Billy Wilder was an Austrian-born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood’s golden age. Wilder is one of only five people who have won three Academy Awards for producing, directing and writing the same film. He first became a screenwriter in the late 1920s while living in Berlin. After the rise of Adolf Hitler, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for Paris, where he made his directorial debut. He relocated to Hollywood in 1933, and in 1939 he had a hit as a co-writer of the screenplay to the screwball comedy Ninotchka. Wilder established his directorial reputation after helming Double Indemnity, a film noir he co-wrote with mystery novelist Raymond Chandler. Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story The Lost Weekend, about alcoholism. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard.
From the mid-1950s on, Wilder made mostly comedies. Among the classics Wilder created in this period are the farces The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot, satires such as The Apartment, and the romantic comedy Sabrina. He directed fourteen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances. Wilder was recognized with the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1986. In 1988, Wilder was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. Wilder holds a significant place in the history of Hollywood censorship for expanding the range of acceptable subject matter.
Born Samuel Wilder in Sucha Beskidzka, Austria-Hungary to Max Wilder and Eugenia Dittler, Wilder was nicknamed Billie by his mother. His parents had a successful and well-known cake shop in Sucha Beskidzka’s train station and unsuccessfully tried to convince their son to inherit the business. Soon the family moved to Vienna, where Wilder attended school. After dropping out of the University of Vienna, Wilder became a journalist. To advance his career Wilder decided to move to Berlin, Germany. While in Berlin, before achieving success as a writer, Wilder allegedly worked as a taxi dancer.