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William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Director
     

William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Director

by Gabriel Miller
 

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During his forty-five-year career, William Wyler (1902-1981) pushed the boundaries of filmmaking with his gripping storylines and innovative depth-of-field cinematography. With a body of work that includes such memorable classics as Jezebel (1938), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Ben-Hur (1959), and Funny Girl (1968), Wyler is the most nominated director in the history of the

Overview

During his forty-five-year career, William Wyler (1902-1981) pushed the boundaries of filmmaking with his gripping storylines and innovative depth-of-field cinematography. With a body of work that includes such memorable classics as Jezebel (1938), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Ben-Hur (1959), and Funny Girl (1968), Wyler is the most nominated director in the history of the Academy Awards and bears the distinction of having won an Oscar for Best Director on three occasions. Both Bette Davis and Lillian Hellman considered him America's finest director, and Sir Laurence Olivier said he learned more about film acting from Wyler than from anyone else.

In William Wyler, Gabriel Miller explores the career of one of Hollywood's most unique and influential directors, examining the evolution of his cinematic style. Wyler's films feature nuanced shots and multifaceted narratives that reflect his preoccupation with realism and story construction. The director's later works were deeply influenced by his time in the army air force during World War II, and the disconnect between the idealized version of the postwar experience and reality became a central theme of Wyler's masterpiece, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).

None of Wyler's contemporaries approached his scope: he made successful and seminal films in practically every genre, including social drama, melodrama, and comedy. Yet, despite overwhelming critical acclaim and popularity, Wyler's work has never been extensively studied. This long-overdue book offers a comprehensive assessment of the director, his work, and his films' influence.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

""This book does a very thorough job of analyzing Wyler's films and provides incisive insights into what may have been the director's intentions as he crafted scripts, composed images, and edited film. A very enlightening study of Wyler." -- Tom Matthews, screenwriter for Mad City and author of Like We Care" --

""With his commanding knowledge of film history, meticulous research and deeply insightful analysis, Gabriel Miller makes a powerful case for declaring Wyler one of our two or three greatest film directors and reminds us that this great artist's unprecedented versatility was a virtue and not a vice."--James Verniere, The Boston Herald and the National Society of Film Critics" --

"There is a lot to enjoy in William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Director. ... If you want a crash course in Wyler, from a filmmaking standpoint, pick up a copy." -- Journeys in Classic Film

"Miller's great accomplishment is identifying Wyler's worldview as social conscience coupled with skepticism over the value of pacifism." -- Shepherd Express Milwaukee

"In this detailed survey of Wyler's work, Miller does a credible job of supporting his argument that Wyler "most certainly belongs in the company of the most accomplished and distinguished of American directors."" -- History News Network

"Miller gives Wyler's style the depth it truly deserves, discussing the director's use of deep-focus photography (years before Orson Welles famously used it on Citizen Kane) and his careful compositions. He also touches on Wyler's work with actors, which was often fiery. Wyler was a perfectionist who knew exactly what he wanted; unfortunately he could be maddeningly inarticulate when it came to telling his performers just what that was. --Star-Ledger" -- Nj.com

"For the true movie lover, the only pleasure that can come close to matching that of steeping oneself, Norma Desmond-like, in the flickering images of a great movie is wallowing a long, exhaustive, in-depth biography of a beloved filmmaker. And in terms of all the things that matter - research, organization, access, industry and adulation - William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Directory by Gabriel Miller hits the mark." -- New York Journal of Books

"Miller's writing style is fluid and accessible, even when he delves into seriously technical material, and his respect and admiration for Wyler comes through loud and clear on every page. Baffingly little known today among moviegoers, Wyler was a giant of American film, and, upon its publication, this book instantly becomes an essential addition to any film collection." -- David Pitt, Booklist

"This is the best study of Wyler we have. A welcome addition to the literature of filmmaking." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Miller shows how much still can be done with Wyler's long, illustrious career, and his book is easily the most comprehensive and insightful of the lot.... Absolutely accurate and rich with detail.... Miller's book brings Wyler's work alive for contemporary audiences." -- Choice

"The narrative of this insightful work is biographical -- albeit deeply craft-oriented -- and Miller is at his best when he dedicates himself to examining the artistry of Wyler's direction. Wyler's life provides the framework for Miller to explore the director's exhaustive canon in intricate detail, with frame-by-frame analysis. The text is fluid and accessible, even when delving into technical matters. Miller ably examines the elements that made Wyler's films so powerful: his signature deep focus photography, sense of time and space, and humanist subject matter. Miller makes a strong case that when it comes to conveying ideas visually, Wyler is amaster strategist.

[...] This is a passionate book about a passionate director whose craft -- and yes,artistry -- lives in the enduring popularity of his films." -- DGA Quarterly

Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
Comprehensive biography of the pioneering Hollywood director, whose oeuvre included such diverse films as Wuthering Heights (1939), Mrs. Miniver (1942) and Funny Girl (1968). Wyler, writes film historian Miller (English/Rutgers Univ.; editor: William Wyler: Interviews, 2010, etc.), made numerous contributions to filmmaking, including the development of techniques of depth-of-field cinematography that are still studied and used today, to say nothing of crafting superb yarns in words and images. Yet, since his work dwindled in his later years and included some dogs (The Liberation of L.B. Jones) and puzzling near-dogs (The Collector), Wyler's contributions, Miller suggests, may be undervalued. Wyler himself, writes the author, jokingly said that he was no auteur, "although I'm one of the few American directors who can pronounce the word correctly." Yet he left a personal stamp on his films, and he even managed to sneak in a political message or two into films such as Ben-Hur in the face of repression at home, courtesy of the House Un-American Activities Committee and the blacklist. Wyler may be in eclipse today, but in his day, he was "considered a preeminent director by his peers," including Billy Wilder, who thought that the opening scenes of The Best Years of Our Lives were "the most moving he had ever seen." And Wyler made films that earned 38 Oscars and 127 nominations--no small achievement. Miller sometimes strikes overly academic notes ("The attitudes and ideologies that were taking root in the 1930s had their basis in the criticisms of American capitalism arising in the previous decade"), but for the moment, this is the best study of Wyler that we have. A welcome addition to the literature of filmmaking.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813142098
Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
Publication date:
08/04/2013
Series:
Screen Classics
Pages:
483
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Gabriel Miller, professor of English at Rutgers University, is the author or editor of numerous books, including The Films of Martin Ritt: Fanfare for the Common Man, Clifford Odets, and William Wyler: Interviews.

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