Billy Wilder  (1906 - 2002)

Date of Birth
June 22, 1906, Sucha, Galicia, Austria-Hungary
                       [now Sucha Beskidzka, Poland]

Date of Death
March 27, 2002, West Los Angeles, California, USA (pneumonia)

Birth Name
Samuel Wilder

The Viennese Pixie

5' 11" (1.80 m)

Born Samuel Wilder in Sucha Beskidzka, Austria-Hungary (now Poland) to Max Wilder and Eugenia
Dittler, Wilder was nicknamed Billie by his mother (he changed that to "Billy" after arriving in America).
His parents had a successful and well-known cake shop in Sucha Beskidzka's train station and
unsuccessfuly tried to convince their son to inherit the business. Soon the family moved to Vienna,
where Wilder attended school. After dropping out of the University of Vienna, Wilder became a
journalist. To advance his career Wilder decided to move to Berlin, Germany.

While in Berlin, before achieving success as a writer, Wilder allegedly worked as a taxi dancer.[citation
needed] After writing crime and sports stories as a stringer for local newspapers, he was eventually
offered a regular job at a Berlin tabloid. Developing an interest in film, he began working as a
screenwriter. He collaborated with several other tyros (with Fred Zinnemann and Robert Siodmak, on
the 1929 feature, People on Sunday). After the rise of Adolf Hitler, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for
Paris and then the United States. His mother, grandmother and stepfather were murdered at the
Auschwitz concentration camp.

After arriving in Hollywood in 1933, Wilder continued his career as a screenwriter. He became a
naturalized citizen of the United States in 1934. Wilder's first significant success was Ninotchka in
1939, a collaboration with fellow German immigrant Ernst Lubitsch. This screwball comedy starred
Greta Garbo (generally known as a tragic heroine in film melodramas), and was popularly and
critically acclaimed. With the byline, "Garbo Laughs!", it also took Garbo's career in a new direction.
The film also marked Wilder's first Academy Award nomination, which he shared with co-writer Charles
Brackett. For twelve years Wilder co-wrote many of his films with Brackett, from 1938 through 1950.
He followed Ninotchka with a series of box office hits in 1942, including his Hold Back the Dawn and
Ball of Fire, as well as his directorial feature debut, The Major and the Minor.

Wilder established his directorial reputation after helming Double Indemnity (1944), a film noir he
co-wrote with mystery novelist Raymond Chandler, with whom he did not get along. Double Indemnity
not only set conventions for the noir genre (such as "venetian blind" lighting and voice-over
narration), but was also a landmark in the battle against Hollywood censorship. The original James M.
Cain novel Double Indemnity featured two love triangles and a murder plotted for insurance money.
The book was highly popular with the reading public, but had been considered unfilmable under the
Hays Code, because adultery was central to its plot. Double Indemnity is credited by some as the first
true film noir, combining the stylistic elements of Citizen Kane with the narrative elements of The
Maltese Falcon.

Two years later, Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the
adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story The Lost Weekend, the first major American film to make a
serious examination of alcoholism, another difficult theme under the Production Code. In 1950, Wilder
co-wrote and directed the dark and cynical and critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard, which paired
rising star William Holden with Gloria Swanson. Swanson played Norma Desmond, a reclusive silent
film star who dreams of a comeback; Holden is an aspiring screenwriter who becomes a kept man.
Billy Wilder
In 1951, Wilder followed Sunset Boulevard with Ace in the
Hole (aka, The Big Carnival), a tale of media exploitation of a
caving accident. It was a critical and commercial failure at the
time, but its reputation has grown over the years. In the
fifties, Wilder also directed two vibrant adaptations of
Broadway plays, the POW drama Stalag 17 (1953), which
resulted in a Best Actor Oscar for William Holden, and the
Agatha Christie mystery Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

