "Something Wilder," in Village Voice, 14 May 1991.

Sarris, Andrew, "Why Billy Wilder Belongs in the Pantheon," in Film Comment, July/August 1991.

Freeman, David, "Sunset Boulevard Revisited: Annals of Hollywood," in New Yorker, 21 June 1993.

Sragow, Michael, "The Wilder Bunch," in Gentleman's Quarterly, October 1994.

Naremore, James, "Making and Remaking Double Indemnity," in Film Comment (New York), January-February 1996.

Silverman, Stephen M., "Billy Wilder and Stanley Donen," in Filmsin Review (New York), March-April 1996.

Bart, P., "Hollywood's Wilder Moments," in Variety (New York), 22/28 April 1996.

Wenk, Michael, "Some Like It Wilder," in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 18 June 1996.

Roberts, J., "Billy Wilder's Double Indemnities," in Variety's OnProduction (Los Angeles), no. 3, 1997.

* * *

During the course of his directorial career, Billy Wilder succeeded in offending just about everybody. He offended the public, who shunned several of his movies as decisively as they flocked to others; he offended the press with Ace in the Hole, the U.S. Congress with A Foreign Affair, the Hollywood establishment with Sunset Boulevard ("This Wilder should be horsewhipped!" fumed Louis B. Mayer), and religious leaders with Kiss Me, Stupid; he offended the critics, both those who found him too cynical and those who found him not cynical enough. And he himself, in the end, seems to have taken offence at the lukewarm reception of his last two films, and retired into morose silence.

Still, if Wilder gave offence, it was never less than intentional. "Bad taste," the tweaking or flouting of social taboos, is a key tactic throughout his work. His first film as director, The Major and the Minor, hints slyly at paedophilia, and several other Wilder movies toy with offbeat sexual permutations: transvestism in Some Like It Hot, spouse-swapping in Kiss Me, Stupid, an ageing woman buying herself a young man in Sunset Boulevard, the reverse in Love in the Afternoon. Even when depicting straightforward romantic love, as inThe Emperor Waltz, Wilder cannot resist counterpointing it with the eager ruttings of a pair of dogs.

He also relishes emphasising the more squalid of human motives. Stalag 17 mocks prison-camp mythology by making a mercenary fixer the only hero on offer, and Double Indemnity replays The Postman Always Rings Twice with greed replacing honest lust. In The Apartment Jack Lemmon avidly demeans himself to achieve professional advancement (symbolised by the key to a lavatory door), and virtually everybody in Ace in the Hole, perhaps the most acerbic film ever made in Hollywood, furthers personal ends at the expense of a poor dupe dying trapped in an underground crevice. Wilder presents a disillusioned world, one (as Joan Didion put it) "seen at dawn through a hangover, a world of cheap double entendres and stale smoke . . . the true country of despair."

Themes of impersonation and deception, especially emotional deception, pervade Wilder's work. People disguise themselves as others, or feign passions they do not feel, to gain some ulterior end. Frequently, though—all too frequently, perhaps—the counterfeit turns genuine, masquerade love conveniently developing into the real thing. For all his much-flaunted cynicism, Wilder often seems to lose the courage of his own disenchantment, resorting to unconvincing changes of heart to bring about a slick last-reel resolution. Some critics have seen this as blatant opportunism. "Billy Wilder," Andrew Sarris remarked, "is too cynical to believe even his own cynicism." Others have detected a sentimental undertow, one which surfaces in the unexpectedly mellow, almost benign late films like Avanti! and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. But although, by comparison with a true moral subversive like Buñuel, Wilder can seem shallow and even facile, the best of his work retains a wit and astringent bite that sets it refreshingly off from the pieties of the Hollywood mainstream. When it comes to black comedy, he ranks at least the equal of his mentor, Lubitsch, whose audacity in wringing laughs out of concentration camps (To Be or Not to Be) is matched by Wilder's in pivoting Some Like It Hot around the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

The consistency of Wilder's sardonic vision allows him to operate with assurance across genre boundaries. Sunset Boulevard—"full of exactness, cleverness, mastery and pleasure, a gnawing, haunting and ruthless film with a dank smell of corrosive delusion hanging over it," wrote Axel Madsen—has yet to be surpassed among Hollywood-on-Hollywood movies. In its cold fatality, Double Indemnity qualifies as archetypal noir, yet the same sense of characters trapped helplessly in the rat-runs of their own nature underlies both the erotic farce of The Seven Year Itch and the autumnal melancholy of Sherlock Holmes. Acclamation, though, falls beyond Wilder's scope: his Lindbergh film, The Spirit of St. Louis, is respectful, impersonal, and dull.

