Directors Who Dominate: Billy Wilder

Jandy Hardesty

Jandy is especially drawn to classic, off-beat, and foreign film, but loves a good blockbuster action sequence, too. You can find her on Flickchart as faithx5. She also writes at The Frame, and co-hosts the occasional podcast Not at Odds at Row Three.

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4 Responses

  1. I have the same 10 movies in my Billy Wilder top 10, just in a different order. The Front Page, which was a remake with Walter Mattheau and Jack Lemmon was also fantastic. Your top ten were better, but it was another great film of Wilder’s. One of the best ever.

    • Jandy Hardesty says:

      Michael, it’s hard to dispute this Top Ten (which is Flickchart’s global Top Ten, not my personal one – though mine is very similar as well). You can really take any of Billy’s Top Fifteen or even Twenty and have a pretty solid list! I enjoyed The Front Page quite a lot, too – much more than I expected to. I love His Girl Friday and figured a non-gender-swapped one would be less interesting, but it’s pretty hilarious, and Lemmon and Matthau play off each other so well.

  2. David Conrad says:

    A running commentary:

    “…led Wilder to complain that he spent more time adjusting lamps than making sure dialogue was treated properly.” – We need more people like him.

    “Double Indemnity (1944) had two despicable people at its center…” – True, but it also had one of the great moral centers in Edward G. Robinson, cast like the leads against type.

    “Charles Laughton, who made it one of his most memorable performances in a lifetime of memorable performances.” – I’ve always thought this character should get a TV spinoff.

    It would have been interesting to see Holden in the lead for Ace in the Hole. Douglas certainly comes off as mean, but I think at times he overpowers the movie. Holden comes off as slimy, a dark but ultimately weak man who hates himself more than others, and I think he would have added another layer of richness to the film.

    One of my favorite bits of trivia about Sunset Blvd is that they mention and use Schwab’s Drugstore as a location. An episode of “I Was There Too” talks a bit about that institution’s history (I think it’s the Aliens one with Rico Ross, but it’s after that interview).

    The Apartment was so funny and so dark. It nearly cracked my top 20 when I first watched it, but for some reason it’s crept downward to the 40 or 50 range. I think that says more about the movies I’ve watched or rewatched since than it does about The Apartment, though.

    It would be fun to do a piece highlighting Five Graves to Cairo, which got some buzz when Tarantino called it one of his top 10, but still remains a little hard to find. I was lucky enough to catch it on TCM several years ago. There’s something about war movies made during the war that makes them really special.

    • Jandy Hardesty says:

      I think Mitchell Leisen is unjustly maligned and forgotten, to be honest. He made some of the most sparkling screwball comedies in existence.

      Good point about Robinson in Double Indemnity – he was barely enough to appease the censors, though! The film originally ended with Neff going to the electric chair, which I think the Code had trouble with, too. I guess they weren’t even happy with total comeuppance/punishment for criminals if the punishment was too gruesome. I’m frankly glad it ends where it does, though. It’s perfect as it is.

      Sunset Boulevard is chock full of insider references like that. That’s worth a whole post in an itself!

      I had trouble finding Five Graves to Cairo, too – finally tracked down a copy through ClassicFlix, which focuses on classic film. I’m not sure even Netflix had it on disc! I enjoyed it, but it sounds like it might rank even higher for you!