Billy Wilder (Sucha Beskidza, June 22, 1906, – Hollywood, March 27, 2002)
He spent his childhood and youth in Vienna, where he began to work as a journalist, a profession he continued to exercise when he moved to Berlin. In 1930 he intervened as a screenwriter on Men on Sundays, a chronicle of everyday life in the city, which allowed him to enter the UFA studios as a screenwriter. With the rise of Hitler to power in 1933, Wilder decides to leave the country, heading to Paris. There he manages to direct his first film Mauvaise graine .
Later, he made the leap to the United States, entering Paramount, one of the great studios, as a screenwriter. Working together with Charles Bracket they become the best paid studio writers. He manages to direct his first film The Major and the Minor (1942), thus initiating a trajectory that will include almost four decades until his retirement with Buddy Buddy (1981).
10 famous movies of Billy Wilder
1. Double Idemnity (1944)
Demonstrating what would be one of his hallmarks as a director, versatility, his first success would become a classic of the noir film.
He uses a resource that will be used again later, the narration of the story in the first person through one of the protagonists, in this case thanks to a recording. It is an elliptical narrative, since the story starts in the final part of the story, jumping to its beginning for the reconstruction of what happened.
2. The Lost Weekend (1945)
It is considered the first film that deals in depth with the subject of alcoholism from a dramatic approach. Later Blake Edwards would make another excellent film from a similar vision Days of wine and roses (1963).
The film shows a hard and cruel portrait of an alcoholic writer who struggles to overcome his addiction and the shame of his relapses.
It supposed a success both the public and critic, conquering four of the main Oscars, (Director, Film, Script and Actor)
3. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
A particular vision of the world of cinema. Wilder chose two great silent film stars (Gloria Swanson and Eric Von Stroheim) to play the diva in her mansion, thinking that time has not passed for her and her ex-husband who acts as chauffeur, butler, secretary and secret fan .
It will be the third character in this peculiar triangle (William Holden), the young and handsome screenwriter in search of an opportunity to tell us the story, again in the first person, but with an original element: he is dead.
The film obtained the Oscar to the original Script, in which it was be the last work of Wilder together with Charles Brackett, association that marks his first stage like director.
4. Ace in the Hole (1951)
If Wilder’s cinema is characterized by often offering a critical look at the environment that surrounds him, this time it will be a real dialectical blow that hits the American society that emerged from World War II.
Fierce the drawing he makes of journalism, a world he knew quite well in his years in Europe, whose representative shows us how far he can go for an exclusive, whether true or not. The rest of the characters, willing to do business with a person in a delicate situation, do not get rid of their darts.
This caustic look did not please the public, unaccustomed to be reflected in a mirror and the film was what we might call his first failure. Something similar would happen to him with another critical and corrosive comedy: The Fortune Cookie (1966)
5. Sabrina (1954)
We could say that this movie is the director’s most classic romantic film together with Love in the Afternoon (1957). In fact between the two can be established several parallels.
They share protagonist (Audrey Hepburn), who plays a naive and romantic young woman. Her partner will be a mature man, embodied by two actors whose choice was a surprise, since none stood out for his comic (Humphrey Bogart and Gary Cooper).
In Sabrina, however, there is a transformation of the female character, almost invisible at the beginning, which returns from Paris turned into a different woman. Love in the Afternoon also develops in Paris, another bond of union between the two.
6. Whitness for Prosecution (1958)
Another genre that he wanted to try was that of judicial intrigue. Based on a novel by Agatha Christie and with an atmosphere of Hitchcock, Wilder recreates a plot full of secrets and unexpected twists.
7. Some Like it Hot (1959)
Possibly the most popular comedy of Wilder, thanks to its fast-paced, full of misunderstandings and absurd situations, typical of vaudeville, set in the 20s, after the killing of Valentine’s Day.
It has the explosive presence of Marilyn Monroe and the first collaboration with Jack Lemmon, who would become his fetish actor, with a total of nine films together.
8. The Apartment (1960)
Considered by many critics as his best film, the most complete, it shows again a rather gray look of American society, although this time he prefers to leave a door open to hope. Wilder moves between bitter drama and skeptical romanticism.
Here he focuses on large companies, focused on promotions at any price, their dehumanization and the classism that is reflected in being able to get the key to the bathroom of managers as an expression of success.
He would again become the Oscars’ big winner, winning Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, as well as Best Movie.
9. One, Two, Three (1961)
Capitalism and communism will be the target of Wilder this time, shooting darts loaded with irony and sarcasm. And the scenario can not be better: Berlin divided after World War II, coexisting Communist Germany and the icon of the United States: a Coca Cola factory.
It coincided with the construction of the wall, so the context was not the most appropriate for the irreverent message on both sides that it intended to launch.
10. Avanti! (1972)
In his final stage, Wilder retakes this romantic genre, but with a mature tone, more relaxed and with a greater irony load than the romantic comedies of the 50s.
The characters are not perfect, they do not give off that idealized trace that we could perceive in Sabrina. Love arises unexpectedly, in the least favorable place and situation. And yet, the two main characters expect something they already thought was forgotten.