William Wyler - Rotten Tomatoes

William Wyler

Highest Rated:   100% How to Steal a Million (1966)
Lowest Rated:   57% Thunderbolt (1929)
Birthday:  
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

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet Shooting Straight
  • Director
2012
No Score Yet The Shakedown
  • Director
2012
No Score Yet WWII In Color
  • Director
2005
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
  • Producer
  • Director
1958
88% Friendly Persuasion
  • Producer
  • Director
1956
83% The Desperate Hours
  • Producer
  • Director
1955
98% Roman Holiday
  • Producer
  • Director
1953
No Score Yet Carrie
  • Producer
  • Director
1952
67% 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
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
1944
No Score Yet The Fighting Lady
  • Director
1944
No Score Yet Report from the Aleutians
  • Director
1943
92% 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
100% Wuthering Heights
  • Director
1939
94% Jezebel
  • Director
1938
89% Dead End
  • Director
1937
90% Come and Get It
  • Director
1936
88% Dodsworth
  • Director
1936
100% These Three
  • Director
1936
No Score Yet The Gay Deception
  • Director
1935
No Score Yet 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
No Score Yet Glamour Girls
  • Director
1930
57% Thunderbolt
  • Director
1929
No Score Yet The Love Trap
  • Director
1929
No Score Yet Colors of War - Europe
  • Director
1928
No Score Yet Colors of War, The - V. 1
  • Director

Quotes from William Wyler's Characters

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