William Wyler (/ˈwaɪlər/; born Willi Wyler (German: [ˈvɪlɪ ˈvi:lɐ]); July 1, 1902 – July 27, 1981) was an American film director, producer and screenwriter. Notable works include Ben-Hur (1959), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Mrs. Miniver (1942), all of which won Academy Awards for Best Director, as well as Best Picture in their respective years, making him the only director of three Best Picture winners as of 2018. Wyler received his first Oscar nomination for directing Dodsworth in 1936, starring Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton and Mary Astor, "sparking a 20-year run of almost unbroken greatness.":24
Film historian Ian Freer calls Wyler a "bona fide perfectionist", whose penchant for retakes and an attempt to hone every last nuance, "became the stuff of legend.":57 His ability to direct a string of classic literary adaptations into huge box-office and critical successes made him one of "Hollywood's most bankable moviemakers" during the 1930s and 1940s and into the 60's. Through his talent for staging, editing, and camera movement, he turned dynamic theatrical spaces into cinematic ones.
He helped propel a number of actors to stardom, finding and directing Audrey Hepburn in her Hollywood debut film, Roman Holiday (1953), and directing Barbra Streisand in her debut film, Funny Girl (1968). Both of these performances won Academy Awards. He directed Olivia de Havilland to her second Oscar in The Heiress (1949) and Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights (1939), for his first Oscar nomination. Olivier credited Wyler with teaching him how to act for the screen. And Bette Davis, who received three Oscar nominations under his direction and won her second Oscar in Jezebel (1938), said Wyler made her a "far, far better actress" than she had ever been.
Other popular Wyler films include: Hell's Heroes (1930), Dodsworth (1936), The Westerner (1940), The Letter (1940), Friendly Persuasion (1956), The Big Country (1958), The Children's Hour (1961) and How to Steal a Million (1966).
July 1, 1902
|Died||July 27, 1981 (aged 79)|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)|
|Occupation||Film director, producer|
(m. 1934; div. 1936)
Wyler was born to a Jewish family:1220 in Mulhouse, Alsace (then part of the German Empire).:3 His Swiss-born father, Leopold, started as a traveling salesman but later became a thriving haberdasher in Mulhouse.:37 His mother, Melanie (née Auerbach; died February 13, 1955, Los Angeles, aged 77), was German-born, and a cousin of Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Pictures. During Wyler's childhood, he attended a number of schools and developed a reputation as "something of a hellraiser", being expelled more than once for misbehavior.:1222 His mother often took him and his older brother Robert to concerts, opera, and the theatre, as well as the early cinema. Sometimes at home his family and their friends would stage amateur theatricals for personal enjoyment.:1223
Wyler was supposed to take over the family haberdashery business in Mulhouse, France. After World War I, he spent a dismal year working in Paris at 100.000 Chemises selling shirts and ties. He was so poor that he often spent his time wandering around the Pigalle district. After realizing that Willy was not interested in the haberdashery business, his mother, Melanie, contacted her distant cousin, Carl Laemmle who owned Universal Studios, about opportunities for him.
Laemmle was in the habit of coming to Europe each year, searching for promising young men who would work in America. In 1921, Wyler, while traveling as a Swiss citizen (his father's status automatically conferred Swiss citizenship to his sons), met Laemmle who hired him to work at Universal Studios in New York. As Wyler said: "America seemed as far away as the moon." Booked onto a ship to New York with Laemmle upon his return voyage, he met a young Czech man, Paul Kohner (later the famous independent agent), aboard the same ship. Their enjoyment of the first class trip was short-lived, however, as they found they had to pay back the cost of the passage out of their $25 weekly income as messengers to Universal Pictures. After working in New York for several years, and even serving in the New York Army National Guard for a year, Wyler moved to Hollywood to become a director.:37
Around 1923, Wyler arrived in Los Angeles and began work on the Universal Studios lot in the swing gang, cleaning the stages and moving the sets. His break came when he was hired as a second assistant editor. But his work ethic was uneven, and he would often sneak off and play billiards in a pool hall across the street from the studio, or organize card games during working hours. After some ups and downs (including getting fired), Wyler focused on becoming a director and put all his effort into it. He started as a third assistant director and by 1925 he became the youngest director on the Universal lot directing the westerns that Universal was famed for turning out. Wyler was so focused on his work that he would dream about "different ways (for an actor) to get on a horse". In several of the one-reelers, he would join the posse in the inevitable chase of the 'bad man'.
