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Billy Wilder

June 22, 1906, marks the birthday of filmmaker Billy Wilder, who was born Samuel Wilder in the town of Sucha, which is now part of Poland.  He went to school in Vienna and worked for a while as a reporter for a tabloid newspaper.  In 1926, he went to Berlin to write movie scenarios.  To make extra money, he also worked as a male escort, dancing with and entertaining elderly female guests at the Eden Hotel.

After the Nazis took power in Germany in the 1930's, Wilder moved to the United States to escape Adolph Hitler's persecution.  His mother, grandmother, and stepfather remained behind and ultimately died at Auschwitz. 

Wilder learned English by going out on dates with any American woman who was willing.  Sharing an apartment with actor Peter Lorre, he began writing screenplays, including several classics such as Ninotchka, for Fox Film Corporation.  He worked best when working with a partner, insisting that writing alone was "suicidally boring."  While working on a script, he stalked around the room, shouting and gesturing to his partner, who was supposed to take notes.  After working on one script with Wilder, Raymond Chandler remarked that it was "an agonizing experience and has probably shortened my life."

Wilder once said that he became a director because he was sick and tired of watching other directors cut his best dialogue from the scripts he created.  His eclectic tastes inspired him to create many different genres of movies: musicals, comedies, dramas, military, and action/adventure flicks.  Regardless of the literary genre of the script he created, most of the movies he directed are about hypocrisy in one way or another. 

His first major success as a director was with the modern-day classic, Double Indemnity (1944), featuring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson.  He also directed The Lost Weekend (1945), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Stalig 17 (1953), Sabrina (1954), featuring Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, and Audrey Hepburn, The Seven Year Itch (1955) with Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, Some Like It Hot (1959), featuring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, George Raft, and Joe E. Brown, The Apartment (1960), Irma La Douce (1963), featuring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLane, and The Front Page (1974), along with many others.

Master craftsman Billy Wilder, a director who for more than five decades kept one eye on the camera and the other on success, died in Hollywood on March 27, 2002.  He is interred in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

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