‘Some Like It Wilder’ a scholarly, entertaining story of filmmaker’s life, career
Billy Wilder, along with Preston Sturges, was among Hollywood’s first “hyphenates,” a screenwriter who in the highly stratified studio system of the 1930s managed to cut deals that allowed him to direct his own screenplays. Hence, a writer-director.
That’s just one of numerous groundbreaking accomplishments this German-born film pioneer chalked up in an amazing career that ranged from 1929’s “Hell of a Reporter” (as writer) to 1981’s “Buddy Buddy” (as writer-director). These and other highlights are detailed in the definitive biography “Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder” (The University Press of Kentucky, $39.95), by Gene D. Phillips.
The 464-page book interweaves facts of Wilder’s life – he fled Berlin because of his Jewish heritage and sought refuge in America when Germany came under Nazi control – with details of his quick ascendancy in Hollywood from the ranks of staff screenwriter to the coveted position of writer-director.
Drawn from archival records, voluminous correspondence between Wilder and his antagonists and collaborators, a lengthy interview with Wilder himself, and interviews with many of his colleagues, Phillips’ book weaves together various elements into a story that feels both scholarly and highly entertaining.
Along with biographical background, the book includes plot synopses, quotes, anecdotes and trivia from some of Wilder’s most challenging films. Wilder (1906-2002) directed some of the most acclaimed movies in Hollywood history, including 1950’s “Sunset Boulevard,” 1954’s “Sabrina,” 1955’s “The Seven Year Itch,” 1957’s “Witness for the Prosecution” and 1959’s “Some Like It Hot.”
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