He directed his first non-Western, the lost Anybody Here Seen Kelly?, in 1928. This was followed by his first part-talkie films, The Shakedown and The Love Trap. He proved himself an able craftsman. In 1928 he became a naturalized United States citizen.:73
In the early 1930s began directing such films as Hell's Heroes, Dead End, and The Good Fairy. He became well known for his insistence on multiple retakes, resulting in often award-winning and critically acclaimed performances from his actors. After leaving Universal he began a long collaboration with Samuel Goldwyn for whom he directed such classics as Dodsworth (1936), These Three (1936), Dead End (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Westerner (1940), The Little Foxes (1941) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). It was during this time that Wyler began his famous collaboration with cinematographer Gregg Toland. Toland and Wyler virtually created the "deep focus" style of filmmaking wherein multiple layers of action or characters could be seen in one scene, most famous being the bar scene in The Best Years of Our Lives. Toland went on to use the deep focus he mastered with Wyler when he shot Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.
Bette Davis received three Oscar nominations for her screen work under Wyler, and won her second Oscar for her performance in Wyler's 1938 film Jezebel. She told Merv Griffin in 1972 that Wyler trained her with that film to be a "far, far better actress" than she had been. She recalled a scene that was only a bare paragraph in the script, but "without a word of dialog, Willy created a scene of power and tension. This was moviemaking on the highest plane," she said. "A scene of such suspense that I never have not marveled at the direction of it.":162 During her acceptance speech when she received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1977, she thanked him.
Laurence Olivier, whom Wyler directed in Wuthering Heights (1939) for his first Oscar nomination, credited Wyler with teaching him how to act for the screen, despite clashing with Wyler on multiple occasions. Olivier would go on to hold the record for the most nominations in the Best Actor category at nine, tied with Spencer Tracy. Critic Frank S. Nugent wrote in the New York Times, "William Wyler has directed it magnificently. It is, unquestionably, one of the most distinguished pictures of the year.":88 Variety described Olivier's performance as "fantastic... he not only brings conviction to his portrayal but translates intelligently its mystical quality.":93
Five years later, in 1944, while visiting London, Wyler met with Olivier and his actress wife, Vivien Leigh. She invited him to see her performance in The Doctor's Dilemma, and Olivier asked him to direct him in his planned film, Henry V. But Wyler said he was "not a Shakespearian" and turned down the offer.
In 1950, Wyler and Olivier made a second film together, Carrie, which was not a commercial success. However, some critics state that it nonetheless contains Olivier's finest film performance, but because of its old-fashioned story, the film was very under-appreciated::128 In critic Michael Billington's opinion:
If there were any justice in the world, Laurence Olivier would have got an Oscar for his unforgettable performance in Carrie.:137
Director and screenwriter John Huston had been a close friend of Wyler during his career. When he was twenty-eight and penniless, sleeping in parks in London, Huston returned to Hollywood to see if he could find work. Wyler, four years his senior, had met Huston when he was directing his father, Walter Huston, in A House Divided in 1931, and they got along well. Wyler read dialogue suggestions that Huston had given to his father Walter and hired John to work on the dialogue for the script. He later inspired Huston to become a director and became his "early mentor.":xiii When America entered World War II in 1941, Wyler, Huston, Anatole Litvak and Frank Capra, by then all directors, enlisted at the same time. Later in his career, Huston recalled his friendship with Wyler during an interview:
Willy was certainly my best friend in the industry.... We seemed instantly to have many things in common.... Willy liked the things that I liked. We'd go down to Mexico. We'd go up in the mountains. And we'd gamble. He was a wonderful companion....He was equally capable of playing Beethoven on his violin, speeding around town on his motorcycle, or schussing down steep virgin snow trails.
In 1941, Wyler directed Mrs. Miniver, based on the 1940 novel; it was the story of a middle-class English family adjusting to the war in Europe and the bombing blitz in London. It starred Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Pidgeon originally had doubts about taking on the role, until fellow actor Paul Lukas told him, "You will find working with Wyler to be the most delightful experience you ever had, and that's the way it turned out." Pidgeon recalls: "One thing that would have been a terrific regret in my life is if I had succeeded in getting out of doing Mrs. Miniver":335 He received his first Oscar nomination for his role, while his co-star, Greer Garson, won her first and only Academy Award for her performance.
The idea for the film was controversial, since it was intended to make America less isolationist. By portraying the real-life suffering of British citizens in a fictional story, Americans might be more prone to help Britain during their war effort. The film succeeded in its propaganda elements, showing England during its darkest days of the war.:145 Years later, after having been in the war himself, Wyler said that the film "only scratched the surface of war... It was incomplete.":228
U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Joseph Kennedy, told the studios to stop making pro-British and anti-German films. Kennedy felt that British defeat was imminent. But MGM producer Eddie Mannix disagreed, saying that "someone should salute England. And even if we lose $100,000, that'll be okay.":344 Mrs. Miniver went on to win six Academy Awards, becoming the top box office hit of 1942. It was Wyler's first Academy Award for Best Director.
