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The Director's Idea by Ken Dancyger

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Chapter 12

Billy Wilder: Existence at Stake

Introduction

In Billy Wilder’s films, whether situation comedy or film noir, the very existence of his characters is at stake. Wilder, a journalist and then a filmmaker in Germany, migrated to Hollywood in the mid-1930s. There he established a firm reputation as a screenwriter (“Ninotchka,” 1939) and then began directing in 1942. Over the next 40 years Wilder specialized in two genres—situation comedies and film noir. Although he is best known for those genres he also directed a classic thriller (“Witness for the Prosecution,” 1956) and a classic war film (“Stalag 17,” 1952). In the situation comedy category, Wilder is best known for “The Major and the Minor” (1942), “Some Like It Hot” (1958), and “The ...

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