Wilder, Billy

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Wilder, Billy

Billy Wilder, 1906–2002, American film director, producer, and writer, b. Sucha, Galicia (now Poland) as Samuel Wilder. He wrote for films in Berlin, fled the Nazis, and arrived in Hollywood in 1934. After writing various screenplays, he directed his first film in 1942, and soon developed a reputation as a witty and harshly sardonic critic of American mores. At first he mixed dramas and comedies, later concentrating on satire, and his 25 films represent many styles, approaches, and themes. His The Lost Weekend (1945), an unsparing study of alcoholism, won Academy Awards for direction, production, and screenplay; Sunset Boulevard (1950), an acidic look at Hollywood, won another for best screenplay; and The Apartment (1960), a morally ambiguous modern tale, again won him three Oscars. Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) is one of the finest comic films ever made. His other films include Double Indemnity (1944), Stalag 17 (1953), Sabrina (1954), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Fedora (1979), and Buddy Buddy (1981).

See C. Crowe, Conversations with Wilder (1999); biographies by M. Zolotow (1977), E. Sikov (1998), K. Lally (1999), and C. Chandler (2002); studies by A. Madsen (1969) and T. Wood (1970).

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