President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill both loved the film, said historian Emily Yellin, and Roosevelt wanted prints rushed to theaters nationwide. The Voice of America radio network broadcast the minister's speech from the film, magazines reprinted it, and it was copied onto leaflets and dropped over German-occupied countries. Churchill sent MGM head Louis B. Mayer a telegram claiming that "Mrs. Miniver is propaganda worth 100 battleships." Bosley Crowther wrote in his New York Times review that Mrs. Miniver was the finest film yet made about the war, "and a most exalting tribute to the British."
Between 1942 and 1945 Wyler volunteered to serve as a major in the United States Army Air Forces and directed a pair of documentaries: The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (1944), about a Boeing B-17 and its U.S. Army Air Force crew; and Thunderbolt! (1947), highlighting a P-47 fighter-bomber squadron in the Mediterranean. Wyler filmed The Memphis Belle at great personal risk, flying over enemy territory on actual bombing missions in 1943; on one flight, Wyler lost consciousness from lack of oxygen. Wyler's associate, cinematographer Harold J. Tannenbaum, a First Lieutenant, was shot down and perished during the filming. Director Steven Spielberg describes Wyler's filming of Memphis Belle in the 2017 Netflix series, Five Came Back.
Working on Thunderbolt! Wyler was exposed to such loud noise that he passed out. When he awoke, he found he was deaf in one ear. Partial hearing with the aid of a hearing aid eventually came back years later. Wyler returned from the War a disabled veteran.
Returning from the War and unsure whether he could work again, Wyler turned to a subject that he knew well and directed a film which captured the mood of the nation as it turned to peace after the war, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). This story of the homecoming of three veterans from World War II dramatized the problems of returning veterans in their adjustment back to civilian life. Arguably his most personal film, Best Years drew on Wyler's own experience returning home to his family after three years on the front. The Best Years of Our Lives won the Academy Award for Best Director (Wyler's second) and Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as seven other Academy Awards.
In 1949 Wyler directed The Heiress, which earned Olivia de Havilland her second Oscar and garnered additional Oscars for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, and Best Music. The film is considered by some to be a highlight in her career, "that could strike envy even in the most versatile and successful actress," according to one critic.
De Havilland had seen the play in New York and felt she could play the lead perfectly. She then called Wyler to convince him to have Paramount buy the film rights. He flew to New York to see the play, and moved by the story, convinced the studio to buy it. Along with de Havilland, he managed to get Montgomery Clift and Ralph Richardson to co-star.:265
In 1951, Wyler produced and directed Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker in Detective Story, portraying a day in the lives of the various people in a detective squad. Lee Grant and Joseph Wiseman made their screen debuts in the film, which was nominated for four Academy Awards, including one for Grant. Critic Bosley Crowther lauded the film, describing it as "a brisk, absorbing film by producer-director William Wyler, with the help of a fine, responsive cast."
Carrie was released in 1952 starring Jennifer Jones in the title role and Laurence Olivier as Hurstwood. Eddie Albert played Charles Drouet. Carrie received two Academy Award nominations: Costume Design (Edith Head), and Best Art Direction (Hal Pereira, Roland Anderson, Emile Kuri). Wyler was reluctant to cast Jennifer Jones, and the filming was subsequently plagued by a variety of troubles. Jones had not revealed that she was pregnant; Wyler was mourning the death of his year-old son; Olivier had a painful leg ailment, and he developed a dislike for Jones. Hollywood was reeling under the effects of McCarthyism, and the studio was afraid to distribute a film that could be attacked as immoral. Ultimately, the ending was changed and the film was cut to make it more positive in tone.
During the immediate postwar period, Wyler directed a handful of critically acclaimed and influential films. Roman Holiday (1953) introduced Audrey Hepburn to American audiences in her first starring role, winning her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Wyler said of Hepburn years later, when describing truly great actresses, "In that league there's only ever been Garbo, and the other Hepburn, and maybe Bergman. It's a rare quality, but boy, do you know when you've found it." The film was an instant hit, also winning for Best Costume Design (Edith Head), and Best Writing (Dalton Trumbo). Hepburn would eventually do three movies with Wyler, who her son said was one of the most important directors in her career.
Friendly Persuasion (1956) was awarded the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the Cannes Film Festival. And in 1959, Wyler directed Ben-Hur, which won 11 Oscars, a feat unequaled until Titanic in 1997. He had also assisted in the production of the 1925 version.
