Billy Wilder

Discussion and info on people in film, ranging from directors to actors to cinematographers to writers.

Moderator: DarkImbecile

Message
Author
User avatar
Jeff
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:49 pm
Location: Denver, CO

Re: Billy Wilder

#51 Post by Jeff » Sun Mar 29, 2009 2:54 am

domino harvey wrote:It's a tour-de-force really, which is why I'm surprised to see the resident board Wilder fanatic relegated it to the "flawed" category. If Sabrina is a flawed Wilder film, don't give me the masterworks.
I'm a little surprised to see that I put it in that category myself! It's definitely the most entertaining of the "flawed" lot. I suppose it's just that I almost always prefer Wilder's original scripts to the play adaptations and remakes. It does occasionally feel a little stagebound. I think the most niggling flaw for me is the presence of Bogie, who seems miscast and out of place (though not so much as Coop in Love in the Afternoon). That said, it is very well made, and has charm and romance to spare. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anybody.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#52 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 11, 2009 3:38 pm

Well, a couple more Wilders down, and yet another split decision.

Some Like It Hot was a big disappointment, a mostly unfunny and strained waste of two hours. There's a telling moment within the first five minutes that to me perfectly encapsulates Wilder's contempt for the audience: The coffin gets shot full of holes and liquid leaks out. Automatically the audience knows what's being transported and it provokes a nice smile. Then Raft flips open the casket to show the liquor inside-- "Hey, just in case you don't get the joke, here it is explained." I thought Lemmon and especially Curtis were very strong with very weak material-- Curtis' "Australian" accent made anything he said in character more entertaining than it would have been otherwise. To be honest, I'm not sure transvestism comedies with happy endings can ever overcome their inherent flaws (see my thoughts on Tootsie elsewhere on the board), and this film doesn't add anything to sugarcoat the problems.

Though Wilder only co-wrote it, Lubitsch's Bluebeard's Eighth Wife finds Wilder-as-screenwriter in much better control of his misanthropic tendencies. As in Wilder's best work, his negative worldview serves the film rather than works against it. This may not be the wittiest Lubitsch film, but it was definitely the most laugh-out-loud funny-- and it's hard not to notice that Lubitsch doesn't slow a film down to pause for laughs he gets while Wilder does slow a film down for laughs he doesn't. Edward Everett Horton steals the film to great effect (Could this be his funniest performance?), David Niven proves to be a surprisingly adept comic actor, Colbert is stuck with the one-note role but plays it to the hilt, and I don't think I've ever seen another movie where Gary Cooper smiled as much as he does here. I can't believe this hasn't been released in R1, this is essential Lubitsch.

User avatar
thirtyframesasecond
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 1:48 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#53 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Sun Apr 12, 2009 6:40 am

Curtis' "Australian" accent was, I thought, a deliberately mangled attempt to channel Cary Grant.

Tolmides
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:42 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#54 Post by Tolmides » Sun Apr 12, 2009 7:28 am

thirtyframesasecond wrote:Curtis' "Australian" accent was, I thought, a deliberately mangled attempt to channel Cary Grant.
Yeah I did a double take at it being considered Australian. Domino doesn't speak to many Aussies I'm guessing. :P

Been a long time since I've seen Some Like it Hot, but I do remember enjoying it. I'm not much of a Marilyn fan, but Curtis and Lemmon carried the movie very well and surely you must have laughed at some of the madcap antics near the very end when the gangsters finally caught up with them? Wilder did direct better comedies though (Ginger's babytalk got annoying in The Major and the Minor but I laughed more and it has the inimitable Diana Lynn). It's also not much of a happy ending for Lemmon as the millionaire seems determined to hang on to him as (all together now...) - "nobody's perfect"!

The best part about Bluebeard is the 'meet cute' with the drawers and shirt. That's not to say the rest isn't near-inspired, but that opening meeting is just so perfect that the rest of the movie can't quite live up to it, except perhaps for Colbert knocking Niven out for a second time, or Cooper attempting to imitate Petrucchio, or...well perhaps I spoke too soon. The more I think about it the more I get an urge to rewatch it (so hurry up and release the dvd Universal!). Only minor quibble I'd add to your post would be on Horton, who was excellent but I don't think he stole anything from Colbert, Cooper or even Niven.

