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Wyler, William


WYLER, WILLIAM (1902–1981), U.S. film director and producer. Born in Mulhouse, Alsace, Wyler emigrated to the United States in 1920 with his uncle, Carl *Laemmle, head of Universal Pictures. In 1925 he directed the first of 50 two-reel Westerns, starting his long series of major works, first with Universal and then in association with other studios. An early success was the film version of Elmer *Rice's play Counsellor-at-Law (1933), as well as the adaptation of Sinclair Lewis' Dodsworth (Oscar nomination for Best Director, 1936). He broke new ground with These Three (1936), the successful adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, a play with a lesbian theme. Four more milestones in his directorial career were Jezebel (produced, 1938); Wuthering Heights (Oscar nomination for Best Director, 1939); The Letter (Oscar nomination for Best Director, 1940); and The Little Foxes (Oscar nomination for Best Director, 1941). During World War ii he served as an officer with the U.S. Air Force, where he made the documentary The Memphis Belle and the Navy film The Fighting Lady, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary.

After the war, Wyler directed such distinguished films as The Heiress (produced; Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Director, 1949); Detective Story (produced; Oscar nomination for Best Director, 1951); Roman Holiday (produced; Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Director, 1953); The Desperate Hours (produced, 1955); Friendly Persuasion (produced; Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Director, 1956); The Big Country (produced, 1958); The Collector (Oscar nomination for Best Director, 1965); How to Steal a Million (1966); Funny Girl (1968); and his final film, The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970).

Wyler was among Hollywood's foremost filmmakers and was the recipient of many honors, including three Academy Awards, for directing Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Ben-Hur (1959). In 1966 he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, for the consistently high quality of his motion picture production. In 1976 he received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award.

add. bibliography:

R. Freiman, The Story of the Making of Ben-Hur (1959); A. Madsen, William Wyler, The Authorized Biography (1973); M. Andregg, William Wyler (1979); B. Bowman, Master Space: Film Images of Capra, Lubitsch, Sternberg, and Wyler (1992); J. Herman, A Talent for Trouble: The Life of Hollywood's Most Acclaimed Director, William Wyler (1995).

[G. Eric Hauck /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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