Wyler and its star, Charlton Heston, both knew what the film meant for MGM, which had massive investments in its final outcome, with the film's budget having gone from $7 million to $15 million, and the fact that MGM was already in dire financial straits. They were aware that if it failed at the box office, MGM might go bankrupt.
The film, like many epics, was difficult to make. When Heston was asked which scene he enjoyed doing most, he said "I didn't enjoy any of it. It was hard work." Part of the reason for that was the financial stress placed on making the film a success. With a cast of fifteen thousand extras, a leading star, and being shot on 70mm film with stereophonic tracks, it was the most expensive film ever made at that time. The nine-minute chariot race, for example, took six months to film.
Ben-Hur became a great box office success. Wyler won his third Academy Award for Best Director and Charlton Heston his first and only Academy Award as its star. Heston recalled in his autobiography that at first he had doubts about taking the role. But his agent advised him otherwise: "Don't you know that actors take parts with Wyler without even reading the damn script? I'm telling you, you have to do this picture!"
Kirk Douglas had lobbied Wyler, who directed him in Detective Story in 1951, for the title role, but only after Wyler had already decided on Heston. He offered him instead the role of Messala, which Douglas rejected. Douglas then went on to star in Spartacus (1960).
Ben-Hur cost $15 million to produce but earned $47 million by the end of 1961 and $90 million worldwide. Audiences mobbed movie theaters in the months after it opened. Critic Pauline Kael praised Wyler's achievement:
I admire the artist who can make something good for the art house audience; but I also applaud the commercial heroism of a director who can steer a huge production and keep his sanity and perspective and decent human feelings beautifully intact.:96
In 1968 he directed Barbra Streisand in her debut film, Funny Girl, costarring Omar Sharif, which became a huge financial success.:385 It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, and like Audrey Hepburn in her first starring role, Streisand won as Best Actress, becoming the thirteenth actor to win an Oscar under his direction.:385
Streisand had already starred in the Broadway musical of Funny Girl, with seven hundred performances. And although she knew the part well, Wyler still had to mold her stage role for the screen. She naturally wanted to be involved in the film's production, often asking Wyler questions, but they got along well. "Things were ironed out when she discovered some of us knew what we were doing," kidded Wyler.
What originally attracted him to direct Streisand was similar to what attracted him about Audrey Hepburn, who had also been new to film audiences. He met with Streisand during her musical run and became excited at the prospect of guiding another new star into an award-winning performance. He sensed and admired that Streisand had the same kind of dedication to being an actress as did Bette Davis, early in her career. "It just needed to be controlled and toned down for the movie camera." Wyler said afterwards:
The last film Wyler directed was The Liberation of L.B. Jones, released in 1970.
Wyler had worked with cinematographer Gregg Toland for six of his films, mostly in the 1930s. Toland used deep focus photographic technique for most of them, whereby he could keep all objects on the screen, whether foreground or background, in sharp focus at the same time. The technique gives the illusion of depth, and therefore makes the scene more true to life.:77
A perfectionist, Wyler earned the nickname "40-take Wyler". On the set of Jezebel, Wyler forced Henry Fonda through 40 takes of one particular scene, his only guidance being "Again!" after each take. When Fonda asked for more direction, Wyler responded, "It stinks." Similarly, when Charlton Heston quizzed the director about the supposed shortcomings of his performance in Ben-Hur, Wyler simply told Heston "Be better!" However, Heston notes that by the time a scene is done, regardless of how hard it was to do, it always came off well:
The only answer I have is that his taste is impeccable and every actor knows it. Your faith in his taste and what it will do for your performance is what makes casting a Wyler picture a cinch...doing a film for Wyler is like getting the works in a Turkish bath. You darn near drown, but you come out smelling like a rose.:351
Fourteen actors won Oscars under Wyler's direction, including Bette Davis in Jezebel (1938) and her nomination for The Letter (1940). Davis summed up their work together: "It was he who helped me to realize my full potential as an actress. I met my match in this exceptionally creative and talented director.":79
Other Oscar winners were Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949), Audrey Hepburn in her debut film, Roman Holiday (1953), Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur (1959), and Barbra Streisand in her debut film, Funny Girl (1968).
Wyler's films garnered more awards for participating artists and actors than any other director in the history of Hollywood. He received 12 Oscar nominations for Best Director, while dozens of his collaborators and actors won Oscars or were nominated. In 1965, Wyler won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for career achievement. Eleven years later, he received the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. In addition to his Best Picture and Best Director Oscar wins, 13 of Wyler's films earned Best Picture nominations. Other late Wyler films include The Children's Hour (1961), which was nominated for five Academy Awards. Later films included The Collector (1963), Funny Girl (1968), and his final film, The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970).
