By Gerd Gemünden

With six Academy Awards, 4 entries at the American movie Institute s checklist of a hundred maximum American videos, and extra titles at the nationwide historical check in of vintage movies deemed useful of upkeep than the other director, Billy Wilder counts as probably the most finished filmmakers ever to paintings in Hollywood. movie historians and critics, in addition to his colleagues, have constantly celebrated Wilder as an American grasp from the vintage studio period. but how American is Billy Wilder, the Jewish émigré from significant Europe? to review Wilder s paintings is to ascertain the remodeling of numerous wealthy and sundry cultural sensibilities, formed via his adventure of displacement. This e-book underscores those complexities, unpacking underlying contradictions the place past commentators sometimes smoothed them out. Wilder emerges as an artist with roots in sensationalist journalism and the realm of leisure in addition to with an knowledge of literary tradition and the avant-garde, positive factors that bring about effective and sometimes hugely unique confrontations among low and high.

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Additional info for A Foreign Affair: Billy Wilder's American Films

Sample text

10 While I agree with many of the objections Elsaesser and others make to how film history has commonly, and superficially, linked Weimar cinema and Hollywood, I would argue that the experience of exile has left its mark in ways that go beyond histories of the imaginary. 11 Shifting away from a writing of film history as a linear movement that leads from Weimar Berlin via Paris to Weimar on the Pacific, as Los Angeles was called by the émigré community, I want to focus in what follows on the concrete historical circumstances under which the experience of modernity gets rearticulated in Double Indemnity.

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.

Unlike Lubitsch, who had little interest in addressing contemporary American society in his films, Wilder’s keen awareness of America’s latest obsessions, fads and fashions, sports, of the coverage in local and international news, and of events in the film industry itself frequently entered his films. His personal take on what surrounded him was shaped in no small measure by a rarely mentioned source—the modernist writings of Upton Sinclair (a favorite of Kisch’s) and Sinclair Lewis. Lewis’ 1922 novel Babbitt, in particular, a classic commentary on middle-class society, can be seen as a central influence on many Wilder films, which focus on the average American male trying to get ahead of the game at the price of moral integrity (for example The Apartment).

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