Jump to content

Billy Wilder-directed films


Recommended Posts

I need to immerse myself in Wilder for an upcoming discussion. All I've seen at this point are Some Like It Hot and The Apartment, and that's a woefully small representation of his work. Oh, and Sunset Blvd. (And Spirit of St. Louis now that I look over the list - but I was just a kid, and that doesn't count.)

These are on my list now:

Double Indemnity

Stalag 17

Witness for the Prosecution

I want to get a good comprehensive feel of his directing work without hunting down every film... so am I on the right track? I'm trying to cut across genres - am I picking the right films?

Next on my list are:

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Seven Year Itch

Should I reprioritize? What are your favorite Wilder-directed films that I just cannot possibly afford to miss?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well Sabrina / Sabrina Fair (title varies) is the only one of his films that I've seen that's not been mentioned. And I guess what with Audrey Hepburn still having large appeal (particularly it seems to my wife and a large number of her friends) its one you should see. Plus it has Bogart in it.

Matt

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You have a good list. After what you wrote, I heartily recommend "One Two Three" as political satire. I also recommend "Ninotchka" and "Ball of Fire" as examples of his earliest work, before he was a director. Both are great, funny, overlooked films. And tho I haven't seen it in its entirity, I would believe "The Fortune Cookie" is significant by being the first pairing of the Lemmon/Matthau franchise, as well as getting Matthau his Academy Award.

Nick

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd say that Sabrina and Itch are not the best of Wilder. The Fortune Cookie is quintessential Wilder and is due for more respect now that both Matthau and Lemmon are gone and folks pour through their careers. It would be a good one to become familiar with.

You are definitely on the right track, otherwise, moquist. If you can find it, check out his first American film, The Major and the Minor, an early sex comedy that takes some chances, but is still rather chaste. Quite a few "Wilder touches".

Lost Weekend is still just about the best film treatment of alchoholism ever done. Clean and Sober owes much to it and it makes The Days of Wine and Roses look almost schmaltzy.

For the record, I'd say that The Apartment, Sunset Blvd., Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity, and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes at least are are his masterpieces.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> For the record, I'd say that The Apartment, Sunset Blvd., Some Like It Hot, Double

> Indemnity, and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes at least are are his masterpieces.

Well, now I've seen all of those but the last - which I'm definitely interested to see.

Fortunately, our local library has quite a stack of Wilder films, though PLoSH is one they do not have. sad.gif

> You are definitely on the right track, otherwise, moquist. If you can find it, check out his first

> American film, The Major and the Minor, an early sex comedy that takes some chances,

> but is still rather chaste. Quite a few "Wilder touches".

Will do, if possible.

> The Fortune Cookie is quintessential Wilder

It's on the dock.

I just finished Double Indemnity, and I'll paste my meager reflections here in case they're interesting for anyone:

-----SPOILERS, SPOILERS EVERYWHERE, MORE THAN YOU MIGHT THINK-----

Phyllis and Walter were such broken people; with confused motives in which they floundered.

We could think she did it for the money, except that she couldn't fire the second shot - but HE did! Point-blank and with her begging him to hold her. Amazing moral journey for Walter. Had he decided by that point that he was getting off the trolly at the cemetery, too? Was he just stopping her while he could, because he knew she would just do it again? I think so.

I think he went to her house intending to kill her and blame the kid, but once he was shot he changed his mind, and when he saw the kid he sealed his fate. (I didn't buy his line at the end about heading for the border - he was going to die either way, and that was his plan at that point.)

(But why on earth did he call her house from the office, identify himself, and arrange to meet with her, if he intended to kill her and get away with it? Was he convinced that they'd stopped bugging her phone because they thought they had it all figured out? His plan at that point couldn't have been to cross the border afterwards, because then there would be no reason to kill her, or see her at all.)

The dialogue has the velocity of screwball without the cheer, and the occasional humor that does creep in is black like the shadows. As in mysteries, this velocity 1) keeps the film moving quickly and 2) gives us the impression that the characters are fast thinkers, and they're always ahead of us.