Wyler was briefly married to actress Margaret Sullavan (from November 25, 1934 – March 13, 1936) and married actress Margaret "Talli" Tallichet on October 23, 1938. The couple remained together until his death; they had five children: Catherine, Judith, William Jr., Melanie and David. Catherine said during an interview that her mother played an important part in his career, often being his "gatekeeper" and his reader of scripts presented to him.
On July 24, 1981, Wyler gave an interview with his daughter, Catherine, for Directed by William Wyler, a PBS documentary about his life and career. Three days later, he died from a heart attack. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, near his older brother, Robert Wyler, sister-in-law, actress Cathy O'Donnell and his son, William "Billy" Wyler, Jr in Glendale, California.
Wyler is the most nominated director in Academy Awards history with twelve nominations. He won the Academy Award for Best Direction on three occasions, for his direction of Ben-Hur, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Mrs. Miniver. He is tied with Frank Capra and behind John Ford, who won four Oscars in this category. He is also only director in Academy history to direct three Best Picture-winning films (the three for which he won Best Director), and directed more Best Picture nominees than anyone else (thirteen).
He has the distinction of having directed more actors to Oscar-nominated performances than any other director in history: thirty-six. Out of these nominees, fourteen went on to win Oscars, also a record. He received the fourth AFI Life Achievement Award in 1976. Among those who thanked him for directing her in her debut film, was Barbra Streisand.
|1939||Wuthering Heights||Best Director||Nominated|
|1940||The Letter||Best Director||Nominated|
|1941||The Little Foxes||Best Director||Nominated|
|1942||Mrs. Miniver||Best Director||Won|
|1946||The Best Years of Our Lives||Best Director||Won|
|1949||The Heiress||Best Motion Picture||Nominated|
|1952||Detective Story||Best Director||Nominated|
|1953||Roman Holiday||Best Motion Picture||Nominated|
|1956||Friendly Persuasion||Best Motion Picture||Nominated|
|1965||The Collector||Best Director||Nominated|
|Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award||Won|
|Directors Guild of America|
|1952||Detective Story||Outstanding Directorial Achievement||Nominated|
|1954||Roman Holiday||Outstanding Directorial Achievement||Nominated|
|1957||Friendly Persuasion||Outstanding Directorial Achievement||Nominated|
|1959||The Big Country||Outstanding Directorial Achievement||Nominated|
|1960||Ben-Hur||Outstanding Directorial Achievement||Won|
|1962||The Children's Hour||Outstanding Directorial Achievement||Nominated|
|1966||Lifetime Achievement Award|
|1969||Funny Girl||Outstanding Directorial Achievement||Nominated|
This is a list of films directed by William Wyler.
|1925||The Crook Buster||Universal||Western||Jack Mower, Janet Gaynor||UMS*|
|1926||The Gunless Bad Man||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1926||Ridin' for Love||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1926||The Fire Barrier||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1926||The Pinnacle Rider||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1926||Martin of the Mounted||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1926||The Stolen Ranch||Universal||Western||UBSS|
|1927||The Two Fister||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||Kelcy Gets His Man||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||The Silent Partner||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||The Haunted Homestead||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||The Lone Star||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||The Ore Raiders||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||The Home Trail||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||The Phantom Outlaw||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||The Square Shooter||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||The Horse Trader||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||Daze of the West||Universal||Western||UMS|
|1927||The Border Cavalier||Universal||Western||UBSS|
|1927||Desert Dust||Universal||Western||Ted Wells|
|1928||Thunder Riders||Universal||Western||Ted Wells|
|1928||Anybody Here Seen Kelly?||Universal||Comedy||Bessie Love, Tom Moore|
|1929||The Shakedown||Universal||Drama||James Murray, Barbara Kent||Part-Talking film|
|1929||The Love Trap||Universal||Comedy||Laura La Plante, Neil Hamilton||Part-Talking film|
|1930||Hell's Heroes||Universal||Drama||Charles Bickford, Raymond Hatton, Fred Kohler|
|1930||The Storm||Universal||Drama||Lupe Vélez, Paul Cavanagh, William Boyd|
|1931||A House Divided||Universal||Drama||Walter Huston, Kent Douglas, Helen Chandler|
|1932||Tom Brown of Culver||Universal||Drama||Tom Brown, H.B. Warner, Slim Summerville|
|1933||Her First Mate||Universal||Comedy||Slim Summerville, Zasu Pitts, Una Merkel|
|1933||Counsellor at Law||Universal||Drama||John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels|
|1934||Glamour||Universal||Drama||Paul Lukas, Constance Cummings, Philip Reed|
|1935||The Good Fairy||Universal||Comedy||Margaret Sullavan|
|1935||The Gay Deception||Fox||Comedy||Frances Dee, Francis Lederer|
|1936||These Three||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||Drama||Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon, Joel McCrea|
|1936||Dodsworth||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||Drama||Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, Mary Astor||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture|
|1936||Come and Get It||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||Drama||Joel McCrea, Edward Arnold, Frances Farmer, Walter Brennan||Replaced Howard Hawks after 42 days|
|1937||Dead End||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||Crime||Humphrey Bogart, Joel McCrea, Sylvia Sydney||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture|
|1938||Jezebel||Warner Bros.||Romance||Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, George Brent, Fay Bainter||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture|
|1939||Wuthering Heights||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||Romance||Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture|
|1940||The Westerner||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||Western||Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan||Won - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|1940||The Letter||Warner Bros.
