If you’re a movie junkie like me you probably not only know the stars of the film but the Director, The Cinematographer, the Editor, Writers and possibly the Key Grip. The faces behind the camera.
If you attend a movie with me, be prepared to stay through the end credits. I feel it’s imperative to acknowledge those artists who are responsible for the project. Staying for the credits also gives you a foundation to critique a film based on the direction, writing, and editing. Whether or not to see a movie based on a Director’s previous track record or the Cinematographer’s eye for the visuals.
This month is dedicated to educating and paying homage to the artists who help put it all together. Let’s begin with one of the top 2 of my favorite Directors, Billy Wilder.
Billy Wilder (June 22, 1906 – March 27, 2002) was an Austrian-born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist and journalist, whose career spanned more than fifty years and sixty films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood’s golden age.
With The Apartment, (starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray) Wilder became the first person to win Academy Awards as the producer, director, and screenwriter for the same film. “The Apartment” was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture.
I love Billy Wilder because of his versatility in films and his testing the boundaries of societal norms. The first movie that comes to mind with his pushing the boundaries is “Some Like it Hot” 1959 starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis.
The plot revolves around two musicians who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. These are the final lines of the film delivered by (Daphne/Jerry) Lemmon and Joe E. Brown (Osgood) in regards to their pending marriage: Daphne/Jerry: But you don’t understand, Osgood! [Whips off his wig, exasperated, and changes to a manly voice] Uh, I’m a man! Osgood: [Looks at him then turns back, unperturbed] Well, nobody’s perfect!” Wow! for 1959 that was pretty radical.
“Some Like It Hot” is considered to be one of the greatest film comedies of all time. It was voted as the top comedy film by the American Film Institute on their list on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs poll in 2000. The film is also notable for featuring cross-dressing and homosexuality, which led to it being produced without approval from the Motion Picture Production Code. The Code was the set of industry moral guidelines that was applied to most American motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. The Production Code had been gradually weakening in its scope during the early 1950s due to increasing societal tolerance for previously taboo topics in film, but it was still officially enforced. The overwhelming success of “Some Like It Hot” was a final nail in the coffin for the Hays Code.
Wilder became a screenwriter in the late 1920s while living in Berlin. After the rise of the Nazi Party, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for Paris, where he made his directorial debut. He moved to Hollywood in 1933, and in 1939, he had a hit when he co-wrote the screenplay for the screwball comedy Ninotchka. Wilder established his directorial reputation with Double Indemnity (1944), a film noir he co-wrote with crime novelist Raymond Chandler. Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story The Lost Weekend (1945), about alcoholism. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard.
Wilder was recognized with the American Film Institute (AFI) Life Achievement Award in 1986. In 1988, Wilder was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Billy Wilder’s films:
|1934||Mauvaise Graine (also known as Bad Seed)||Director/Writer|
|1942||The Major and the Minor||Director/Writer|
|1943||Five Graves to Cairo||Director/Writer|
|1945||The Lost Weekend||Director/Writer|
|1948||The Emperor Waltz||Director/Writer|
|1948||A Foreign Affair||Director/Writer|
|1951||Ace in the Hole||Director/Writer/Producer|
|1955||The Seven Year Itch||Director/Writer/Producer|
|1957||The Spirit of St. Louis||Director/Writer|
|1957||Love in the Afternoon||Director/Writer/Producer|
|1957||Witness for the Prosecution||Director/Writer|
|1959||Some Like It Hot||Director/Writer/Producer|
|1961||One, Two, Three||Director/Writer/Producer|
|1963||Irma la Douce||Director/Writer/Producer|
|1964||Kiss Me, Stupid||Director/Writer/Producer|
|1966||The Fortune Cookie||Director/Writer/Producer|
|1970||The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes||Director/Writer/Producer|
|1974||The Front Page||Director/Writer|
Wilder received a total of twenty-one Academy Award nominations; eight for Best Director, twelve for writing, and one as the producer of Best Picture. With eight nominations for Academy Award for Best Director, Wilder is, together with Martin Scorsese, the second most nominated director in the history of the Academy Awards, behind William Wyler, and the second most nominated screenwriter behind Woody Allen.
Wilder won a total of six Oscars: Best Director for The Lost Weekend and The Apartment, Best Screenplay for The Lost Weekend, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment, and Best Picture for The Apartment. In addition, he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1988.
Wilder died in 2002 of pneumonia at the age of 95 after battling health problems, including cancer, in Los Angeles and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles near Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Marilyn Monroe’s crypt is located in the same cemetery. Wilder died the same day as two other comedy legends: Milton Berle and Dudley Moore. The next day, French newspaper Le Monde titled its first-page obituary, “Billy Wilder dies. Nobody’s perfect”, quoting the final gag line in “Some Like It Hot”.