Screenwriter and film director Billy Wilder, the European native whose unique, cynical and often darkly comic films would inspire generations of filmmakers and prompt stage musicals such as Promises, Promises and Sunset Boulevard, died in his Beverly Hills home March 27 of pneumonia, according to The Associated Press.
Mr. Wilder, born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire 200 miles from Vienna, in what is now Poland, was 95. A Jew, he fled Europe when the Nazis gained power and settled in Hollywood.
Musical theatre fans know the stage versions of the stories he first popularized on film: "The Apartment" (directed by Mr. Wilder and co-written with I.A.L. Diamond) became the Burt Bacharach musical, Promises, Promises; "Some Like It Hot" (directed by Mr. Wilder and co-written with Diamond) became the Jule Styne show, Sugar, and will tour in a revised revival beginning late spring under the title Some Like It Hot, starring the film's star, Tony Curtis; "Sunset Boulevard" (directed by Mr. Wilder and co-written with Charles Brackett) became an internationally-seen Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with the same title (a star vehicle for Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Betty Buckley, Petula Clark and Diahann Carroll, among others); the Greta Garbo film, "Ninotchka" (directed by Ernst Lubitsch and co-scripted by Mr. Wilder and Brackett), became the Cole Porter musical, Silk Stockings. A stage version of Howard Hawks' "Ball of Fire" (the 1941 screenplay is by Mr. Wilder and Brackett) is currently in development.
Mr. Wilder's film directorial credits include "Double Indemnity" (1944), "The Lost Weekend" (1945), "Sabrina" (1954) and more. The Best Picture Academy Award went to both "The Lost Weekend" and "The Apartment."
Mr. Wilder also directed the film version of the stage comedy, The Seven-Year Itch. — By Kenneth Jones