Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder – Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Quote:
One of Wilder’s finest, and certainly the blackest of all Hollywood’s scab-scratching accounts of itself, this establishes its relentless acidity in the opening scene by having the story related by a corpse floating face-down in a Hollywood swimming-pool. What follows in flashback is a tale of humiliation, exploitation, and dashed dreams, as a feckless, bankrupt screenwriter (Holden) pulls into a crumbling mansion in search of refuge from his creditors, and becomes inextricably entangled in the possessive web woven by a faded star of the silents (Swanson), who is high on hopes of a comeback and heading for outright insanity. Read More »

Billy Wilder – Ace in the Hole (1951)

Review:
All Movie
A movie truly ahead of its time, Ace in the Hole (also known as The Big Carnival) turned out to be too bitter and cynical for moviegoers in 1951. An unrelenting portrait of media sensationalism and the human obsession with tragedy that propels it, the film is based on a true story that also spawned Robert Penn Warren’s novel The Cave. Director, screenwriter, and producer Billy Wilder suffered perhaps the biggest commercial and critical failure of his career with Ace, losing much of his standing at Paramount, even though the movie was released between two of his most enduring and popular triumphs, Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Stalag 17 (1953). Ace was perhaps not up to the standard of those works, but it clearly stands as one of Wilder’s many achievements. It’s hardly surprising that this film failed to find a mainstream audience, despite the added attraction of emerging star Kirk Douglas in the lead. American culture wouldn’t be ready for such a large dose of pessimism until the 1970s; even then, a film such as 1976’s Network, which clearly paralleled the tone of Wilder’s effort, was dismissed by many viewers as too hysterical. – Brendon Hanley Read More »

Billy Wilder – Some Like It Hot [+Extras] (1959)

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Plot Outline:
Two Chicago musicians are accidental witnesses to a gangland massacre and suddenly find themselves in even more urgent need of a job that will take them out of town for a while. Joe (Tony Curtis) is the smooth talker, and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) is the worrier. But both find themselves out of their depth with the disguise they have to adopt to avoid the mob – two new recruits to an all-girl jazz band.

As “Josephine” and “Daphne” the boys have to avoid detection and stay out of trouble. Not easy when “Josephine” falls for “Sugar” (Marilyn Monroe) who is the singer in the band, and “Daphne” is targetted by an aged playboy (Joe E. Brown).

Life gets really complicated when Joe adopts another male persona to seduce “Sugar”, and the Chicago mobs turn up for their convention at the hotel where our heroes are playing. Read More »

Billy Wilder – Double Indemnity (1944)

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Quote:
Billy Wilder only made one proper film noir, but it was a doozy: Double Indemnity is one of the most unrelentingly cynical films the genre produced, with a pair of career-changing performances from Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray and a script by Wilder and Raymond Chandler every bit as black-hearted as James M. Cain’s novel Three of a Kind, on which the film was based. The idiosyncratically attractive Stanwyck, generally thought of as pretty but hardly a bombshell, was rarely as sexy as she was as Phyllis Dietrichson, and never as sleazy; Phyllis knows how to use her allure to twist men around her little finger, and from the moment Walter Neff lays eyes on her, he’s taken a sharp turn down the Wrong Path, as Phyllis oozes erotic attraction at its least wholesome. Read More »

Billy Wilder – Sabrina (1954)

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Quote:
A Cinderella tale of the very best kind, Sabrina is a powerhouse of talent. Under Billy Wilder’s direction, Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden bring alive a wonderful love story full of comedy and drama that continues to surprise and delight with its unexpected turns. This new Centennial Collection release appears to not just add a bunch of new extras, but it also looks like the film image has gotten a second scrubbing. Well worth an upgrade. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »