Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder

Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder

Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder

Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder

Synopsis

It is a definitive look at the career of Billy Wilder. Each film has interesting stories connected to it. Very insightful and entertaining, especially for a movie buff.

Excerpt

After I finished film school, I got work as a cameraman in Berlin. I was fortunate to be the assistant to Eugene Schüfftan, one of the best German cameramen during the golden age of German cinema in the 1920s. One of the films that Schüfftan photographed was Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday), a semidocumentary made in 1929 about four young people spending a weekend in the country. The film was written by Billy Wilder and directed by Robert Siodmak.

I only carried the camera around and measured the focus, but I was pleased to be working with talented people like Billy Wilder and Robert Siodmak. The picture was made on a shoestring, and we had to stop every two or three days to raise more money. It was a smash hit, and Billy, Robert, and I all eventually migrated to Hollywood and became directors there.

My career in Hollywood in some ways ran parallel to Billy’s. For example, each of us made a picture in the ruins of Berlin after World War II, in 1948. I directed The Search, about displaced European children, and Billy directed A Foreign Affair, about the Allied occupation of Berlin. Both pictures were successful at the box office.

The cold war years, a period of uncertainty in the aftermath of World War II, spawned Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt for Communists, and the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings. In 1950 Cecil B. De Mille, who was very right wing, persuaded the board of the Screen Directors Guild (SDG) to require a loyalty oath of the membership. Joseph Mankiewicz, the president of the SDG, opposed De Mille’s resolution. Billy Wilder and I, among others, signed a petition supporting Mankiewicz.

The De Mille faction sent out messengers on motorcycles late at night with a letter to each of us who supported Mankiewicz’s stand. There weren’t any direct threats in the letter, but there were heavy hints that our careers were on the line if we didn’t endorse De Mille’s resolution.

At the general meeting of the SDG membership, the crunch came when . . .

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