Noir is obsessed with shadows, whether cast in the background, to the side, or onto the camera as silhouettes. Maybe this serves to present the images in bold strokes and stark outlines, in contrast to the plots, motives, and relationships, which are complex and nuanced, fine-grained and subtle. Maybe it also allows the characters to hide in this one way - because they always have a reason to hide - while their stories are told.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just saw PLoSH the other night. A thumping good yarn? Yes. A masterpiece? I didn't think so.

spoilers1.gif

If the Jonah was built to be operated by six midgets and an engineer (and evidently, not necessarily all six midgets at once), then how are all those full-size German "Trappists" going to fit into it? And if they can fit into it, then why were the midgets necessary to begin with?

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just saw PLoSH the other night. A thumping good yarn? Yes. A masterpiece? I didn't think so.

Heh, some people don't think it's a thumping good yarn. It is in this sense, it is one of those Hollywood legends of films that were hacked to death without knowledge of the director. Magnificent Ambersons and Major Dundee sort of ruined the careers of the directors from the inside. Wilder took this one in stride. He always thought that the producers "owned" the picture anyway and his job was to make a good product.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fortunately, our local library has quite a stack of Wilder films, though PLoSH is one they do not have. sad.gif

It has been out on DVD for almost a year now. Netflix might have it. If not, PM me and we'll talk.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> [PLoSH] has been out on DVD for almost a year now. Netflix might have it.

> If not, PM me and we'll talk.

I may yet; we'll see. Is it worth owning? Looks like I could pick it up for $10.50+s&h from Amazon.com. ??

Our forum is currently studying "directors"; i.e., we choose a director, and then choose a film by that director to watch. We've been dealing mostly with auteur theory, and one way to highlight the uniqueness of a director is to compare his/her films/remakes with another directors' films/remakes.

Our forum did All About Eve a couple of months ago, and I contrasted it with Sunset Blvd. at the time. (I quite like both films.) What other Wilder films make for particularly good comparison/contrast with specific films by other directors? (Sabrina was remade, so I'm planning to see both of them if I can...)

Hmm. Perhaps Sunset Blvd. v. The Player...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It appears that many of Wilder's films originated as other director's films. This is true for Some Like It Hot, Buddy Buddy and The Front Page, as listed in IMDB.

I think your best bet is the remake of Sabrina. If they go with his written works as well, I believe comparing "Ball of Fire" and "A Song is Born" (hard to get) would be profitable in that the latter is a musical remake.

There are foreign remakes of Wilder's stuff, like Irma La Douce and The Apartment, but I don't see them available anywhere.

Also, there were TV-movie remakes of some of his films, including Witness For the

Prosecution and something else.

The fact that there are few remakes available is because Wilder's work is the stuff that lasts.

Nick

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

NO, NO, NO!!!!! Buddy, Buddy STINKS! And I am an idolizer of Wilder.

"Hogan's Heroes" was a send up of Stalag 17, but other than Witness, Sabrina and The Front Page, nothing much. I'm one of the few who likes his Front Page, most think every other version is better. I think it "stands with".

How about this, Double Indemnity is James M. Cain, I think. Compare with the John Garfield The Postman Always Rings Twice. Holmes with The Seven Percent Solution. Fedora would be an interesting contrast to Sunset Blvd. Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder would be a good comparison for Witness, particularly since they have some similarities in feel, despite Wilder's and Preminger's completely opposite way with performers and others involved in their projects.

As to owning Holmes, what film with any pedigree at all is not worth $10.50? If you went to see it at a revival house or festival, it would cost at least as much.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for all your help and suggestions, everyone.

Unfortunately I didn't end up with time to do good comparisons of either Wilder remakes or the film pairs you suggested, Rich.

But I did see a couple of Wilder's comedies, PLoSH (I like the story, and I wonder how different Wilder's hoped-for version was?), Witness for the Prosecution (YES!!!), Stalag 17, One, Two, Three, and Double Indemnity (as you saw above).

One rather consistent thing I've noticed is that in every case that comes to mind, Wilder goes for suspense rather than surprise.

