Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder

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Although his career spanned fifty years and included more than fifty films, Austrian-American film director Billy Wilder (1906—2002) may be best known for the legendary shot of Marilyn Monroe's dress billowing over a subway grating in The Seven Year Itch (1955). This "shot seen round the world" is representative not only of Hollywood's golden era of cinema but also of one of its most prolific and brilliant directors. Wilder, whose filmography includes such classics as Sunset Boulevard (1950), Sabrina (1954), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and Some Like It Hot (1959), is often remembered for his versatility, biting wit, and passion for challenging social and moral conventions.

Author Gene D. Phillips departs from the traditional biography in Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder, offering new insights into the acclaimed director's professional and private life. In preparation for the book, Phillips conducted personal interviews with Wilder and other key players from the legendary director's life and times. Phillips's unique combination of analysis and biographical detail brings Wilder to life, as both an artist and man.

Phillips traces Wilder's path from Berlin, where he worked as a scriptwriter for one of the city's largest studios, to Hollywood, where he would quickly establish himself as a premier film director. Forming a partnership with writer-producer Charles Brackett, Wilder directed the classic films Five Graves to Cairo (1943), Double Indemnity (1945), and The Lost Weekend (1945), which earned Academy Awards for best picture, best director, and best screenplay. During the 1960s, Wilder continued to direct and produce controversial comedies, including Kiss Me Stupid (1964) and The Apartment (1960). The Apartment brought Wilder another round of Oscars for best picture, best director, and best screenplay.

Wilder's maverick approach and independent artistic vision pushed boundaries and ensured his legacy as one of the Hollywood greats. Sharply written, Some Like It Wilder serves as a comprehensive companion to Wilder's films, offering a personalized and heartfelt account of the life and genius of this compelling director.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Wilder often clashed with the strict production codes and national conservatism in order to present lively characters and plots that were out of the ordinary. He left behind a rich legacy and the reputation for being a master at his craft." — Vincent LoBrutto, author of Martin Scorsese: A Biography

"Phillips, who interviewed Wilder several times, has mastered the voluminous correspondence between Wilder and his antagonists and collaborators, which reveals a hidden history of studio filmmaking that often contradicts the myths." — DGA Quarterly

" Some Like it Wilder is an absolute must for any fan of film history or for film history collections in general." — Wisconsin Bookwatch

"[Phillips] tells the story of this iconic filmmaker's journey from being a writer who escaped Nazi controlled Germany to becoming an Academy award-winning director." —

"Wilder's life story, told before, is very usefully updated here. Recommended." — Choice

"Featuring Gene D. Phillips' unique, in-depth critical approach, Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder provides a groundbreaking overview of a filmmaking icon.... This definitive biography reveals that Wilder was, and remains, one of the most influential directors in filmmaking" — Turner Classic Movies

"The real trick is to keep the narrative interesting, and Father Phillips is certainly up to the task, so much so that his book has recently been touted on the America Movie Classics cable television network — surely a promotional coup for the University Press of Kentucky. Wilder's life story told many times before is here usefully updated." — J.M. Welsh, Literature/Film Quarterly

" Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder paints both a comprehensive and affectionate portrait of Wilder.... The work remains and speaks for itself, but this book will give anyone interested in Wilder a fresh insight into how it got made." — Pretty Clever Films

Library Journal
In a typical "life and works" fashion, Phillips (Beyond the Epic: The Life & Films of David Lean; Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir) begins with biographical information about filmmaker Billy Wilder's humble beginnings in Austria, his move to Berlin, and his eventual flight from the Nazis to the United States. Phillips intertwines Wilder's life story, drawn from archival records and his interviews with Wilder, with his films (e.g., Sunset Boulevard; Sabrina; Some Like It Hot), providing a plot synopsis, quotes, anecdotes, and mildly interesting trivia for each film. VERDICT Charlotte Chandler's Nobody's Perfect: Billy Wilder; A Personal Biography and Kevin Lally's Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder discuss the same films and basic information Phillips compiled for this uninspired addition to Billy Wilder tributes. Not an essential purchase.—Rosalind Dayen, South Regional Lib., Broward Cty., FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813125701
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 7/30/2010
  • Series: Screen Classics
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Gene D. Phillips is author of Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir and Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola.

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Table of Contents

Foreword: Fred Zinnemann Speaking

1 From Berlin to Hollywood: The Early Screenplays 1

2 Champagne and Tears: Ninotchka, Midnight, and Ball of Fire 19

3 New Directions: The Major and the Minor and Five Graves to Cairo 33

4 The Rise of Film Noir: Double Indemnity 53

5 Through a Glass Daddy: The Lost Weekend and Die Todesmuhlen 71

6 Wunderbar: The Emperor Waltz and A Foreign Affair 89

7 Dark Windows: Sunset Boulevard 109

8 Barbed Wire Satire: Ace in the Hole and Stalag 17 129

9 Fascination: Sabrina and The Seven Year Itch 153

10 Light Up the Sky: The Spirit of St. Louis and Love in the Afternoon 177

11 Remains to Be Seen: Witness for the Prosecution 197

12 The Gang's All Here: Some Like It Hot 211

13 Love on the Dole: The Apartment 231

14 Love on the Run: One, Two, Three and Irma la Douce 247

15 Grifters: Kiss Me, Stupid and The Fortune Cookie 269

16 The Game's Afoot: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes 293

17 The Perfect Blendship: The Front Page and Avanti! 307

18 Twilight Years: Fedora and Buddy Buddy 323

Epilogue: A Touch of Class 341

Filmography 347

Notes 367

Selected Bibliography 409

Index 417

Illustrations follow page 162

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 24, 2010

    Highly recommended - one of the best Hollywood bios I have read

    The author actually gives you information, anecdotes, etc. obtained directly from the subject (Billy Wilder, one of the greatest directors/writers in the history of Hollywood) as well as actors, friends and co-workers. Many bios just have purported information and not much of those items are even things that you may not know. Since he primarily breaks down Mr. Wilder's life into chapters dealing with his actual films, the pace is quick and organized, as well as a joy to read. My M.O. is to read a book from the library and purchase it if I really like it enough to read again from my own personal library. This is one such book that passes that test and I highly recommend it.

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