By his own admission, Wilder became a director only to protect his scripts, and his shooting style is essentially functional. But though short on intricate camerawork and stunning compositions, his films are by no means visually drab. Several of them contain scenes that lodge indelibly in the mind: Swanson as the deranged Norma Desmond, regally descending her final staircase; Jack Lemmon dwarfed by the monstrous perspectives of a vast open-plan office; Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) trudging the parched length of Third Avenue in search of an open pawn-shop; Lemmon again, tangoing deliriously with Joe E. Brown, in full drag with a rose between his teeth. No filmmaker capable of creating images as potent—and as cinematic—as these can readily be written off.

—Philip Kemp

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Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder (born 1906) has been honored repeatedly as one of Hollywood's finest directors, writers, and producers. He created more than 50 films, encompassing such well-known comedies as The Apartment and Some Like It Hot and award-winning dramas including Sunset Boulevard and The Lost Weekend. While Wilder retired from filmmaking in the early 1980s, many of his films continue to be popular among filmgoers and are regarded as classics by critics and the film community.

Billy Wilder was born Samuel Wilder in Sucha, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Poland), on June 22, 1906. His mother, Eugenia, had spent several years in the United States. Hollywood legend says that she nicknamed her son after Buffalo Bill. His father, Max, who operated cafes and hotels, often drifted from job to job and had financial problems. Young Billy spent much of his time playing billiards and observing the hotel and cafe patrons. He became very interested in the films of Ernst Lubitsch.

After spending several months at the University of Vienna studying law, Wilder left and became a reporter. Although he was quite a success at this job, one of his assignments failed when Sigmund Freud refused to be interviewed. In 1926 Wilder moved to Berlin and wrote film scenarios; to help make extra money after the death of his father, he also worked as a dance partner for hire at a local hotel. By 1933 Wilder had fled to Paris because his Jewish heritage and leftist politics put him at increasing risk in Germany. He had some success there in selling scenarios and had already directed a film when he was offered a minor contract in Hollywood. Wilder left Europe and lost touch with his family; it was not until after World War II ended that he would discover their fate.

Found Long-term Writing Partner

Wilder knew little or no English, had little money, and had no home when he arrived in Hollywood; another Hollywood legend says that he lived in the ladies' room of a hotel. He was befriended by actor Peter Lorre and eventually found regular work, first at Twentieth Century Fox. One of his earliest film credits was as a writer for Music in the Air (1934), which featured the young actress Gloria Swanson; many years later she would become the star of Wilder's great film Sunset Boulevard. Wilder then went to Paramount Studios, where he was able to work under his role model, Ernst Lubitsch, who then headed production.

At Paramount Wilder was assigned to co-write a script for Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1936) with Charles Brackett, a law school graduate and former drama critic. The two men, according to New Yorker writer David Freeman, were complete opposites, often screaming at each other during work sessions and threatening to break up the team. However, Bluebeard marked the beginning of a long working relationship between Brackett and Wilder. They wrote 13 screenplays together, including the scripts for Lubitsch's hit comedy Ninotchka (1939), for which Wilder received his first Academy Award nomination (Best Writing, Screenplay).

Turned to Directing

As Wilder became a more successful scriptwriter, he also began to direct the resulting films, perhaps because that way he could protect the integrity of what he had written. Again according to Freeman, director Wilder frequently shot a film before he had finished writing the script and improvised scenes along the way, thus making it much more difficult to replace him. The Wilder-Brackett team carried on (with Wilder directing, Brackett producing, and both writing the scripts) until they finally dissolved their partnership after completing work on Sunset Boulevard in 1950.