|Drama||Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture|
|1941||The Little Foxes||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||Drama||Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture|
|1942||Mrs. Miniver||MGM||War Drama||Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright||Won - Academy Award for Best Picture
Won - Academy Award for Best Actress
|1944||The Memphis Belle||First Motion Picture Unit||War||Documentary|
First Technicolor film
|1946||The Best Years of Our Lives||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||War Drama||Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell, Teresa Wright||Won - Academy Award for Best Picture|
|1947||Thunderbolt!||United States Air Force||War||Co-directed with John Sturges|
Documentary / Short Film
|1949||The Heiress||Paramount||Drama||Olivia De Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Miriam Hopkins||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture
|1951||Detective Story||Paramount||Film-noir||Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker|
|1952||Carrie||Paramount||Drama||Laurence Olivier, Jennifer Jones, Miriam Hopkins|
|1953||Roman Holiday||Paramount||Romance||Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture
|1955||The Desperate Hours||Paramount||Film-noir||Humphrey Bogart, Fredric March|
|1956||Friendly Persuasion||Allied Artists||Drama||Gary Cooper||DeLuxe Color film
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture
|1958||The Big Country||Anthony Productions||Drama||Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston||Technicolor film
Won - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
|1959||Ben-Hur||MGM||Drama||Charlton Heston||Technicolor film
Won - Academy Award for Best Picture
Won - Academy Award for Best Actor
|1961||The Children's Hour||Mirisch Productions||Drama||Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner, Miriam Hopkins|
|1965||The Collector||Columbia||Drama||Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar||Technicolor film|
|1966||How to Steal a Million||Fox||Comedy||Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole||Technicolor film|
|1968||Funny Girl||Columbia / Rastar||Drama||Barbra Streisand, Omar Sharif||Technicolor film
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Picture
|1970||The Liberation of L.B. Jones||Columbia||Drama||Lee J. Cobb, Anthony Zerbe, Roscoe Lee Browne, Lola Falana||Technicolor film|
The Academy Award for Best Director (officially known as the Academy Award for Best Directing) is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given in honor of a film director who has exhibited outstanding directing while working in the film industry.
The 1st Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929 with the award being split into "Dramatic" and "Comedy" categories; Frank Borzage and Lewis Milestone won for 7th Heaven and Two Arabian Knights, respectively. However, these categories were merged for all subsequent ceremonies. Nominees are determined by single transferable vote within the directors branch of AMPAS; winners are selected by a plurality vote from the entire eligible voting members of the Academy.For the first eleven years of the Academy Awards, directors were allowed to be nominated for multiple films in the same year. However, after the nomination of Michael Curtiz for two films, Angels with Dirty Faces and Four Daughters, at the 11th Academy Awards, the rules were revised so that an individual could only be nominated for one film at each ceremony. That rule has since been amended, although the only director who has received multiple nominations in the same year was Steven Soderbergh for Erin Brockovich and Traffic in 2000, winning the award for the latter. The Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture have been very closely linked throughout their history. Of the 90 films that have been awarded Best Picture, 64 have also been awarded Best Director.Since its inception, the award has been given to 69 directors or directing teams. John Ford has received the most awards in this category with four. William Wyler was nominated on twelve occasions, more than any other individual. Damien Chazelle became the youngest director in history to receive this award, at the age of 32 for his work on La La Land. Two directing teams have shared the award; Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for West Side Story in 1961 and Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men in 2007. The Coen brothers are the only siblings to have won the award. Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to have won the award, for 2009's The Hurt Locker. As of the 2018 ceremony, Guillermo del Toro is the most recent winner in this category for his work on The Shape of Water.Carrie (1952 film)
Carrie is a 1952 feature film based on the novel Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser.
