|Birth Day:||June 22, 1906|
|Death Date:||Mar 27, 2002 (age 95)|
As per our current Database, Billy Wilder died on Mar 27, 2002 (age 95).
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He was raised in Austria and began working as a journalist after moving to Berlin.
Samuel Wilder (Yiddish: שמואל וִילדֶר Shmuel Vildr) was born on June 22, 1906 to a family of Polish Jews in Sucha Beskidzka, a small town which, at that time, was invaded by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His parents were Eugenia (née Dittler) and Max Wilder. He was nicknamed "Billie" by his mother (he changed this to "Billy" after arriving in America). His elder brother, William Lee Wilder (1904–1982), was also a screenwriter, film producer, and director. His parents had a successful and well-known cake shop in Sucha's train station and unsuccessfully tried to persuade their son to join the family business. Soon the family moved to Vienna, where Wilder attended school. Instead of attending the University of Vienna, Wilder became a journalist. In 1926, jazz band leader Paul Whiteman was on tour in Vienna when he met and was interviewed by Wilder, a fan of Whiteman's band. Whiteman liked young Wilder enough that he took him with the band to Berlin, where Wilder was able to make more connections in the entertainment field. Before achieving success as a writer, he worked as a taxi dancer in Berlin.
After writing crime and sports stories as a stringer for local newspapers, he was eventually offered a regular job at a Berlin tabloid. Developing an interest in film, he began working as a screenwriter. He collaborated with several other novices (with Fred Zinnemann and Robert Siodmak) on the 1929 feature People on Sunday. He wrote the screenplay for the 1931 film adaptation of a novel by Erich Kästner, Emil and the Detectives. After the rise of Adolf Hitler, Wilder, Jewish, left for Paris, where he made his directorial debut with the 1934 film Mauvaise Graine. He relocated to Hollywood prior to its release.
After arriving in Hollywood in 1933, Wilder continued his career as a screenwriter. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939, having spent time in Mexico waiting for the US government after his six-month visa had expired in 1934, an episode reflected in his 1941 Hold Back the Dawn. Wilder's first significant success was Ninotchka in 1939, a collaboration with fellow German immigrant Ernst Lubitsch. This romantic comedy starred Greta Garbo (generally known as a tragic heroine in film melodramas), and was popularly and critically acclaimed. With the byline, "Garbo Laughs!", it also took Garbo's career in a new direction. The film also marked Wilder's first Academy Award nomination, which he shared with co-writer Charles Brackett (although their collaboration on Bluebeard's Eighth Wife and Midnight had been well received). For twelve years Wilder co-wrote many of his films with Brackett, from 1938 through 1950. He followed Ninotchka with a series of box office hits in 1942, including his Hold Back the Dawn and Ball of Fire, as well as his directorial feature debut, The Major and the Minor.
Wilder married Judith Coppicus on December 22, 1936. The couple had twins, Victoria and Vincent (born 1939), but Vincent died shortly after birth. They divorced in 1946. Wilder met Audrey Young at Paramount Pictures on the set of The Lost Weekend in 1945, and she became his second wife on June 30, 1949. They stayed together until his death.
During the liberation of concentration camps in 1945, the Psychological Warfare Department (PWD) of the United States Department of War produced an American propaganda documentary film directed by Billy Wilder. The film known as Death Mills, or Die Todesmühlen, was intended for German audiences to educate them about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. For the German version, Die Todesmühlen, Hanuš Burger is credited as the writer and director, while Wilder supervised the editing. Wilder is credited with the English-language version.
Two years later, Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story, The Lost Weekend (1945), the first major American film to make a serious examination of alcoholism, another difficult theme under the Production Code. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the dark and cynical Sunset Boulevard, which paired rising star William Holden with Gloria Swanson. Swanson played Norma Desmond, a reclusive silent film star who, with delusions of her greatness from a bygone era, dreams of a comeback. Holden portrays an aspiring screenwriter who can't make ends meet and becomes a kept man to her. It was critically acclaimed and marked the end of Wilder's long writing partnership with Charles Brackett. In 1951, Wilder followed Sunset Boulevard with Ace in the Hole (a.k.a. The Big Carnival), a tale of media exploitation of a caving accident. The idea for the film had been pitched over the phone to Wilder's secretary by Victor Desny. Desny sued Wilder for breach of an implied contract in the California copyright case Wilder v Desny, ultimately receiving a settlement of $14,350. Although a critical and commercial failure at the time, its reputation has grown over the years.
