Monday, May 8, 2017

Seven Things to Know About Billy Wilder

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1. Billy Wilder only directed 26 feature-length films and three of those were released in 1957 (The Spirit of St. Louis, Love in the Afternoon, and Witness for the Prosecution). In contrast, Alfred Hitchcock directed over 50 movies.

2. He was one of the first "script doctors." Wilder allegedly worked "uncredited" on the scripts for The Bishop's Wife, That Certain Age, Mutiny on the Bounty (1960), Casino Royale (1967), and others.

The Apartment won six Oscars.
3. Billy Wilder collaborated with I.A.L. Diamond on 12 screenplays and with Charles Brackett on 11 more. He and Diamond received Best Screenplay nominations for Some Like It Hot and The Fortune Cookie; they won an Oscar for The Apartment. Wilder and Brackett received Oscar nominations for Ninotchka, Hold Back the Dawn, and A Foreign Affair. They won a Best Screenplay Oscar for The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard.

4. Neither Diamond nor Brackett worked with Billy Wilder on Witness for the Prosecution. In adapting Agatha Christie's popular stage play, Wilder and co-writers Harry Kurnitz and Larry Marcus thought the story needed some humor. They added Nurse Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester), who cares for the recovering Sir Wilfrid during the trial. Lanchester earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance. Incidentally, Kurnitz described his collaboration with Billy Wilder as "working with Mr. Hyde and Mr. Hyde."

Liam Neeson as Schindler.
5. In his Steven Spielberg biography, author Joseph McBride notes that Billy Wilder was interested in directing Schindler's List. Wilder lost his mother, grandmother, and stepfather in the Holocaust. When he saw Steven Spielberg's finished film, he said: "The movie is absolutely perfection."

6. Wilder compiled an impressive collection of modern art, which featured the works of acclaimed artists such as Pablo Picasso. When Christie's auctioned off some of his collection in 1989, Wilder earned $32.6 million.

Billy Wilder and Gloria Swanson.
7. Billy Wilder is responsible for a number of famous quotes, but my favorite is this one about filmmaking: "I have ten commandants. The first nine are: Thou shalt not bore. The tenth is: Thou shalt have right of final cut."


  1. "There's as many books about Marilyn Monroe as there are about WW II. And for similar reasons."

  2. Wilder is never boring. I'm always excited by watching any of his films, no matter how many times I may have seen it previously.

  3. I loved reading this post! I am a huge fan of "Witness for the Prosecution" and found it fascinating that Wilder worked with neither Diamond nor Brackett on it. My heart still wants to think Hitchcock directed it though my brain knows better.

  4. I was stunned to read he directed only 26 feature-length films. I had always assumed it was a much higher number.

    Thanks for sharing this research! I have an even greater appreciation for Billy Wilder now.

  5. One of my three favorite filmmakers!