In 1959 Wilder introduced crossdressing to American film
audiences with Some Like It Hot. In this comedy Jack
Lemmon and Tony Curtis play musicians on the run from a
Chicago gang, who disguise themselves as women and
become romantically involved with Marilyn Monroe and Joe E.
Brown. From the mid-1950s on, Wilder made mostly
comedies.[1] Among the classics Wilder created in this period
are the farces The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It
Hot (1959), satires such as The Apartment (1960), and the
romantic comedy Sabrina (1954). Wilder's humor is
sometimes sardonic. In Love in the Afternoon (1957), a
young and innocent Audrey Hepburn who doesn't want to be
young or innocent wins playboy Gary Cooper by pretending
to be a married woman in search of extramarital amusement.
Films directed by Wilder:
Mauvaise Graine (Bad Seed) (1933, Co-director)
The Major and the Minor (1942, also Co-screenwriter)
Five Graves to Cairo (1943, also Co-screenwriter)
Double Indemnity (1944, also Co-screenwriter)
The Lost Weekend (1945, also Co-screenwriter)
The Emperor Waltz (1947, also Co-screenwriter)
A Foreign Affair (1948, also Co-screenwriter)
Sunset Boulevard (1950, also Co-screenwriter)
Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival) (1951, also Producer &
Sunset Boulevard  (1950)
Stalag 17 (1953, also Producer & Co-screenwriter)
Sabrina (Sabrina Fair) (1954, also Producer & Co screenwriter)
The Seven Year Itch (1955, also co-Producer &Co-screenwriter)
The Spirit of St. Louis (1957, also Co-screenwriter)
Love in the Afternoon (1957, also Producer & Co-screenwriter)
Witness for the Prosecution (1958, also Co-screenwriter)
Some Like it Hot (1959, also Producer & Co-screenwriter)
The Apartment (1960, also Producer & Co-screenwriter)
One, Two, Three (1961, also Producer & Co-screenwriter)
Irma La Douce (1963, also Producer & Co-screenwriter)
Kiss Me, Stupid (1964, also Producer & Co-screenwriter)
The Fortune Cookie (Meet Whiplash Willie) (1966, also Producer &
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970, also Producer &
Avanti! (1972, also Producer & Co-screenwriter)
The Front Page (1974, also Co-screenwriter)
Fedora (1978, also Producer & Co-screenwriter)
Buddy Buddy (1981, also Co-screenwriter)

Der Teufelsreporter (The Devil's Reporter) (1929) (Screenwriter)
Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday) (1929) (Screenwriter)
Der Mann, der Seinen Morder sucht (Looking for His Murderer)       
                                                            (1931) (Co-screenwriter)
Der Falsche Ehemann (The Counterfeit Husband) (1931)
Ihre Hoheit Befiehlt (Her Majesty Commands)(1931)(Co-screenwriter)
Emil und die Detektive (Emil and the Detectives) (1931)
Es war Einmal ein Waltzer (Once Upon a Time There was a Waltz)  
                                                                        (1932) (Screenwriter)
Ein Blonder Traum (A Blonde Dream) (1932)  (Co-screenwriter)
Ein Madel der Strasse (A Girl of the Street) (1932) (Co-screenwriter)
Das Blaue vom Himmel(The Blue from Heaven)(1932)     
Madame Wunscht Keine Kinder (Madame Wants No Children) (1933)
Was Frauen Traumen (What Women Dream) (1933)(Co-screenwriter)
Music in the Air (1934) (Co-screenwriter)
Lottery Lover (1935) (Co-screenwriter)
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938) (Co-screenwriter)
Midnight (1939) (Co-screenwriter)
What a Life (1939) (Co-screenwriter)
Ninotchka (1939) (Co-screenwriter)
Arise, My Love (1940) (Co-screenwriter)
Hold Back the Dawn (1941) (Co-screenwriter)
Ball of Fire (1941) (Co-screenwriter)
In 1959, Wilder began to collaborate with writer-producer I.A.L. Diamond, an association that
continued until the end of both men's careers. After winning three Academy Awards for 1960's The
Apartment (for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay), Wilder's career slowed. His Cold War farce
One, Two, Three (1961) featured a rousing comic performance by James Cagney, but was followed
by the lesser films Irma la Douce and Kiss Me, Stupid. Wilder garnered his last Oscar nomination for
his screenplay The Fortune Cookie in 1966. His 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was
intended as a major roadshow release, but was heavily cut by the studio and has never been fully
restored. Later films such as Fedora and Buddy, Buddy failed to impress critics or the public.

Wilder's directorial choices reflected his belief in the primacy of writing. He avoided the exuberant
cinematography of Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles because, in Wilder's opinion, shots that called
attention to themselves would distract the audience from the story. Wilder's pictures have tight plotting
and memorable dialogue. Despite his conservative directorial style, his subject matter often pushed
the boundaries of mainstream entertainment.

Wilder was skilled at working with actors, coaxing silent era legends Gloria Swanson and Erich von
Stroheim out of retirement for roles in Sunset Boulevard. For Stalag 17, Wilder squeezed an
Oscar-winning performance out of a reluctant William Holden (Holden wanted to make his character
more likeable; Wilder refused). Wilder sometimes cast against type for major parts such as Fred
MacMurray in Double Indemnity and The Apartment. Many today know MacMurray as a wholesome
family man from the television series My Three Sons, but he played a womanizing schemer in Wilder's
films. Humphrey Bogart shed his tough guy image to give one of his warmest performances in
Sabrina. James Cagney, not usually known for comedy, was memorable in a high-octane comic role
for Wilder's One, Two, Three.

Wilder mentored Jack Lemmon and was the first director to pair him with Walter Matthau, in The
Fortune Cookie (1966). Wilder had great respect for Lemmon, calling him the hardest working actor
he had ever met.

Wilder's films often lacked any discernible political tone or sympathies, which was not unintentional.
He was less interested in current political fashions than in human nature and the issues that
confronted ordinary people. He was not affected by the Hollywood blacklist, and had little sympathy for
those who were. Of the blacklisted 'Hollywood Ten' Wilder famously quipped, "Of the ten, two had
talent, and the rest were just unfriendly".