In 1959, United Artists released Wilder's Prohibition-era farce Some Like It Hot without a Production Code seal of approval, withheld due to the film's unabashed sexual comedy, including a central cross-dressing theme. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play musicians who disguise themselves as women to escape pursuit by a Chicago gang. Curtis's character courts a singer played by Marilyn Monroe, while Lemmon is wooed by Joe E. Brown—setting up the film's final joke in which Lemmon reveals that his character is a man and Brown blandly replies "Well, nobody's perfect". A box office success, the film was lightly regarded during its original release. But its critical reputation grew prodigiously; in 2000, the American Film Institute selected it as the best American comedy ever made. In 2012, the British Film Institute decennial Sight and Sound poll of the world's film critics rated it as the 43rd best movie ever made, and the second-highest-ranking comedy.
In the 1950s, Wilder also directed two adaptations of Broadway plays, the prisoner of war drama Stalag 17 (1953), which resulted in a Best Actor Oscar for William Holden, and the Agatha Christie mystery Witness for the Prosecution (1957). In the mid-1950s, Wilder became interested in doing a film with one of the classic slapstick comedy acts of the Hollywood Golden Age. He first considered, and rejected, a project to star Laurel and Hardy. He then held discussions with Groucho Marx concerning a new Marx Brothers comedy, tentatively titled "A Day at the U.N." This project was abandoned when Chico Marx died in 1961.
Wilder was recognized with the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1986. In 1988, Wilder was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Wilder became well known for owning one of the finest and most extensive art collections in Hollywood, mainly collecting modern art. As he described it in the mid-80s, "It's a sickness. I don't know how to stop myself. Call it bulimia if you want – or curiosity or passion. I have some Impressionists, some Picassos from every period, some mobiles by Calder. I also collect tiny Japanese trees, glass paperweights, and Chinese vases. Name an object and I collect it." Wilder's artistic ambitions led him to create a series of works of his own. By the early 90s, Wilder had amassed many plastic-artistic constructions, many of which were made in collaboration with artist Bruce Houston. In 1993, art dealer Louis Stern, a longtime friend, helped organize an exhibition of Wilder's work at his Beverly Hills gallery. The exhibition was titled Billy Wilder's Marché aux Puces and the Variations on the Theme of Queen Nefertete segment was an unqualified crowd pleaser. This series featured busts of the Egyptian queen wrapped à la Christo, or splattered à la Jackson Pollock, or sporting a Campbell's soup can in homage to Andy Warhol.
Wilder died in 2002 of pneumonia at the age of 95 after battling health problems, including cancer, at his home in Beverly Hills, California. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles near Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Marilyn Monroe's crypt is located in the same cemetery. Wilder died the same day as two other comedy legends: Milton Berle and Dudley Moore. The next day, French newspaper Le Monde titled its front-page obituary, "Billy Wilder dies. Nobody's perfect." – quoting the final gag line in Some Like It Hot.
Wilder's mother, grandmother, and stepfather were all victims of the Holocaust. For decades it was assumed that it happened at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, but while researching Polish and Israeli archives, his Austrian biographer Andreas Hutter discovered in 2011 that they were murdered in different locations: his mother, Eugenia "Gitla" Siedlisker, in 1943 at Plaszow; his stepfather, Bernard "Berl" Siedlisker, in 1942 at Belzec; and his grandmother, Balbina Baldinger, died in 1943 in the ghetto in Nowy Targ.
Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba said in his acceptance speech when Belle Époque won the 1993 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: "I would like to believe in God in order to thank him. But I just believe in Billy Wilder... so, thank you, Mr. Wilder." According to Trueba, Wilder called him the day after and told him: "Fernando, it's God." French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius also thanked Billy Wilder in the 2012 Best Picture Oscar acceptance speech for The Artist by saying "I would like to thank the following three people, I would like to thank Billy Wilder, I would like to thank Billy Wilder, and I would like to thank Billy Wilder." Wilder's 12 Academy Award nominations for screenwriting were a record until 1997 when Woody Allen received a 13th nomination for Deconstructing Harry.
Currently, Billy Wilder is 115 years, 5 months and 16 days old. Billy Wilder will celebrate 116th birthday on a Wednesday 22nd of June 2022.
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