Posts Tagged ‘billy wilder’

Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Billy Wilder, born today, June 22 in 1906!

The dictionary describes a hero as follows: A person who is admired for courage or noble qualities. And of course, every child has a hero growing up. For some it was Superman, for others it was their parents and for me? Well, for me it was birthday boy, Billy Wilder.

Years ago, when I was a little lass in middle school, I decided I wanted to be in the movie industry. What exactly did I want to do, you ask? Well, I wanted to make movies by writing them. And as an aspiring young screenwriter, it should come as no surprise that my idol became Billy Wilder. It seemed to me, no matter what genre he took on, be it comedy or noir, drama or satire, Wilder knew how to hit every beat, progressing the story along at the perfect pace with the perfect actors to make the perfect movie. Surely the credit belonged to the craft of being a great writer, right? I mean, he writes what goes on the screen. Well, that’s what Wilder thought — that is until he sent his scripts to the directors. One by one, he saw his movies being altered sans his consent or his approval. So, what did he do? He did the most proactive thing he could; he became a director himself, taking complete control over his own ideas.

So, I followed in my idol’s footsteps and decided to become a director. As it turns out, that was the defining moment in my life, thus far. From there I studied film as much as I could, easily watching at least two movies a day. I eventually applied to multiple film schools on the east coast and chose to attend  the Purchase College Film Conservatory AKA the best decision I’ve ever made.  So please, indulge my fan-girl heart as we look at three films directed by my hero, the man who unknowingly impacted the course of my life, Billy Wilder.


Billy Wilder directs Gloria Swanson in my favorite film Sunset Boulevard (1950)

…..Audrey Hepburn as sabrina in sabrina, classic movie actress, billy wilder

Billy Wilder directs Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden in my first Wilder film Sabrina (1954)


shirley mclaine and jack lemmon. the apartment, classic movie actress, billy wilder

Billy Wilder directs my favorite romance, Jack Lemmon and Shirley McLaine in The Apartment (1960)


Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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Actress. Singer. Dancer. Author. Activist. There seems to be nothing that Shirley MacLaine can’t do. Shirley MacLaine Beaty was born April 24, 1934 in Richmond Virginia to Ira Owens Beaty and Kathlyn Corinne. Shirley was performing in front of people at a young age, first beginning with ballet. Unfortunately, many of her roles were boys’ roles because there were no boys in her ballet class and she was the tallest girl available. While warming up backstage before a performance as Cinderella’s fairy godmother, she broke her ankle — but this didn’t stop her from going out there and performing the role anyway. Within time however, MacLaine realized that ballet wasn’t for her, and she instead pursued Broadway dancing — and then acting.

After high school graduation, MacLaine headed to Broadway, and a year later she was chosen to be Carol Haney’s understudy in The Pajama Game. In an ironic turn of events, Haney would end up breaking her ankle, and MacLaine would fill in for her. A few months later, MacLaine would again fill in for Haney — this time, the same night that well-known film producer Hal B. Wallis was in the audience. Impressed with MacLaine’s performance, he signed her to work for Paramount Pictures.

MacLaine’s feature film debut was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955), which won her a Golden Globe for New Star Of The Year. I apologize for breaking the fourth wall here, but if Hitchcock sees enough talent in a person with no film experience to feature them in his film, then this person must be fantastic. A year later, MacLaine would star in Some Came Running, for which she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Her second Best Actress nomination would come two years later with The Apartment, but she lost to Elizabeth Taylor. When speaking about her chances, she said, “I thought I would win for The Apartment, but then Elizabeth Taylor had a tracheotomy”.

Nomination three of five came in 1963 for the film Irma la Douce, which reunited her with Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon. Again, she would lose Best Actress, this time to Patricia Neal for her performance in Hud. In the 70’s, MacLaine would be nominated two more times, one for Best Documentary, The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir, and the other for Best Actress in The Turning Point. In The Turning Point, MacLaine portrays a retired ballerina, which was probably a role all too familiar to her.

In 1978, MacLaine won the Women in Film Crystal Award, which is awarded to outstanding women who helped expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. In 1983, MacLaine finally won her first Best Actress Academy Award for her role as Aurora Greenway in the James L. Brooks film Terms of Endearment. The film would also win Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Jack Nicholson.


Josh Kaye for Classic Movie Hub

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9. The Apartment (1960)