User avatar
carax09
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:22 am
Location: This almost empty gin palace

Re: Billy Wilder

#55 Post by carax09 » Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:54 am

Curtis mentions that it was his idea to do a Grant impression for the reverse-psychology seduction sequence, on the commentary track of the R1 CE. I've always thought SLIH to be the quintessential comedy of the period, creating a kind of Rube Goldberg laugh machine through the happy synthesis of writing & performance. I recently watched it with four generations of family members in attendance, and I noticed everyone laughing throughout, Hell, even the babies were smiling! I agree with Tolmides that the ending is more bitterweet than happy---it just happens to be capped by a wonderful laugh line.

By most accounts Raft was pretty stupid, maybe he needed to open the coffin lid for his own clarification. :wink:

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#56 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 12, 2009 1:16 pm

Did you guys not see my quotation marks around the word Australian?

User avatar
Antoine Doinel
Joined: Sat Mar 04, 2006 1:22 pm
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Contact:

Re: Billy Wilder

#57 Post by Antoine Doinel » Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:14 am

Apparently no one noticed this until now, but Raymond Chandler had a cameo in Double Indemnity.

Vic Pardo
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 6:24 am

Re: Billy Wilder

#58 Post by Vic Pardo » Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:02 pm

Antoine Doinel wrote:Apparently no one noticed this until now, but Raymond Chandler had a cameo in Double Indemnity.
Where in the film is Chandler visible? What scene and what point in the film's running time?

User avatar
Antoine Doinel
Joined: Sat Mar 04, 2006 1:22 pm
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Contact:

Re: Billy Wilder

#59 Post by Antoine Doinel » Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:46 pm

From the article:
....there he is, 16 minutes into the movie, sitting outside an office as Fred MacMurray walks past. Chandler glances up at MacMurray from a paperback he is reading, in hindsight a rather obvious clue about the true identity of this extra. Sadly, it is impossible to determine what the book is as the film briskly moves on and Chandler vanishes.

User avatar
Tribe
The Bastard Spawn of Hank Williams
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:59 pm
Location: Toledo, Ohio
Contact:

Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)

#60 Post by Tribe » Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:57 pm

Very interesting tidbit from the LA Times (the picture of the scene in question is at thelink):
Raymond Chandler's 'Double Indemnity' cameo

For more than 50 years, Raymond Chandler sat unnoticed in a hallway in "Double Indemnity," neglected by film fans and readers alike. But today the Guardian reported that earlier this year, two careful watchers -- one American, one French -- each discovered what they thought to be Raymond Chandler making a secret cameo.

"It's just unmistakeably him. I'd lay money on it," says Judith Freeman, author of "The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved."

While researching her Chandler biography, Freeman never once saw mention of the appearance in Chandler's papers, not at the Bodleian Library in Oxford or at UCLA. "Believe me, I really combed over both archives," she said. But she watched the film again. "And sure enough, by damn, there he was, and in my mind there is absolutely no question that it's Chandler."

Chandler had a notoriously prickly relationship with Billy Wilder; while the two were adapting James M. Cain's novel for the screen, Chandler wrote a memo complaining about the director to studio honchos. But, Freeman notes, "Chandler rather enjoyed the shooting of the film, being on the set." Perhaps his cameo appearance shows that the author and director eventually patched things up.

What would be the reason for slipping Chandler, the screenwriter, into the film? Cameo appearances go back to the silent film era; Alfred Hitchcock's first was in his 1927 film "The Lodger." That same year, Elinor Glyn -- a novelist-turned-screenwriter with a knack for publicity -- made an appearance in "It," which she wrote. So writers made it on screen.

But Glyn's walk-through was trumpeted by the film's interstitial titles. Chandler's was a secret for decades.

We will probably never know whose idea it was it to put Chandler in front of the camera, or if it took a few drinks to get him in the mood. And no one has successfully deciphered the cover of what he's reading, which would be nice to know too.

According to the Guardian, this is only the second known appearance of Raymond Chandler on film. And it's been right there, all this time.

