William Wyler

William Wyler

Highest Rated: 100% How to Steal a Million (1966)

Lowest Rated: 67% Thunderbolt (1929)

Birthday: Jul 1, 1902

Birthplace: Mülhausen, Alsace, Germany

The son of a prosperous Swiss dry goods merchant, William Wyler was studying the violin in Paris when he met Universal Pictures executive Carl Laemmle, a distant cousin of his mother, in 1922. Another version of this fateful meeting claims that Wyler made the acquaintance of one of Laemmle's many European relatives; whatever the case, the 20-year-old Wyler was invited to America to work in Universal's publicity department, writing publicity for the studio's foreign releases. He worked his way up to assistant director at Universal, finally graduating to director for the two-reel Western Crook Buster (1925). This was followed by several feature-length sagebrushers, then by his first non-Western effort, Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly? (1927). Universal's slapdash production methods and abbreviated schedules convinced Wyler that if he ever graduated to A-pictures, he would take his own sweet time making them. As a result, Wyler would earn a reputation as one of the slowest and most meticulous directors in the business, shooting extensive retakes on even the simplest scenes. Wyler's painstaking methods and his autocratic on-set behavior exasperated and infuriated many, but he was the favorite director of the equally demanding producer Sam Goldwyn. The long Goldwyn/Wyler association began with the 1936 film These Three, a heavily rewritten adaptation of Lillian Hellman's controversial play The Children's Hour. Another of Wyler's yea-sayers was Bette Davis, who, despite her frequent high decibel arguments with the director, turned out some of her finest performances in such Wyler projects as Jezebel (1938), The Letter (1940), and The Little Foxes (1941) (the fact that Davis and Wyler were occasional offscreen lovers might also have had something to do with their successful professional collaborations). Commissioned as a major in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII, Wyler helmed two classic documentary films, The Memphis Belle (1943) and Thunderbolt (1944); his courage while filming under the most life-threatening of situations earned Wyler an Air Medal and a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. After the war, Wyler helped found the Committee for the First Amendment, a group of Hollywood liberals united to battle the witch-hunting excesses of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Wyler produced as well as directed most of his postwar projects, which included The Heiress (1949), Detective Story (1951), Roman Holiday (1953), The Desperate Hours (1955), and Friendly Persuasion (1956). He also directed The Children's Hour (1961), a remake of his own These Three (1936), which retained the lesbianism angle that the earlier film was forced to do without. Wyler won three Best Director Academy Awards, all for films which were honored with Best Picture Oscars: Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Ben-Hur (1959) (he'd been one of many production assistants on the 1926 silent version of the last named film). Married twice, Wyler's first wife was film star Margaret Sullavan; his second was actress Margaret Tallichet, who gave up her screen career upon becoming Mrs. Wyler. William Wyler's final film was 1970's The Liberation of L.B. Jones; despite failing health, Wyler was primed to start work on 40 Carats (1973), but was advised by his physician not to do so -- possibly the only instance that someone other than Willy Wyler had the last word on a movie decision!

Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet The Shakedown Director 2012
No Score Yet Shooting Straight Director 2012
No Score Yet The Liberation of L.B. Jones Director 1970
93% Funny Girl Director Producer 1968
100% How to Steal a Million Director 1966
100% The Collector Director 1965
86% The Children's Hour Producer Director 1961
86% Ben-Hur Director 1959
100% The Big Country Director Producer 1958
88% Friendly Persuasion Producer Director 1956
86% The Desperate Hours Producer Director 1955
98% Roman Holiday Director Producer 1953
80% Carrie Director Producer 1952
73% Detective Story Director Producer 1951
100% The Heiress Producer Director 1950
96% The Best Years of Our Lives Director 1946
No Score Yet Thunderbolt Director 1945
No Score Yet The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress Screenwriter Director 1944
No Score Yet The Fighting Lady Director 1944
No Score Yet Report from the Aleutians Director 1943
93% Mrs. Miniver Director 1942
100% The Little Foxes Director 1941
100% The Letter Director 1940
100% The Westerner Director 1940
No Score Yet Raffles Director 1939
95% Wuthering Heights Director 1939
94% Jezebel Director 1938
90% Dead End Director 1937
91% Come and Get It Director 1936
89% Dodsworth Director 1936
100% These Three Director 1936
No Score Yet The Gay Deception Director 1935
80% The Good Fairy Director 1935
100% Counsellor at Law Director 1933
No Score Yet Tom Brown of Culver Director 1932
No Score Yet A House Divided Director 1931
No Score Yet A House Divided Director 1931
No Score Yet The Storm Director 1930
No Score Yet Hell's Heroes Director 1930
67% Thunderbolt Director 1929
No Score Yet The Love Trap Director 1929


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