High points of Wilder's early films include Double Indemnity (1942) and The Lost Weekend (1945). In Double Indemnity, a classic of the film genre called film noir, Barbara Stanwyck and insurance agent Fred MacMurray murder her husband to get the proceeds of an insurance policy. Brackett so much disliked the story that detective author Raymond Chandler had to replace him as scriptwriter. Brackett returned to cowrite The Lost Weekend, which starred Ray Milland as an alcoholic who hits bottom. For this film, Wilder won his first two Academy Awards: Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay. The film also was named Best Picture and Milland Best Actor. However, around this time Wilder's marriage to his first wife, Judith, fell apart. After an affair with actress Doris Dowling, he married another actress, Audrey Young. Both women had appeared in The Lost Weekend, but Young's footage was edited out of the final version.

After completing The Lost Weekend, Wilder accepted an appointment to the Army's Psychological Warfare Division in Germany. His difficult task was to try to determine which members of the German film and theater industry during World War II would be acceptable to help rebuild it. Freeman tells how Wilder had to interview one ex-Nazi SS officer who had played Jesus Christ in a prewar play and wanted to do so again. Wilder reportedly said that the actor could play the role only if real nails were used during the crucifixion. While in Germany, Wilder finally had discovered the fate of his family: his mother, grandmother, and stepfather all had died at Auschwitz.

The experience in Germany certainly affected two of Wilder's later films, both set in Germany. A Foreign Affair (1948), on its surface a comedy about a romantic triangle in postwar Berlin, won Wilder an Academy Award nomination for its screenplay. However, the film was withdrawn from circulation after being criticized in Congress for being vulgar and joking about the war's aftermath. Stalag 17 (1953) starred William Holden as a con artist in a prisoner of war camp in Germany, and won Wilder another Academy Award nomination, this time for best director.

String of Hits 1950-1960

In 1950 Wilder and Brackett co-wrote and Wilder directed Sunset Boulevard, which is widely regarded as the greatest of Wilder's films, as well as one of the best depictions of the Hollywood film industry. The story of aging film star Norma Desmond (played by aging film star Gloria Swanson) is told by her lover, a young screenwriter played by William Holden, who is shown drowned in a swimming pool as the film begins. Some film executives were furious at Wilder for his sarcastic and dark portrait of Hollywood, summarized in Desmond's classic line, "I am big. It's the pictures that got small." But Sunset Boulevard was a huge success; it was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, and Wilder won Oscars for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay. However, this film also marked the end of the Wilder-Brackett writing team. In his future films Wilder first worked independently and then teamed up in 1956 with I.A.L. Diamond, with whom he collaborated until Diamond's death in 1988.

After the success of Sunset Boulevard, Wilder created a string of hit films during the 1950s. These included the original Sabrina (1954), a romantic comedy starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and Wilder regular William Holden; The Seven Year Itch (1955), another comedy perhaps best remembered for the scene in which Marilyn Monroe's dress is blown over her head by the draft from a subway grate; and Witness for the Prosecution (1958), a courtroom drama based on an Agatha Christie play and starring Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, and Tyrone Power.

Some Like It Hot (1959) tackled two unlikely subjects for a comedy of the time: mob violence and cross-dressing. Wilder was discouraged from making the film by many of his friends; according to Maurice Zolotow in Billy Wilder in Hollywood, producer David O. Selznick said bluntly that, "Blood and jokes do not mix." However, the final product was a great success. Band musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon witness a mob massacre in the late 1920s and hide, dressed as women, in a traveling all-woman band whose vocalist is ukulele-playing Marilyn Monroe. Curtis, re-disguised as a wealthy playboy, becomes involved with Monroe, while Joe E. Brown, an aged and slightly daft millionaire, pursues Lemmon (in female disguise). Forty years later, the American Film Institute selected Some Like It Hot as the funniest American film ever made.

In The Apartment (1960), Wilder again called on Jack Lemmon, teaming him with an actress who had not yet become a major star, Shirley MacLaine. Lemmon is a clerk who lends his apartment to executives in his firm for secret meetings with their girlfriends. MacLaine is an elevator operator who becomes suicidal after being rejected by one of the executives. Despite its subject matter (once again, shocking for a film of the time), The Apartment was enormously popular. Wilder won Oscars for Best Director, Best Picture, and (with cowriter I.A.L. Diamond) Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.

