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|Birthplace||Sucha, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (present-day Sucha Beskidzka, Poland)|
Film director, producer and screenwriter
Wilder, Billy,1906–2002, American film director, producer, and writer, b. Sucha, Galicia (now Poland) as Samuel Wilder. He wrote for films in Berlin, fled the Nazis, and arrived in Hollywood in 1934. After writing various screenplays, he directed his first film in 1942, and soon developed a reputation as a witty and harshly sardonic critic of American mores. At first he mixed dramas and comedies, later concentrating on satire, and his 25 films represent many styles, approaches, and themes. His The Lost Weekend (1945), an unsparing study of alcoholism, won Academy Awards for direction, production, and screenplay; Sunset Boulevard (1950), an acidic look at Hollywood, won another for best screenplay; and The Apartment (1960), a morally ambiguous modern tale, again won him three Oscars. Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959) is one of the finest comic films ever made. His other films include Double Indemnity (1944), Stalag 17 (1953), Sabrina (1954), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Fedora (1979), and Buddy Buddy (1981).
See C. Crowe, Conversations with Wilder (1999); biographies by M. Zolotow (1977), E. Sikov (1998), K. Lally (1999), and C. Chandler (2002); studies by A. Madsen (1969) and T. Wood (1970).
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Wilder, Billy (b. Samuel Wilder)(1906– ) film director, screenwriter, producer; born in Vienna, Austria. After a time as a law student at the University of Vienna, he turned to newspaper work in Vienna and then in Berlin. He began his film career as the cowriter of Menschen am Sonntag (1929). Fleeing Hitler in 1933, he went to France, then to America, working on movie scripts with Charles Brackett. An American citizen from 1934, he made his Hollywood directorial debut with The Major and the Minor (1942), which he also cowrote. He became a specialist in cowriting and directing incisive dramas, acerbic comedies, and bittersweet romances, then later turned to farce. In the late 1950s he became his own producer. His Academy Awards came with The Lost Weekend (1945, for director and screenwriter), Sunset Boulevard (1950, screenwriter), and The Apartment (1960, director and screenwriter).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.