Directed by William Wyler, the film stars Jennifer Jones in the title role and Laurence Olivier as Hurstwood. Eddie Albert played Charles Drouet. Carrie received two Academy Award nominations: Costume Design (Edith Head), and Best Art Direction (Hal Pereira, Roland Anderson, Emile Kuri).Come and Get It (1936 film)
Come and Get It is a 1936 American drama film directed by Howard Hawks and William Wyler. The screenplay by Jane Murfin and Jules Furthman is based on the 1935 novel of the same title by Edna Ferber.Dead End (1937 film)
Dead End is a 1937 crime drama film directed by William Wyler. It is an adaptation of the Sidney Kingsley 1935 Broadway play of the same name. It stars Joel McCrea, Sylvia Sidney, and Humphrey Bogart. It was the first film appearance of the Dead End Kids.Detective Story (1951 film)
Detective Story is a 1951 film noir directed by William Wyler that tells the story of one day in the lives of the various people who populate a police detective squad. It features Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix, Cathy O'Donnell, and George Macready. Both Lee Grant and Joseph Wiseman perform in their film debuts. The movie was adapted by Robert Wyler and Philip Yordan from the 1949 play of the same name by Sidney Kingsley. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Academy Award for Best Director for Wyler, Best Actress for Parker, and Best Supporting Actress for Grant.
An angry New York detective is one of a precinct of cops in grim daily battle with the city's lowlife. Little does he realize that his obsessive pursuit of an "abortionist" is leading him to a discovery closer to home. The characters who pass through the precinct over the course of the day include a young petty embezzler, a pair of burglars, and a naive shoplifter.Dodsworth (film)
Dodsworth is a 1936 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, Paul Lukas and Mary Astor. Sidney Howard based the screenplay on his 1934 stage adaptation of the 1929 novel of the same name by Sinclair Lewis. Huston reprised his stage role.
The center of the film is a study of a marriage in crisis. Recently retired auto magnate Samuel Dodsworth and his narcissistic wife Fran, while on a grand European tour, discover that they want very different things out of life, straining their marriage.
The film was critically praised and nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Huston, and Best Director for Wyler (the first of his record twelve nominations in that category). Dodsworth was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies in 1997 and 2007.Friendly Persuasion (1956 film)
Friendly Persuasion is a 1956 American Civil War drama film starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins, Richard Eyer, Robert Middleton and Phyllis Love. The screenplay was adapted by Michael Wilson from the 1945 novel The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West, and was directed by William Wyler. The film tells the story of a Quaker family in southern Indiana during the American Civil War and the way the war tests their pacifist beliefs.
The film was originally released with no screenwriting credit because Wilson was on the Hollywood blacklist. His credit was restored in 1996.Glamour (1934 film)
Glamour is a 1934 American Pre-Code drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Paul Lukas, Constance Cummings and Phillip Reed.Her First Mate
Her First Mate is a 1933 American pre-Code comedy film directed by William Wyler and written by Clarence Marks, Earle Snell and H. M. Walker. The film stars Slim Summerville, ZaSu Pitts, Una Merkel, Warren Hymer, Berton Churchill and George F. Marion. The film was released on August 3, 1933, by Universal Pictures.Mrs. Miniver
Mrs. Miniver is a 1942 American romantic war drama film directed by William Wyler, and starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Inspired by the 1940 novel Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther, the film shows how the life of an unassuming British housewife in rural England is touched by World War II.
Produced and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film features a strong supporting cast that includes Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Henry Travers, Richard Ney, and Henry Wilcoxon.Mrs. Miniver won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actress (Greer Garson), and Best Supporting Actress (Teresa Wright). In 1950, a film sequel The Miniver Story was made with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon reprising their roles.In 2006, the film was ranked number 40 on the American Film Institute's list celebrating the most inspirational films of all time. In 2009, the film was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant, and will be preserved for all time.Roman Holiday
Roman Holiday is a 1953 American romantic comedy film directed and produced by William Wyler. It stars Gregory Peck as a reporter and Audrey Hepburn as a royal princess out to see Rome on her own. Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance; the screenplay and costume design also won.
It was written by John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo, though with Trumbo on the Hollywood blacklist, he did not receive a credit; instead, Ian McLellan Hunter fronted for him. Trumbo's credit was reinstated when the film was released on DVD in 2003. On December 19, 2011, full credit for Trumbo's work was restored. Blacklisted director Bernard Vorhaus worked on the film as an assistant director under a pseudonym.It was shot at the Cinecittà studios and on location around Rome during the "Hollywood on the Tiber" era. The film was screened in the 14th Venice film festival within the official program.
