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The Billy Wilder thread
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TOPIC: The Billy Wilder thread

posted 30-11-2012 14:17
Possible nil thread as there's no angle to it. I just love thinking about BW's movies. Looking at this list from Wikipedia:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Billy_Wilder_films

I am surprised by how few of them (six) I've actually seen, which is good because of all the pleasures to come (subject to the availability of Region 2/region-free DVD releases, my not meeting an untimely death etc.).

The Apartment has been my favourite film ever full stop ever since I first saw it over 30 years ago, so much as I love Some Like it Hot I depart from the consensus which sees that appear highest-ranked of his works on critics' lists. In fact I reckon Double Indemnity edges SLIH.

One Two Three looks intriguing. Never heard of it before today, but I think it's going on my Christmas list.

All Wilder-related opinions and factoids welcome!
  • MsD
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posted 30-11-2012 14:28
I've seen 6 of them several times and love them, others I may have seen but not made a huge impression (as likely down to my inattention as anything).

Favourites The Apartment, DI, SLIH, and Sunset Boulevard. Also love Seven Year Itch and Witness for the Prosecution.
Last Edit: 30-11-2012 14:29:34 by MsD. Reason: Freudian SLIT
posted 30-11-2012 14:30
I remember when One Two Three was shown on telly back in the mid-nineties, the NME actually flagged it up as something to watch. I saw bits of it, (it was clashing with something else) but I've always wanted to see it all the way through.
posted 30-11-2012 14:41
For my sins, I've not seen either The Apartment OR Sunset Boulevard, but have them lined up ready in my waiting to watch over Christmas list.

I watched Ace In The Hole recently after an article was bigging it up as better than Some Like It Hot. It's certainly not, although it has plenty of character and worth a punt for all those who are interested, not so much comedy as social commentary. The Fortune Cookie is a decent little early Matthau/Lemon comedy (it says their first together on Wiki), which is well worth a punt.

Wilder's body of work still demands attention and resonates down the years. His dialogue is so sparky and sassy. The man certainly was an auteur.
  • Amor de Cosmos
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posted 30-11-2012 17:10
Remarkably (to me) it turns out there are only four films of Wilder's I haven't seen.

His classic comedies ahould be required viewing of course, but the noir-flavoured stuff is brilliant too. Many would claim Double indemnity to be his finest film. Brilliantly paced, beautifully acted. Who can forget Barbara Stanwyck's intro, just a pair of legs walking downstairs. Without a word, or showing her face, Wilder conveys everything you need to know about her character. I think Ace in the Hole is also well worth watching, — it's not a comedy, more a resonant portrayal of desperation — probably more relevant in today's media drenched world than it was on its release.


I remember when One Two Three was shown on telly back in the mid-nineties, the NME actually flagged it up as something to watch. I saw bits of it, (it was clashing with something else) but I've always wanted to see it all the way through.


Do. It's interesting for all kinds of reasons, not least that it marked Wilder's return to Berlin. Even though it's a Hollywood production, and the comedy is occasionally OTT, it shows a knowledge and understanding of the city that could only have come from someone who knows it intimately.
Last Edit: 30-11-2012 17:20:08 by Amor de Cosmos.
posted 30-11-2012 22:32
Ah, Billy Wilder. I love the man.And don't forget his Hal David, I.A.L. Diamond

Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard are essential films in any film catalogue.

It is amazing how the utterly lazy pay-off line in Some Like It Hot is also one of the greatest. It's Billy Wilder in a nutshell — a filmmaker who could turn shit into gold, and gold into..something greater than gold.