Other Nominated Films:
The Alamo, Elmer Gantry, Suns and Lovers, The Sundowners

Billy Wilder’s follow-up to Some Like It HotThe Apartment, is a witty, sardonic, and touching film about corporate politics, adultery, integrity and love. Jack Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, a lowly office clerk who works for a New York City insurance company. When Baxter starts lending out his apartment to his philandering bosses for their romantic trysts, things start getting complicated — especially when Baxter’s big boss, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), takes notice and wants to start using the apartment himself.  Meanwhile Baxter finds himself climbing nicely up the corporate ladder, and also takes a liking to sweet elevator operator Miss Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). When Baxter finds out that Fran is Sheldrake’s girlfriend — it makes for sticky situations, romantic problems and more serious trouble (that shall remain nameless) — and ultimately Baxter must decide between his integrity and his career. The on-screen chemistry between Lemmon and MacLaine is great to watch as they’re both extremely quick with their deliveries and are just terrific when they’re together. MacMurray is pitch-perfect, playing against type, as the cheating, low-life Sheldrake. Jack Kruschen, who plays Dr. Dreyfuss, is the doctor-neighbor who mistakenly thinks Baxter is a ladies’ man and advises Baxter to “Be a mensch!” (human being). Ray Walston and David Lewis are amusing as slightly sordid office wolves. Kruschen was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, while Lemmon and MacLaine were nominated for Best Actor and Actress respectively. The Apartment would end up being a critical and a financial success, grossing $25 million at the box office. Wilder would go on to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay (co-written with longtime collaborator I.A.L. Diamond), joining an elite ‘club’ that consists of only four others (Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather Part II, James L. Brooks for Terms of Endearment, Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men.)  The Apartment would also end up being the last completely black-and-white film to win Best Picture (which actually could change this year…wow.)  I would also like to say one more thing before I close: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was nominated for four Oscars this year, winning none. If Psycho would have won for Best Picture (which it was not nominated for), then Psycho would have been the #2 film on my countdown.

Nominated for 10 Oscars, Winner of 5
Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black-and-White – Alexandre Trauner, Edward G. Boyle (WON)
Best Director – Billy Wilder (WON)
Best Film Editing – Daniel Mandell (WON)
Best Picture – Billy Wilder (WON)
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen – Billy Wilder, I.A.L Diamond (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Jack Lemmon
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Jack Kruschen
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Shirley MacLaine
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White – Joseph LaShelle

C.C. Baxter: Ya know, I used to live like Robinson Crusoe; I mean, shipwrecked among 8 million people. And then one day I saw a footprint in the sand, and there you were.

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28. The Lost Weekend (1945)

Other Nominated Films:
Anchors Aweigh, The Bells of St. Mary’s, Mildred Pierce, Spellbound

The Lost Weekend is an extremely tough film to watch since it’s extremely accurate in its portrayal of the disease known as alcoholism. The Lost Weekend is a haunting film, and it’s so well done by Billy Wilder that you can’t take your eyes off of the screen. The film focuses on the struggles of Don Birnam (Ray Milland), who is an alcoholic New York writer. We’re brought into this man’s life at his most vulnerable point, when he is desperate for a drink and must escape the watchful eyes of his girlfriend and brother — and it’s terrifying for us to experience his torment and degradation. We follow Don for four days as he gives in to his alcoholic urges by stealing money, pawning his possessions, and borrowing money from a woman who he lied to earlier in the film. Ray Milland is truly amazing in his role and is a well deserving recipient of the Best Actor Oscar. Milland brought a realistic element to the role which is the only way a movie like this would work. It should be noted that the “character walking toward the camera as neon signs pass by” camera effect was made famous by this movie. The Lost Weekend would go on to win four Oscars, one being the Best Director Oscar that Wilder should have won for Double Indemnity.

Nominated for 7 Oscars, Winner of 4
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Ray Milland (WON)
Best Director – Billy Wilder (WON)
Best Picture – Paramount (WON)
Best Writing, Screenplay – Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder (WON)
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White – John F. Seitz
Best Film Editing – Doane Harrison
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic of Comedy Picture – Miklós Rózsa

Nat: One’s too many an’ a hundred’s not enough.


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32. Tom Jones (1963)

Other Nominated Films:
America America, Cleopatra, How The West Was Won, Lilies of the Field

There hasn’t been a comedy quite like Tom Jones in a very long time, which is unfortunate since it’s such a unique film in so many ways. When I first watched the film, I actually thought it was a throwback to the silent classics since the entire opening sequence is performed with no sound at all. What also makes this comedy different is the fact that the characters in the film break the fourth wall. A lot. There’s even a moment where Tom Jones (Albert Finney) notices the camera and covers the lens with his hat. I previously saw Finney in films such as Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Big Fish, and Miller’s Crossing, but this is the best Albert Finney film I’ve seen so far (doesn’t say all that much since I’ve seen very few.) Playing the title character with great flair, Jones is a dashing young man with a heart of gold, which makes him the perfect love-’em-and-leave-’em lady charmer. Finney was nominated for the Best Actor award for this role, but didn’t come out the winner. In fact, this film had five Oscar nominations in the acting categories: Best Actor (Albert Finney), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith), and Best Supporting Actress (Diane Cilento, Dame Edith Evans, and Joyce Redman.) Tom Jones is the only film in the history of the Academy in which three actresses were nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, which makes it all the more shocking to see that none of them won the award. If you’re a fan of comedy films, then Tom Jones is a must-see.

Nominated for 10 Oscars, Winner of 4
Best Director – Tony Richardson (WON)
Best Music, Score – Substantially Original – John Addison (WON)
Best Picture – Tony Richardson (WON)
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium – John Osborne (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Albert Finney
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Hugh Griffith
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Diane Cilento
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Edith Evans
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Joyce Redman
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color – Ralph W. Brinton, Ted Marshall, Jocelyn Herbert, Josie MacAvin

Tom Jones: [Drunkenly shouting the news of Mr. Allworthy’s miraculous recovery from his carriage accident] Mr. Allworthy has recovered! It’s over! The fever’s gone! He’s sitting up. He’s well again! The Squire’s recovered! It’s over!
Narrator: It’s not true that drink changes a man’s character. It can reveal it more clearly. The Squire’s recovery brought joy to Tom, to his tutors, sheer disappointment.


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