I think of Hitchcock's famous example of the bomb under the table (If the audience knows it's there, it creates suspense - will it go off? If the audience doesn't know it's there, it creates a surprise when it goes off.), and this is directly comparable to the scene in Some Like It Hot where the gangster hides in the birthday cake. The audience knows the entire time what's going to happen, so instead of being surprised, we're thinking ahead, wondering *how* it's going to happen.

Also:

spoilers1.gif

( ...I guess, though sort of not, since the point is that Wilder gives these things away early. )

- the spy in Stalag 17

- the spy in PLoSH

- the last-ditch attempt of the detectives in The Fortune Cookie

- Phyllis' gun in Double Indemnity

- Sheldrake and Fran's liason in The Apartment

But NO! Witness for the Prosecution is absolutely the opposite, and quite a counterexample it is.

And I guess I can think of little moments of surprise, such as the scene in Sunset Blvd. when Max tells Joe that 1) he discovered Norma 2) he directed Norma's early films and 3) he was (DA-DA-DAAAAAA....) Norma's first husband.

But I still say that Wilder tends much more toward suspense than surprise.

Also, as much as I've observed, I think Wilder's a realist. His films highlight the actors' performances, with relatively long takes most of the time.

I've been reding Cameron Crowe's "Conversations with Wilder", which I quite like, BTW.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ninotchka was co-written by Wilder. I believe the success of Ninotchka paved the way for him to come to the US.

Nick

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...
Mark Steyn sings the praises of Wilder in general, in honour of his 100th birthday on Thursday, and of The Apartment in particular. (I excerpt a few bits here.) Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ALERT!

"Billy Wilder" speaks premieres tonight on Turner Classic Movies!!

I've got the DVD-recorder running. ::w00t::

Edited by TexasWill

"If the Christian subculture exists primarily to condemn the world, you can be sure that Jesus is not having any part of it." - John Fischer

"Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an axe, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed." - Flannery O'Connor

Link to comment
Share on other sites

no love for Avanti!?

It's kinda charming and filled with the usual Wilder "other direction" type of jokes (the nurses not being able to keep up with the invalid and such), the showcase of the skills of the "little guy mensch" (the guy with the official stamps). I liked it the first time around, but later was bothered by the depiction of the maid, particularly through the eyes of her husband, among other things. Every time the principals are interacting, it works. Elsewhere, the story just doesn't humm like a good to excellent Wilder.

Jason P: Seen Fedora? If so, thoughts?

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

A couple of nights ago, TCM played "Ace in the Hole" (aka "The Big Carnival"), which was the follow up to Sunset Blvd. It is rarely shown on television, and it was never released on video, until last month, when Criterion came out with a version.

Anyhow, I caught this (eerily current-events-oriented) film, and I absolutely LOVED it. It is the most scathing indictment of newsmedia, before the newsmedia sunk this low. It was waaaay ahead of its time (which explains why it failed at the box office).

I've not seen too many Kirk Douglas films, but his is one of my favorite performances. And it happens to have a very strong Catholic subtext--first I've noticed in a Billy Wilder film. The dialogue is as razor sharp as I've ever heard it, and the film relishes its cynical standpoint. It even has Porter Hall--as a credible GOOD guy (for once).

I cannot recommend this film highly enough. Here enters my nomination for the next go-around for spiritually significant films...

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I echo this: I saw Ace in the Hole on the big screen last Saturday, as part of the Cinematheque's film noir series, and I liked it a lot.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

Just came across this intriguing story: It has just been discovered that Raymond Chandler has a fleeting appearance in Double Indemnity. 50 years after his death, somebody noticed.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 weeks later...

The husband and I watched the "The Apartment" last night as part of our "Oh my, we need to become more familiar with movies made before 1980" project.

What an amazing film! Such a cynical and accurate take on the corporate culture of the 1960s and...today. I hadn't any experience watching Shirley MacLaine pre "Terms of Endearment" but what a revelation!

Must watch more Billy Wilder films soon!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah. That was the film that both pulled my attention to film and Wilder in particular. He's my favorite director to this day. Some Like It Hot was made the year before. They were back to back Oscar winners. The Fortune Cookie was made a few years later and makes a nice pairing too. Ease up on the sentiment, triple the cynicism. Love In The Afternoon would take you in a completely different direction, but harmonized with The Apartment.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...