Ace In The Hole is one of his more annoyingly incomplete movies, in as far as there is something missing. Still, it includes one if my favourite movie quotes. From memory, it's the wife of the trapped man to Kirk Douglas and it goes something like this: "I've met many hard-boiled eggs in my time, but you... you are twenty minutes." What a delicious line.
posted 01-12-2012 01:31
Och, I always liked Billy Wilder but never got the adulation. He’s like the movie version of Stevie Wonder. That said, The Lost Weekend is just simply genius/fantastic.
posted 01-12-2012 17:31
Err, in what way exactly is he like the movie version of Stevie Wonder? I suppose it would be fair to say Wilder's films are "in the key of life". or even that he had some great inner visions. On the other hand, I'm not aware that any of his work has been comparable to "I just called..."

Yes, AdC, that scene where Mrs Dietrichsen appears for the first time is brilliant. And thanks for the confirmation that One Two Three is a good choice for the list I'm doing for Santa.

G-Man, great line, agreed. Although The Apartment is still my favourite line-wise, motif-wise and otherwise-wise.
posted 01-12-2012 17:39
I haven't thought ths through, but if I was ever forced to choose a Desert Island director's box set, Wilder might be at the top of the list.
  • Amor de Cosmos
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posted 01-12-2012 17:46
A year or so back The Believer gave away a copy of 1930's People on Sunday with it's annual film issue. It's fascinating

Billy Wilder did the screenplay, Robert Siodmak directed, and Fred Zinnemann was the assistant photographer, all were in their 20s and would be in Hollywood in a few years. It's absolutely worth seeing.

Here's my post after first viewing:

Not exactly a documentary — there's the thinnest of narratives — but the actors are all non-professional and the co-stars are the streets and parks of Weimar Berlin through which, over a single summer weekend, a group of young working people basically hang-out. They organise a picnic, go swimming, have casual sex, laugh, argue and, finally, go their separate ways after agreeing to meet again. And that's about it. But it's a fascinating, almost cinema verité, look at a time and place that's will shortly vanish. "Wolf, how about next Sunday?" Brigitte asks at the film's conclusion. Sure, we think, but it's 1930 and there won't be many more Sundays like this for either of them.
posted 01-12-2012 18:41
Evariste Euler Gauss wrote:
Err, in what way exactly is he like the movie version of Stevie Wonder? I suppose it would be fair to say Wilder's films are "in the key of life". or even that he had some great inner visions. On the other hand, I'm not aware that any of his work has been comparable to "I just called..."

Yes, AdC, that scene where Mrs Dietrichsen appears for the first time is brilliant. And thanks for the confirmation that One Two Three is a good choice for the list I'm doing for Santa.

G-Man, great line, agreed. Although The Apartment is still my favourite line-wise, motif-wise and otherwise-wise.


What I meant was that a lot of people site them as an influence, but it always tends to be the same three albums/films. I also think what they inspired was better than what they created themselves. That said, nice punnery.
  • Amor de Cosmos
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posted 01-12-2012 19:24
Discussions about most directors tend to devolve to a handful of their films though.

What strikes me about that list of Wilder's American work is how consistent in quality it is. I mean even the best make a few stinkers in their careers — Welles, Hitchcock, Fellini all did — but I'd have real trouble picking any out in Wilder's case.
posted 01-12-2012 20:21
What rerally impresses me about Wilder is about American he was, considering he had come from Europe only in the 1930s. He had the advantage of keen observation as somebody coming from the outside, of course, but he spoke the cultural language so effortlessly.
posted 01-12-2012 20:53
G-Man wrote:
What rerally impresses me about Wilder is about American he was, considering he had come from Europe only in the 1930s. He had the advantage of keen observation as somebody coming from the outside, of course, but he spoke the cultural language so effortlessly.


Ditto Fritz Lang.
posted 04-12-2012 08:29
I recently read a biography of the producer Sam Spiegel, another who made his way from the Austro-Hungarian empire to Hollywood. It seems a lot of the emigres used to hang out together, partly because of a shared mania for card games but presumably because of their common culture and experiences too. Wilder managed to remain on good terms with the compulsively dishonest Spiegel by never working with him and by avoiding any other financial involvement where a return might be expected.
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