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Friday, 29 March, 2002, 04:10 GMT
Hollywood director Billy Wilder dies
Billy Wilder
Wilder - first director to receive three Oscars in a year
Oscar-winning filmmaker Billy Wilder has died of pneumonia aged 95.

The Austrian-born director of Sunset Boulevard, Some Like it Hot and Double Indemnity died at his home in Beverly Hills.


He's the idol of almost every other director

Dan Olsen, publicist
He passed away peacefully at 2300 local time on Wednesday (0700 GMT Thursday), according to producer and long-time friend George Schlatter.

"We've lost a biggie," he said. "I met him when I was just a kid - and I was a fan all that time."

Shirley MacLaine, who co-starred in Wilder's The Apartment, said: "He will write and direct another masterpiece in heaven.

"I learned more from him than anyone else."

Accolades

One of Hollywood's greatest film directors, Billy Wilder was the first filmmaker to ever win three Academy Awards in one year.

In a career spanning six decades, Wilder directed more than 50 films - many of them Oscar-winners such as Sunset Boulevard, Some Like it Hot, Lost Weekend and The Apartment.

"Billy Wilder became the premiere director of films for many, many years, and retains that title even though he hasn't made films for a long time," said Dan Olson, a long-time Hollywood publicist.

Billy Wilder displays the Golden Bear lifetime achievement award
Billy Wilder received many accolades
"He's the idol of almost every other director who's come along."

In 1985, the industry paid tribute to his exceptional contribution to film-making, when he was given the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.

Director Cameron Crowe, who published a series of interviews with Wilder, said his movies "are a world-wide language of love, intelligence and sparking wit. To any fan of film or any student of how a great life is lived, all roads lead to Billy Wilder."

"His characters ran the spectrum as far as their moral standards were concerned, but they were all human beings and therefore relatable," said director Ron Howard.

"And that made the movies very, very entertaining."

Wilder was a master storyteller, often focusing on the dark side of American life.

"He had an utterly unique sensibility," said Time magazine film critic Richard Schickel, adding that "Sunset Boulevard may be the greatest commentary on Hollywood life ever made. Every scene is bizarre."

Famous feuds

He was also known for his gruff exterior. In his biography of Wilder, Ed Sikov noted that he was famed for his feuds as well as his friendships - notably with Marilyn Monroe, who starred in his films The Seven Year Itch and Some Like it Hot.

When the shooting was finally finished, Sikov said Wilder confided to reporters that "I am able to look at my wife again and not want to hit her because she is a woman."

Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, 1955
Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, 1955
Born in what was then Austria, Wilder left Nazi Germany for the United States in 1933 - arriving penniless and speaking little English.

His big break came when he teamed up with Charles Brackett, an established member of New York's literary establishment - a collaboration which lasted 22 years.

We went on to receive a total of 21 Academy Award nominations and win six Oscars in a career spanning 60 years.

Wilder and his first wife, Judith, were married in 1936 and had a daughter, Judith. They were divorced in 1947. He married Audrey Young, an actress and singer, in 1949.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Willis
"Billy Wilder arrived in Hollywood knowing just 100 words of English"
Critic Alexander Walker
"He had a rather cold and sardonic side too"

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Hollywood director Billy Wilder has died aged 95Billy Wilder
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See also:

14 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Hollywood's wild about Wilder
29 Mar 02 | Film
Billy Wilder: A film legend
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