Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder was born in 1906 in what is now Poland. He came to America in 1934 to work on a screenplay for a film that would never be made. Not surprising, since Billy barely spoke English. Forced to leave the country since he didn’t have a job, he went to the border town of Mexicali, where after sweet talking a consular official, he was readmitted to the United States as a resident alien. He went on to write and direct some of the most intelligent and funny films ever made in Hollywood. A short list of highlights:

He was wonderfully direct and unpretentious. On the subject of “arty” European films: “I could clean up in the film festivals if I took $25,000 and made a picture about the sex life of fishermen in Sardinia—as long as it had a certain morbid message and was slightly out of focus.” I’ll miss Billy Wilder, even though he hadn’t made a film for many years. He was sharp-witted until the end. I’m disappointed that he wasn’t dragged into a recording booth over the past few years and made to record commentaries on all of his films that have been released on DVD. I received a biography of Wilder for Christmas that I’m currently reading. It’s called On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder. And I just discovered there’s another book, called Conversations with Wilder, by Cameron Crowe. Do yourself a favour and rent one of Billy Wilder’s films this weekend.