In 1999, Roman Holiday was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".The Best Years of Our Lives
The Best Years of Our Lives (aka Glory for Me and Home Again) is a 1946 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo and Harold Russell. The film is about three United States servicemen readjusting to civilian life after coming home from World War II. Samuel Goldwyn was inspired to produce a film about veterans after reading an August 7, 1944, article in Time about the difficulties experienced by men returning to civilian life. Goldwyn hired former war correspondent MacKinlay Kantor to write a screenplay. His work was first published as a novella, Glory for Me, which Kantor wrote in blank verse. Robert E. Sherwood then adapted the novella as a screenplay.The Best Years of Our Lives won seven Academy Awards in 1946, including Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actor (Fredric March), Best Supporting Actor (Harold Russell), Best Film Editing (Daniel Mandell), Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert E. Sherwood), and Best Original Score (Hugo Friedhofer). In addition to its critical success, the film quickly became a great commercial success upon release. It became the highest-grossing film and most attended film in both the United States and UK since the release of Gone with the Wind, selling approximately 55 million tickets in the United States which equaled a gross of $23,650,000. It remains the sixth most-attended film of all time in the UK, with over 20 million tickets sold and ticket sales exceeding US$20.4 million.The Good Fairy (film)
The Good Fairy is a 1935 romantic comedy film written by Preston Sturges, based on the 1930 play A jó tündér by Ferenc Molnár as translated and adapted by Jane Hinton, which was produced on Broadway in 1931. The film was directed by William Wyler and stars Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall, Frank Morgan and Reginald Owen.
Sturges' screenplay diverges significantly from the Molnár play, and later became the basis for the book of the 1951 Broadway musical Make a Wish. In particular, Sturges added a movie-within-the-movie in which the actors communicate in one-syllable sentences.The Heiress
The Heiress is a 1949 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper, Montgomery Clift as Morris Townsend, and Ralph Richardson as Dr. Sloper. Written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play The Heiress. The play was suggested by the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James. The film is about a young naive woman who falls in love with a handsome young man, despite the objections of her emotionally abusive father who suspects the man of being a fortune hunter.In 1996, The Heiress was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".The Letter (1940 film)
The Letter is a 1940 American film noir directed by William Wyler, and starring Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall and James Stephenson. The screenplay by Howard E. Koch is based on the 1927 play of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham. The play was first filmed in 1929, by director Jean de Limur.The Shakedown (1929 film)
The Shakedown is a 1929 action/comedy/sports drama film, directed by William Wyler and starring James Murray, Barbara Kent, and Jack Hanlon.
Considered a part-talkie, the film was released in parallel silent and sound versions. Once believed lost, The Shakedown was discovered and restored by the staff of the George Eastman House in 1998. Director William Wyler made the move up to talking pictures with this blend of action and comedy.The Westerner (film)
The Westerner is a 1940 American film directed by William Wyler and starring Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, and Doris Davenport. Written by Niven Busch, Stuart N. Lake, and Jo Swerling, the film is about a self-appointed hanging judge in Vinegaroon, Texas, who befriends a saddle tramp who opposes the judge's policy against homesteaders. The film is often remembered for one of Walter Brennan's best performances, as Judge Roy Bean, which led to his winning his record-setting third Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. James Basevi and Stuart N. Lake also received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Black and White and Best Story, respectively. The supporting cast features Dana Andrews, Chill Wills, and Forrest Tucker.These Three
These Three is a 1936 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon, Joel McCrea, and Bonita Granville. The screenplay by Lillian Hellman is based on her 1934 play The Children's Hour.
A 1961 remake of the film, also directed by Wyler, was released as The Children's Hour in the US and The Loudest Whisper in the UK.Wuthering Heights (1939 film)
Wuthering Heights is a 1939 American drama romance film directed by William Wyler and produced by Samuel Goldwyn. It is based on the novel, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. The film depicts only sixteen of the novel's thirty-four chapters, eliminating the second generation of characters. The novel was adapted for the screen by Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht and John Huston. The film won the 1939 New York Film Critics Award for Best Film. It earned nominations for eight Academy Awards, including for Best Picture and Best Actor in what many consider Hollywood's greatest single year. The 1940 Academy Award for Best Cinematography, black-and-white category, was awarded to Gregg Toland for his work. Nominated for original score (but losing to The Wizard of Oz) was the prolific film composer, Alfred Newman, whose poignant "Cathy's Theme" does so much "to maintain its life as a masterpiece of romantic filmmaking."It was largely filmed in Thousand Oaks, California, with scenes shot in Wildwood Regional Park and at the current site of California Lutheran University.In 2007, Wuthering Heights was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".