Billy Wilder – The Apartment (1960)

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Quote:
Immediately following the success of Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond wished to make another film with Jack Lemmon. Wilder had originally planned to cast Paul Douglas as Jeff Sheldrake; however, after he died unexpectedly, Fred MacMurray was cast.

The initial concept for the film came from Brief Encounter by Noël Coward, in which Celia Johnson has an affair with Trevor Howard in his friend’s apartment. However, due to the Hays Production Code, Wilder was unable to make a film about adultery in the 1940s. Wilder and Diamond also based the film partially on a Hollywood scandal in which high-powered agent Jennings Lang was shot by producer Walter Wanger for having an affair with Wanger’s wife, actress Joan Bennett. During the affair, Lang used a low-level employee’s apartment. Another element of the plot was based on the experience of one of Diamond’s friends, who returned home after breaking up with his girlfriend to find that she had committed suicide in his bed. Continue reading

Billy Wilder – The Fortune Cookie (1966)

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Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The British title of Billy Wilder’s classic comedy was Meet Whiplash Willie — for, despite Jack Lemmon’s star billing, the movie’s driving force is Oscar-winning Walter Matthau as gloriously underhanded lawyer “Whiplash” Willie Gingrich. CBS cameraman Harry Hinkle (Lemmon) is injured when he is accidentally bulldozed by football player Luther “Boom Boom” Jackson (Ron Rich) during a Cleveland Browns game. Willie, Harry’s brother-in-law, foresees an insurance-settlement bonanza, and he convinces Harry to pretend to be incapacitated by the accident. To insure his client’s cooperation, Willie arranges for Harry’s covetous ex-wife Sandy (Judi West) to feign a rekindling of their romance. Harry’s conscience is plagued by the solicitous behavior of Boom Boom, who is so devastated at causing Harry’s injury that he insists on waiting on the “cripple” hand and foot. Meanwhile, dishevelled private eye Purkey (Cliff Osmond) keeps Harry under constant surveillance, hoping to catch him moving around so the insurance company can avoid shelling out a fortune. Wilder and usual co-writer I.A.L. Diamond were at their most jaundiced and cynical here, even if, after a sardonic semiclimax, the last ten minutes succumb to the sentimentality that often marred Wilder’s later movies. Continue reading

Billy Wilder – Fedora (1978)

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Synopsis:
‘The former successful and famous Polish actress Fedora commits suicide at the Mortcerf Station, jumping off in front of a train. The broken Hollywood producer Barry ‘Dutch’ Detweiler attends the funeral at her house in Paris and recalls that he might have caused her death. Two weeks ago, Dutch traveled to Greece Island of Corfu seeking Fedora out in the Vila Calypso, located in an isolated island owned by the bitter Countess Sobryanski. Fedora has been living an unsocial reclusive life for the last years in the villa with the countess, the plastic surgeon Doctor Vando and her assistant Miss Balfour, since she abandoned the set of a film that she was shooting in London with Michael York. Dutch brings the screenplay with a version of “Anna Karenina” to offer to Fedora, with the promise that investors would finance the film if Fedora accepts the lead role. Fedora, who is impressively young, is receptive to the offer, but the countess and the doctor tell that she is mentally unstable and can not act again…’
– Claudio Carvalho Continue reading

Billy Wilder – Double Indemnity (1944)

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In 1938, Walter Neff, an experienced salesman of the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co., meets the seductive wife of one of his clients, Phyllis Dietrichson, and they have an affair. Phyllis proposes to kill her husband to receive the proceeds of an accident insurance policy and Walter devises a scheme to receive twice the amount based on a double indemnity clause. When Mr. Dietrichson is found dead on a train-track, the police accept the determination of accidental death. However, the insurance analyst and Walter’s best friend Barton Keyes does not buy the story and suspects that Phyllis has murdered her husband with the help of another man. Continue reading

Billy Wilder – The Lost Weekend (1945)

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Don Birnam, long-time alcoholic, has been “on the wagon” for ten days and seems to be over the worst; but his craving has just become more insidious. Evading a country weekend planned by his brother Wick and girlfriend Helen, he begins a four-day bender. In flashbacks we see past events, all gone wrong because of the bottle. But this bout looks like being his last…one way or the other.

Fifty-six years have seen many advances in the level of realism portrayed on film, but it is safe to say that The Lost Weekend remains the benchmark against which all other films on alcoholism are measured. Its view is uncompromising yet it manages to present that view in a manner that does not require resorting to tasteless violence or nihilism to make its point (unlike, for example, a more recent film such as Leaving Las Vegas [1995], well-acted as it may be). The film’s realism is enhanced by extensive location shooting in New York, somewhat of a rarity for the time. Continue reading

Billy Wilder – The Apartment [+Commentary] (1960)

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The Apartment is a 1960 American comedy-drama film produced and directed by Billy Wilder, which stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray. It was Wilder’s next movie after Some Like It Hot and, like its predecessor, a commercial and critical smash, grossing $25 million at the box office. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, and won five, including Best Picture. The film was the basis of the 1968 Broadway musical Promises, Promises, with book by Neil Simon, music by Burt Bacharach, and lyrics by Hal David.

Synopsis:
A man tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue. Continue reading