A Tribute to Billy Wilder
When movie fans think of Billy Wilder, they often remember the comedies, including The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, and The Seven-Year Itch. But he was also responsible for noir thrillers like Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard and powerful dramas such as Stalag 17 and The Lost Weekend. Nominated seven times for Best Director Oscars, Wilder was also one of the screen’s leading writers, receiving 12 nominations for his screenplays. I can’t honestly think of anybody else with such a record of achievement in both writing and directing.
Billy was born Samuel Wilder on June 22, 1906 in a part of Austria that is now Poland. His mother nicknamed him “Billie” after Buffalo Bill, whose Wild West Show she had seen while visiting the United States as a teenager. (The spelling was changed after he came to the U.S.) He originally planned to become a lawyer, but ended up as a journalist in pre-war Europe. He started writing screenplays in 1929, then fled to Paris and America when Hitler came to power.
Though he spoke no English when he arrived, Wilder partnered with Charles Brackett starting in 1938 and was responsible for co-writing Ninotchka and Ball of Fire, among others. They expanded into directing and producing, which resulted in classics such as Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, and Sunset Boulevard. After his partnership with Brackett was over, he directed Some Like It Hot and The Apartment, among others, and retired from filmmaking in 1981.
The twenty years that have passed have not dimmed classic fans’ enthusiasm for his work, most of which has withstood the test of time. Two of his films were among the AFI top 20 films of all time, and one of them ranked as the #1 comedy of all time.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Art and Posters