He created more than 50 films, encompassing such well-known comedies as and and award-winning dramas including and While Wilder retired from filmmaking in the early 1980s, many of his films continue to be popular among filmgoers and are regarded as classics by critics and the film community.Billy Wilder was born Samuel Wilder in Sucha, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Poland), on June 22, 1906.
By chance, Joe Gillis (William Holden), a loser of a screenwriter, hides his car from a couple of repo men in Norma Desmond’s garage. Desmond lives in a huge decaying mansion where she still preserves 1920s style. She is kept going by her devoted butler “Max,” Max von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim). On learning that Joe is a screenwriter, she “hires” him to work on her script. (Joe gets no money, but room, board, lots of 1920s style luxury clothes, and ultimately sexual duties.) While this is going on, Joe is beginning to write a script with Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson), engaged to his best friend Artie (Jack Webb), an assistant director. Eventually, though, she falls in love with Joe. He tries to leave Norma—and that effort lands him, no pun intended, in the swimming pool.
I remember a phrase from an article on stardom that I read long ago: the star is “imperfectly submerged” in the part. James Stewart in Vertigo is both detective Scottie Ferguson and James Stewart. Vivien Leigh is Scarlett O’Hara but doesn’t stop being Vivien Leigh. So here, Gloria Swanson is both Norma Desmond, a character in a Billy Wilder movie, and Gloria Swanson a famous star of the silents. And so, in a less grand way, Joe Gillis/Bill Holden and Betty Schaefer/Nancy Olson have double identities.
Wilder worked within the studio system (the same system that was used to make Ford cars). He too was dumped by it, but not by the time of this movie. He created in Sunset Boulevard a scene of actual filming. DeMille had just finished making Samson and Delilah at the time Billy Wilder was making Sunset Boulevard, but Paramount recreated one of his sets on a sound stage for the Wilder picture. We see the behind-the-scene lights, cameras, sound booms, extras, and all the rest that contribute to the making of the great illusion.
And, in 1993, Andrew Lloyd Webber created a hit Broadway musical based on In January 2000 Wilder, then ninety-three, appeared at an event held in his honor by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in preparation for a retrospective show of his films.The American Film Institute lists four of Wilder's films among its top 100 films of all time: and In fellow filmmaker Cameron Crowe summarized Wilder's body of work: "Billy Wilder's work is a treasure trove of flesh-and-blood individuals, all wonderfully alive.
Norma’s final, triumphant scene, of course, undercuts illusion. As Billy Wilder surely intended and every critic who writes about this movie has noted, in her last mad descent down the staircase to the waiting newsreel cameras and her old-time director, Norma quite literally returns to the screen. Gillis may be dead in the pool but he does indeed tell truth, at least the “truth” of a movie. We know that we, too, are hovering as Norma is between illusion and reality. We have, in the classic phrase, suspended our disbelief, and for the 110 minutes of the film we believe in Norma Desmond, Joe Gillis, Max von Mayerling, Betty Schaefer, and all the rest.
(1953) starred William Holden as a con artist in a prisoner of war camp in Germany, and won Wilder another Academy Award nomination, this time for best director.String of Hits 1950-1960In 1950 Wilder and Brackett co-wrote and Wilder directed which is widely regarded as the greatest of Wilder's films, as well as one of the best depictions of the Hollywood film industry.
Ashby’s prolonged labor as an editor included working with such directors as William Wyler and Tony Richardson. However, it was in association with Norman Jewison that Ashby really hit his stride, earning an Academy Award for his editing of In the Heat of the Night (1967). Two years later when Jewison was bogged down with film projects, he arranged for Ashby to direct his first film, The Landlord (1970), which opened to a modest box office but received strong reviews. Based upon this promising first film, Ashby was assigned to Harold and Maude (1972). Although the film initially bombed and Paramount Pictures proved inept at marketing it, Harold and Maude went on to become a cult classic.
This multivolume work provides surveys of directors and individual films. The director entries include filmographies and bibliographies collecting writings both about and by the directors themselves. The full set includes entries for Billy Wilder, I. A. L. Diamond, and several of Wilder’s best-known films.
The works included here provide excellent starting points for research. and both outline biographical information and provide useful career overviews. They include bibliographies and filmographies. The Media Resources Center at the University of California at Berkeley offers an extensive bibliography on works held in the university’s library collection. is an essential bibliography for works on Wilder published prior to 1977. is a critical assessment of the director’s multinational career, listing not just Wilder’s American films but his French and German ones as well.
Thomson’s reference guide amasses his trenchant summaries of thousands of films, actors, directors, and other industry players. The entry on Wilder lists the films he worked on in Germany, France, and the United States. It also touches on biographical details, such as the director’s valuable art collection and his struggle with obsolescence late in his career.
One noteworthy example is Billy Wilder’s film Sunset Boulevard, which follows the foreboding tale of Joe Gillis, the desperate-for-success protagonist, who finds himself in the fatal grips of the disillusioned femme fatale Norma Desmond....
Though limited to the university’s library holdings, this bibliography nevertheless provides an extensive listing of book-length works, chapters in books, and journal articles on Wilder and individual films. The bibliography is partially annotated and provides full text access to UC users for many of its entries.