Sounds like a good noir plot.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#61 Post by knives » Mon Nov 02, 2009 11:40 pm

Sunset BLVD
I'm not sure if I should consider this a widely uneven mawkish film disguised as expose misanthropy that's parts are at war with themselves or an enjoyable Rick sort of film. Either way to call this great really does raise an eyebrow from me. Than again that very Rick like nature might be the cause of the consideration. It was odd actually, watching the film Swanson seemed greatly out of place except when the film focused on her. This leads me to believe that if they had just focused on Desmond and her visions of herself (the ending and the scene with De Mille were the only ones I actually enjoyed fully) and dropped Holden the whole affair would've been made better. Though Von Stroheim, minus the silly twist, has to be kept if just because he was, along with the score and cinematography, the one aspect I loved fully without reservation. Going by Domino's dichotomy I'll be checking out The Bad and the Beautiful asap.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#62 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:15 pm

So, Buddy Buddy, much-maligned, was a lot better than its reputation suggested. Now, it's not particularly funny or well-constructed, but neither are a lot of more beloved Wilder films. I love this line from the Wikipedia article:
The film was a critical and commercial failure, and in later years Klaus Kinski denied being in it.
The film's "naughty" parts feel forced and yet still pretty wholesome-- it's like grandpa taking you aside to tell you a dirty joke that's probably acceptable enough for the dinner table. But the pic is constructed in a very conservative, studio-era way, which means it holds up better than a lot of other, more popular contemporary comedies of the early 80s.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#63 Post by knives » Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:33 am

domino harvey wrote: Love in the Afternoon is just below (above?) the Fortune Cookie on the comedy scale, a film that seems to literally pause and hold after every allegedly funny moment for laughs that it hasn't inspired.
After this TCM showing I have to say it's below. At least The Fortune Cookie can draw humour (even if it's all of the wrong sort). Sharing the same turgid pace (and commercialism) of One, Two, Three the only thing that could save it is a good cast, but no. Gary Cooper is the weakest link. The man does not fit Wilder's timing at all. He speaks in a way that reveals all of the jokes before he can get out the second syllable. It's also unfortunate that they toss out the only funny character forty minutes in (though he does make a mildly entertaining return at the end). It's definitely a sadder statement that this isn't one of Wilder's weakest.
The drama also kills things. The Apartment and Ace in the Hole aside Wilder is truly at his best when he is being silly. even Sherlock is saved by how stupidly silly it is. The premise here is already ridiculous so why not go all out? Maybe these faults are Diamond's though. The Wilder's he's not involved with at least tend to be entertaining if not always great, but outside of Sherlock I can't think of one of his Diamond pictures that doesn't breed boredom or contempt.
I do have to disagree with Domino on one thing though. It's not the pauses after the jokes that kill it, but rather the long stretches between set up and punch line. You can see this in the opening sequence with the wet lovers gag. How am I to laugh when the suspense is when the joke will finish, not what the joke will be.

User avatar
souvenir
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#64 Post by souvenir » Sun Sep 19, 2010 2:10 am

knives wrote: Maybe these faults are Diamond's though. The Wilder's he's not involved with at least tend to be entertaining if not always great, but outside of Sherlock I can't think of one of his Diamond pictures that doesn't breed boredom or contempt.
The Apartment? Some Like It Hot? Avanti!?

It's like Andrew Sarris all over again here. At this point in time, Wilder's greatest mistake for new viewers is that he made long comedies and hardly anyone is trained to appreciate them.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#65 Post by knives » Sun Sep 19, 2010 2:17 am

I'll give you The Apartment, which I mentioned as an example as great Wilder, but Avanti! is mediocre at best and Domino has already explained much better than I could on why Some Like it Hot just doesn't work.

