Billy Wilder Biography

Billy Wilder photo

Born: June 22, 1906


Date of Birth: June 22, 1906

Originally a reporter in Vienna, Billy Wilder moved to Berlin where in 1929 he broke into filmmaking as a screenwriter. He was a prolific and successful writer, but when Hitler came into power in Germany in 1933, Wilder, who was a Jew, felt it wise to leave. He went to France, where he wrote and directed a film before emigrating to the United States through Mexico. He found out later that during WWII, his mother and stepfather died at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz under Hitler's regime.

Wilder quickly learned English and through friends such as actor Peter Lorre, he broke into American films in 1935 as a screenwriter and directed his first Hollywood picture in 1942 -- The Major and the Minor, starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland. In 1946, Wilder won Oscars for Best Director as well as for Best Screenplay for The Lost Weekend, again starring Milland (who won a Best Actor Oscar). He won a third Oscar in 1951 for his Sunset Blvd. screenplay, then won three more in 1961 for The Apartment. He directed Marilyn Monroe twice: in The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like it Hot (1959), but he didn't enjoy the experience, saying, "Hollywood didn't kill Marilyn Monroe, it's the Marilyn Monroes who are killing Hollywood." He refused to work with her after that, saying that he was too old and rich to put himself through it again.

After directing his last film, Buddy, Buddy (1981) starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, he retired. Wilder has been honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the American Film Institute, the German Film Awards, the European Film Awards, the Directors Guild of America and the PGA Golden Laurel Awards. In 1988, he was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award at the Academy Awards and he has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Married twice, his first marriage lasted 10 years and produced a daughter, Victoria. He met his second wife Audrey while filming The Lost Weekend, and they were married from 1949 until his death from pneumonia in 2002.

Filmography (director):

Buddy Buddy (1981)
Fedora (1978)
The Front Page (1974)
Avanti! (1972)
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
The Fortune Cookie (1966)
Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)
Irma la Douce(1963)
One, Two, Three(1961)
The Apartment(1960)
Some Like It Hot(1959)
Witness for the Prosecution(1957)
Love in the Afternoon (1957)
The Spirit of St. Louis (1957)
The Seven Year Itch(1955)
Stalag 17(1953)
Ace in the Hole(1951)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
A Foreign Affair (1948)
The Emperor Waltz (1948)
Death Mills (1945)
The Lost Weekend(1945)
Double Indemnity(1944)
Five Graves to Cairo (1943)
The Major and the Minor(1942)
Mauvaise graine (1934)

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