Monday, June 22, 2009

Billy Wilder, 1906-2002

Head shot of Billy Wilder,

It was on this day in 1906 that director Billy Wilder was born. Unfortunately, TCM are not honoring him today, as they already used him for a full day in their "Great Directors" month. Truth be told, though, they could have used more than 24 hours to show all of Wilder's great movies. They apparently couldn't get the rights to his Fox movies, like The Seven Year Itch, or stuff originally distributed by United Artists, such as One, Two, Three or Witness for the Prosecution. On top of that, Wilder did some work at Paramount early in his career, and the rights to many of the Paramount movies released before 1950 are now held by Universal; those pictures show up rarely on TCM. So, no Lost Weekend or The Major and the Minor. (I'm not certain how they got the rights to Double Indemnity, but not other Paramount movies from that era.)

If you still want to see some of Wilder's work, you're not out of luck. Obviously, a lot of his stuff is available on DVD. But Wilder also started out writing screenplays when he first came to Hollywood, before he became a director. He's credited as one of the writers of Ninotchka, which is airing June 23 at 10:00 PM ET on TCM as part of TCM's salute to director Ernst Lubitsch.

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