Received Many Honors after Retirement

Through the 1960s and 1970s, Wilder worked on several more films, although none was as successful as his previous ones. They included: One Two Three (1961); Irma La Douce, which once again paired Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon (1963); The Fortune Cookie (1966); The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970); and The Front Page (1974). Wilder directed his last film, Buddy Buddy, in 1981; it was not a critical or commercial hit. He consistently denied that he had retired and continued to meet with his longtime collaborator, I.A.L. Diamond, to discuss new ideas for films, but none moved beyond the discussion stage. Wilder told New York Times reporter Michiko Kakutani in 1996 that the only film of recent years that he had found "stimulating" was Forrest Gump.

Even though he no longer released new material, Wilder's existing body of films continued to be acknowledged as among Hollywood's finest and wittiest work. In 1982 he was honored at a gala event by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. During a pre-event interview, he told the New York Times what makes a film successful: "The basic point is to bring them in and keep them awake. The picture where it starts at 8, and at midnight I look at my watch and it's 8:15-that's the kind of picture I hate." The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented him the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1988, in recognition of his long and outstanding filmmaking career. And, in 1993, Andrew Lloyd Webber created a hit Broadway musical based on Sunset Boulevard. In January 2000 Wilder, then ninety-three, appeared at an event held in his honor by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in preparation for a retrospective show of his films.

The American Film Institute lists four of Wilder's films among its top 100 films of all time: Sunset Boulevard; Some Like It Hot; Double Indemnity; and The Apartment. In Conversations with Wilder, fellow filmmaker Cameron Crowe summarized Wilder's body of work: "Billy Wilder's work is a treasure trove of flesh-and-blood individuals, all wonderfully alive. In his canon of work are fall-down-laughing comedies, stinging character studies, social satire, true suspense, aching romance, the best in life, the sad and the giddy, the ironic and harrowing all have equal weight in his work."


Crowe, Cameron, Conversations with Wilder, Random House, 1999.

Sikov, Ed, On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder, Hyperion, 1998.

Wood, Tom, The Bright Side of Billy Wilder, Primarily, Doubleday, 1970.

Zolotow, Maurice, Billy Wilder in Hollywood, Putnam's, 1977.


New York Times, May 4, 1982; May 10, 1991.

New York Times Magazine, July 28, 1996.

New Yorker, June 21, 1993.

Variety, April 22, 1996; January 17, 2000.


Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, (November 7, 2000).

AFI's 100 YEARS, 100 MOVIES (America's Greatest Movies), (November 7, 2000).

"Billy Wilder," Internet Movie Database, 3, 2000).

"The Top 100," American Film Institute Online, (November 6, 2000). □

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Wilder, Billy

Billy Wilder, 1906–2002, American film director, producer, and writer, b. Sucha, Galicia (now Poland) as Samuel Wilder. He wrote for films in Berlin, fled the Nazis, and arrived in Hollywood in 1934. After writing various screenplays, he directed his first film in 1942, and soon developed a reputation as a witty and harshly sardonic critic of American mores. At first he mixed dramas and comedies, later concentrating on satire, and his 25 films represent many styles, approaches, and themes. His The Lost Weekend (1945), an unsparing study of alcoholism, won Academy Awards for direction, production, and screenplay; Sunset Boulevard (1950), an acidic look at Hollywood, won another for best screenplay; and The Apartment (1960), a morally ambiguous modern tale, again won him three Oscars. Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) is one of the finest comic films ever made. His other films include Double Indemnity (1944), Stalag 17 (1953), Sabrina (1954), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Fedora (1979), and Buddy Buddy (1981).

See C. Crowe, Conversations with Wilder (1999); biographies by M. Zolotow (1977), E. Sikov (1998), K. Lally (1999), and C. Chandler (2002); studies by A. Madsen (1969) and T. Wood (1970).

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"Wilder, Billy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Wilder, Billy

Wilder, Billy (1906–2002) US film director and screenwriter, b. Germany. His creative partnership with Charles Brackett began with comedy scripts, such as Ninotchka (1939). Double Indemnity (1944) is a classic film noir. Wilder won Academy Awards for best director, best picture, and shared the best screenplay prize with Brackett for The Lost Weekend (1945). Their last collaboration, Sunset Boulevard (1950), also earned them a best screenplay Oscar. Wilder's solo career proved just as successful with films such as The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like it Hot (1959). Wilder won further Academy Awards for best picture and best director for The Apartment (1960).

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