Billy Wilder

Died March 27th, 2002


Hollywood Legend Billy Wilder Dies
Fri Mar 29, 6:38 PM ET

Billy Wilder--the lively, sophisticated writer and director who crafted more than 60 films, including classics like the noirish drama Double Indemnity and the uproarious farce Some Like it Hot--died Wednesday night at his Beverly Hills home. He was 95.

He apparently succumbed to the pneumonia that repeatedly sent him to the hospital over the past months.

One of Hollywood's most prolific filmmakers, Wilder was, by all accounts, a cinematic genius. After fleeing Nazi Germany, he adeptly made a new home in Hollywood as a director, writer and producer, and over six decades, excelled at creating drama and comedy.

He peered at the dark side of human nature with Best Picture winner The Apartment (1960), he created a charming romance with Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina (1954), he skewered war in his wry WWII POW film Stalag 17, and he gave Marilyn Monroe her most legendary on-screen pose--her white skirt billowing overhead as she stood atop a subway grate in The Seven Year Itch (1955).

Some critics said his work often bordered on the cynical, but Wilder's style was far from one-dimensional. He was nominated for 21 Academy Awards over his career, and won six. He was the first person to win three Oscars for one film--pulling the troika for The Apartment, which won him Best Picture (he received the statuette as producer), Best Director and Best Screenplay. He also won director and screenplay Oscars for The Lost Weekend (1945), as well as Best Screenplay honors for Sunset Boulevard (1950). Among his numerous accolades, Wilder received the Academy's Irving Thalberg Award, the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors and special distinction from the American Film Institute.

"The great master is finished here," said Apartment star Shirley MacLaine. "He will write and direct another masterpiece in heaven. I learned more from him than anyone else."

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