Wilder died in 2002 of pneumonia at the age of 95 after battling health problems, including cancer, in
Los Angeles, California and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in
Westwood, Los Angeles, California next to Jack Lemmon.

Wilder died the same day as two other comedy legends: Milton Berle and Dudley Moore. The next
day, French top-ranking newspaper Le Monde titled its first-page obituary, "Billy Wilder is dead.
Nobody is perfect." This was a reference to the famous closing line of his film Some Like it Hot spoken
by Joe E. Brown after Jack Lemmon reveals he is not female.

Wilder holds a significant place in the history of Hollywood censorship for expanding the range of
acceptable subject matter. He is responsible for two of the film noir era's most definitive films in
Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. Along with Woody Allen, he leads the list of films on the
American Film Institute's list of 100 funniest American films with 5 films written and holds the honor of
holding the top spot with Some Like it Hot. Also on the list are The Apartment and The Seven Year
Itch which he directed, and Ball of Fire and Ninotchka which he co-wrote. The AFI has ranked four of
Wilder's films among their top 100 American films of the 20th century: Sunset Boulevard (no. 12),
Some Like It Hot (no. 14), Double Indemnity (no. 38) and The Apartment (no. 93).

inducted into the Delta films Hall of Fame - Director
Date Unknown
Walk of Fame  - Star on the Walk of Fame Motion Picture  At 1751 Vine Street.
PGA Awards - PGA Hall of Fame - Motion Pictures  for: Some Like It Hot
Flaiano International Prizes - Career Award Cinema
PGA Awards - Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Pictures
German Film Awards - Lifetime Achievement Award   
BAFTA Awards - Academy Fellowship
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards - Career Achievement Award
Berlin International Film Festival - Honorary Golden Berlin Bear
European Film Awards - Life Achievement Award   
Directors Guild of America, USA - Preston Sturges Award  
Academy Awards, USA - Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award   
American Film Institute, USA - Life Achievement Award
Directors Guild of America, USA - Lifetime Achievement Award
Film Society of Lincoln Center - Gala Tribute   
Fotogramas de Plata - Fotogramas de Plata Best Foreign Film  for: Fedora
Writers Guild of America, USA - Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievement   
David di Donatello Awards - David Best Director - Foreign Film   for: The Front Page
German Film Awards - Honorary Award    For his continued outstanding individual
                                                                  contributions to the german film over the years.
Venice Film Festival - Career Golden Lion   
Laurel Awards - Golden Laurel Top Producer/Director
Academy Awards, USA - Oscar Best Director   for: The Apartment
Academy Awards, USA - Oscar Best Picture   for: The Apartment
Academy Awards, USA -Oscar Best Writing, Story and Screenplay-Written Directly for the Screen
                                       for: The Apartment
Writers Guild of America, USA - WGA Award (Screen) Best Written American Comedy   
                                                     for: The Apartment
Directors Guild of America, USA - DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion
                                                        Pictures      for: The Apartment
BAFTA Awards - BAFTA Film Award Best Film from any Source   for: The Apartment
Writers Guild of America, USA - WGA Award (Screen) Best Written American Comedy   
                                                     for: Some Like It Hot
New York Film Critics Circle Awards - NYFCC Award Best Director   for: The Apartment
New York Film Critics Circle Awards - NYFCC Best Screenplay   for: The Apartment
Writers Guild of America, USA - WGA Award (Screen) Best Written American Comedy  
                                                     for: Love in the Afternoon
Writers Guild of America, USA - Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievement   
Writers Guild of America, USA - WGA Award (Screen) Best Written American Comedy   
                                                     for: Sabrina
Golden Globes, USA - Golden Globe Best Screenplay   for: Sabrina
Blue Ribbon Awards - Blue Ribbon Award Best Foreign Language Film   for: Sunset Blvd.
Bodil Awards - Bodil Best American Film   for: Sunset Blvd.
Writers Guild of America, USA - WGA Award (Screen) Best Written American Drama   
                                                     for: Sunset Blvd.
Academy Awards, USA - Oscar Best Writing, Story and Screenplay   for: Sunset Blvd.
Venice Film Festival - International Award    for: Ace in the Hole
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists - Silver Ribbon Best Director - Foreign Film  
                                                                               for: Sunset Blvd.
Golden Globes, USA - Golden Globe Best Motion Picture Director   for: Sunset Blvd.
Academy Awards, USA - Oscar Best Director   for: The Lost Weekend
Academy Awards, USA - Oscar Best Writing, Screenplay   for: The Lost Weekend
Cannes Film Festival - Grand Prize of the Festival  for: The Lost Weekend
Golden Globes, USA - Golden Globe Best Motion Picture Director   for: The Lost Weekend
New York Film Critics Circle Awards - NYFCC Award Best Director   for: The Lost Weekend