Cover image for Nobody's perfect : Billy Wilder, a personal biography
Nobody's perfect : Billy Wilder, a personal biography
Chandler, Charlotte.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 352 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PN1998.3.W56 C49 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"'Nobody's perfect' is the line that most sums up my work," Billy Wilder told writer Charlotte Chandler. "There is no comedy, no drama about perfect people."Film is the Cinderella Art of the 20th century, and Billy Wilder was one of its most legendary figures. When he died recently, Wilder left behind an incredible celluloid legacy. Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity, The Apartment, Lost Weekend, Sabrina, and other Wilder films have become a part of our shared experience and collective memory.In Nobody's Perfect, Billy Wilder speaks for himself, in what is as close to an autobiography as there ever will be. Charlotte Chandler, author of earlier authorized biographies of Groucho Marx and Federico Fellini, met Wilder in the mid-1970s and began a friendship that continued until his death. Over the course of more than twenty years, she interviewed not only Wilder, but many of the actors and other creative people who worked with him. The result is this remarkable book, a very personal look at one of Hollywood's true creative geniuses.In a life as dramatic as his films, Wilder survived World War I and escaped the Holocaust, though his mother and grandmother both died at Auschwitz. When he arrived in Hollywood, he found himself a writer without a language, a man without a country.Wilder's great gift as a screenwriter soon became apparent, as did his easy rapport with actors. As a writer-director, he worked with such stars as Greta Garbo, William Holden, Tony Curtis, Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers, Gloria Swanson, Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Marilyn Monroe -- most of whom were interviewed for this book.He gave Garbo her laugh, Swanson her comeback, Holden his stardom, Lemmon a career, Matthau an Oscar, and contributed greatly to Marilyn Monroe's immortality.Actors from Wilder's films talk enthusiastically about Wilder. Danielle Darrieux, the star of the first picture he directed, remembers him from 1933. Ginger Rogers tells how The Major and the Minor paralleled her own life. Jack Lemmon reveals how wearing a dress affected him as a man. Tony Curtis talks about what it was like to work with Billy Wilder -- and under Marilyn Monroe.Chandler's conversations with Wilder and the others began when he was still a working director and continued through the time he was retired but didn't know it. A man of the 20th century, Billy Wilder lived into the 21st century, alone from his time, a legend forever.This revealing and vastly entertaining book is a wonderful, timely tribute to this great writer-director, a legacy of Wilder's wit, insight, and remarkable wisdom.

Author Notes

Biographer Charlotte Chandler was born in California. She has written numerous biographies featuring Hollywood stars such as Groucho Marx, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Alfred Hitchcok. Her interview with Mae West was chosen for the Penguin anthology of Great Interviews of the Twentieth Century. She currently lives in New York City and is active in film preservation.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Everyone knows Wilder's reputation as a consummate storyteller who had one true or not for every occasion. Upon his death in March of this year, homages to the great director were filled with well-known anecdotes, passed along like great jokes. They were always funny and showed the filmmaker at his sharpest, but they also helped obscure the man behind a wall of wit and showmanship. This new biography from Groucho Marx and Federico Fellini biographer Chandler, which takes its title from the last line of Some Like It Hot, avoids this trap by simply letting Wilder talk at length. Unlike Cameron Crowe in his 1999 book of conversations with Wilder, Chandler keeps herself mostly in the background, popping up only occasionally to point out which actor had led her to interview which director, and so on. As a result, the book is a rich compendium of primary source material, containing interviews with Wilder himself, Kirk Douglas, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Ginger Rogers, Jimmy Stewart, Gloria Swanson and others. The book doesn't offer lengthy discussions of Wilder as a cinematic genius; readers will not find critical appraisals of Ace in the Hole or Sunset Boulevard. However, the author does richly document the making of some of Wilder's masterpieces and open the sluice gates for the voluble Wilder as well as the recondite storytellers mentioned above. Altogether, it makes for a comprehensive portrait of Wilder that goes beyond the witty stories. Photos. (Nov.) Forecast: Wilder's recent passing, coupled with the dearth of information on him, should make this a popular choice for film aficionados. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Chandler (Hello, I Must Be Going: Groucho and His Friends; I, Fellini) here adds the late Billy Wilder to her list of celebrity subjects. Best known as one of Hollywood's most prolific writers, producers, and directors, Wilder grew up in Vienna and later moved to Berlin, where he became involved with German cinema. When the Nazis rose to power, he escaped to Hollywood. After covering Wilder's early years, Chandler devotes a chapter each to Wilder's best-known movies (e.g., Some Like It Hot and Sunset Boulevard). These chapters consist of transcribed interviews with Wilder and many of the stars he directed, which results in an unfortunate lack of technical information and context. Film students, then, won't find much to glean here. Chandler also skimps on Wilder's personal life (he was divorced and later remarried), rendering it uninteresting to general readers. This biography is similar in format to Kevin Lally's Wilder Times, discussing many of the same films. Chandler fails to unearth new details on Wilder, and her filmography is not as informative as Lally's. With other biographies on Wilder available, this is not an essential purchase.-Rosalind Dayen, South Regional Lib., Pembroke Pines, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. xv
Introductionp. 1
Part I Europe
Eugenia's Dreamp. 15
Billie, the Kidp. 19
The Dream Princep. 25
Vienna, City of Broken Dreamsp. 28
Viennese Tartsp. 32
Raincoats and Freudp. 35
One-Way Ticket to Berlinp. 40
Ghostwriting with a Shoehornp. 44
People on Sundayp. 47
UFAp. 53
Adieu, Berlinp. 58
Emigre Auteurp. 60
Part II Hollywood
"Write Some Good Ones"p. 71
The Brackett Touchp. 76
"Next Year's Crowd"p. 80
Every Cinderella Has Her Midnightp. 84
"A Ghostwriter in the Toilet"p. 87
Lovers of Fortunep. 92
The Cockroach on the Cutting Room Floorp. 95
The Slang Gangp. 99
The Major and the Minorp. 102
Five Graves to Cairop. 111
Double Indemnityp. 114
The Lost Weekendp. 123
Colonel Wilder, U.S. Armyp. 127
The Emperor Waltzp. 133
A Foreign Affairp. 136
Part III A Legend in His Own Time
Sunset Boulevardp. 145
Ace in the Holep. 161
Stalag 17p. 167
Sabrinap. 171
The Seven Year Itchp. 177
The Spirit of St. Louisp. 183
Love in the Afternoonp. 189
Witness for the Prosecutionp. 195
Some Like It Hotp. 200
The Apartmentp. 223
One, Two, Threep. 237
Irma la Doucep. 243
Kiss Me, Stupidp. 248
The Fortune Cookiep. 251
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmesp. 254
Avanti!p. 274
The Front Pagep. 278
Part IV A Legend in Somebody Else's Time
Fedorap. 289
Buddy Buddyp. 299
Lights! Camera! Auction!p. 305
Nefertetep. 316
"Alone from My Time"p. 318
Filmographyp. 326
Indexp. 343