User avatar
souvenir
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#66 Post by souvenir » Sun Sep 19, 2010 3:08 am

knives wrote:I'll give you The Apartment, which I mentioned as an example as great Wilder, but Avanti! is mediocre at best and Domino has already explained much better than I could on why Some Like it Hot just doesn't work.
I'd love to argue against the idea that Avanti! is mediocre at best and that Some Like It Hot just doesn't work but those are pretty slim dismissals as far as I can tell, and I wouldn't know where to start in defending such charges. Domino's theory that the latter succumbs to redundant explanation of its jokes fails to account for several things, namely that what he cited was an isolated incident and that it's a film filled with gags that are generally appreciated by a wide swath of viewers. Some jokes are telegraphed while others are much more subtle. Wilder was incredibly open to mainstream sensibilities in most of his comedies but he didn't make films exclusively for the masses. He had it both ways a lot of the time.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#67 Post by knives » Sun Sep 19, 2010 11:55 am

In all honesty I'm having trouble thinking of a joke that he doesn't over play in that movie. The ending is the only moment that comes to mind. Everything else seems to stretch itself out (finding the bourbon) or allows for too many pauses (his sliest attempt with this is the maracas) which wastes the potentially good jokes. The real funny thing is when I first saw it a number of years ago I thought it was a blast, but the two times I've seen it since the experience has dropped off enormously to the point where it's mechanics and flaws are the most visible things. It's far from Wilder's worst (Kiss Me, Stupid), but it is no where near his best.

User avatar
Jeff
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:49 pm
Location: Denver, CO

Re: Billy Wilder

#68 Post by Jeff » Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:49 pm



User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#70 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 11, 2015 8:58 am

Finally caught Fedora and like a lot of late period Wilder, it's neither a disaster nor some rediscovered masterwork but a flawed film that's better than you'd fear but worse than you'd hope. The film got a lot of lip service for being "old fashioned" but I think some of these claims are exaggerated-- really where you see it most is in the screenplay with its uneasy blend of melodrama with comedic sideroutes that don't feel tonally appropriate in the 70s like they might have hit in the 40s. Stuff like the front desk clerk, who is given lines which are too cute and funny in the context of the rest of the film that they fail to even register as humorous half the time, or Stephen Collins' initial Tex Avery reaction to seeing Fedora's nude body in the lily pond, these elements don't gel. And the story itself isn't particularly interesting or of note. Yet I kind of ended up not minding too much as the film over-explains everything (at one point I thought the film was surely done with flashbacks and then there were like at least three more), though I'm not sure why. I guess I kind of took pity on the poor film and let it do its thing. Apologies to those trying fervently to reclaim this as an overlooked classic, but as usual in these cases, it's really not.

Well, now I just need to watch the Front Page and I'll have seen all of Wilder's output! Though, technically I've already seen it a couple times...

User avatar
DeprongMori
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:59 am
Location: San Francisco

Re: Billy Wilder

#71 Post by DeprongMori » Sat Apr 11, 2015 3:21 pm

I'm very surprised that The Lost Weekend didn't seem to get much if any discussion throughout this thread (unless I missed it). It's one I've never seen, and I just received my Eureka! release of this, but I hope to have something to say about it soon.

I've only seen a relative handful of Wilder films at this point. To those who've viewed the bulk of his work, where would you place The Lost Weekend?

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#72 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 11, 2015 3:31 pm

It's my least favorite of the serious Wilder films but ranks somewhere in the middle overall in Wilder's oeuvre for me

User avatar
Drucker
Your Future our Drucker
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: Billy Wilder

#73 Post by Drucker » Sat Apr 11, 2015 4:40 pm

I actually prefer Lost Weekend in a lot of ways to Double Indemnity. It's an even darker film (both tonally and visually) and has some really cool in-city footage. Probably in my top 3, actually, right behind Ace In The Hole and The Apartment. Though I still have a bunch more Wilder to see.

User avatar
htom
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 1:57 pm

Re: Billy Wilder

#74 Post by htom » Mon Apr 13, 2015 12:38 pm

knives wrote:He did refuse List among others later in his career.
Cameron Crowe's book of interviews with Wilder reads just the opposite: Wilder says he just missed out on securing the film rights and a personal appeal to Steven Spielberg did not persuade him to let this be his final film project.

Unless you're not referring to Schindler's List...

User avatar
antnield
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:59 pm
Location: Cheltenham, England

Re: Billy Wilder

#75 Post by antnield » Wed Apr 13, 2016 8:02 am


Post Reply