By Gerd Gemünden
With six Academy Awards, 4 entries at the American movie Institute s checklist of a hundred maximum American video clips, and extra titles at the nationwide ancient sign in of vintage movies deemed worthwhile of renovation than the other director, Billy Wilder counts as the most complete filmmakers ever to paintings in Hollywood. movie historians and critics, in addition to his colleagues, have regularly celebrated Wilder as an American grasp from the vintage studio period. but how American is Billy Wilder, the Jewish émigré from critical Europe? to check Wilder s paintings is to envision the remodeling of numerous wealthy and sundry cultural sensibilities, formed by means of his adventure of displacement. This booklet underscores those complexities, unpacking underlying contradictions the place earlier commentators many times smoothed them out. Wilder emerges as an artist with roots in sensationalist journalism and the realm of leisure in addition to with an information of literary tradition and the avant-garde, gains that result in effective and infrequently hugely unique confrontations among low and high.
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Extra resources for A Foreign Affair: Billy Wilder's American Films
The only film Wilder ever set in his native Austria, the fluffy Bing Crosby musical The Emperor Waltz, alludes to the same phenomenon from a postwar perspective and is even more clear in its indictment. 25 The strategy that underlies these implicit and explicit comparisons between the US and Nazi Germany is a refusal to paint the latter regime in such pitch-black colors that the former can easily feel morally superior. There is the temptation, Wilder’s films claim, that the fervor that drove Hitler may surface also at any moment in an open society like the US.
Mayer, he never saw himself in opposition to the studio system, as auteurist criticism likes to claim about certain directors. On the contrary, he was a studio player who excelled within the system, 22 A Foreign Affair working at Paramount from 1937 to 1954 and with United Artists/Mirisch Company from 1957 onwards. There and elsewhere he worked with a steady ensemble of professionals who shaped his films in decisive ways. Most important, of course, was his teaming up with Charles Brackett with whom he wrote thirteen screenplays, debuting on Ernst Lubitsch’s Bluebeard’s Eight’s Wife (1938) and splitting up after Sunset Boulevard (1950), as well as his second long-time cowriter, I.
The questions of Jewishness and the Holocaust are indeed central to the films of Billy Wilder, but they enter in circuitous and contradictory fashion. While there are few characters in Wilder’s films clearly marked as Jewish, there are many who possess attributes often associated specifically with Jewishness, especially the many Schlemiel figures embodied by Jack Lemmon as the habitual bungler and dolt. In others, particularly those embodied by Walter Matthau, we see Wilder’s own restlessness and power of gab.