Remote Hog

Billy Wilder Speaks
5 & 8:30 tonight
Turner Classic Movies

Who is Billy Wilder, oh dear trendy, young, spiky-haired, sheltered-but-tatted, pierced-as-if-you-fell-face-first-into-a-tackle box Weekly reader? Born Samuel Wilder in what is now Poland (his mother later nicknamed him Billy), he's only one of America's greatest filmmakers, responsible for such classics as Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, The Seven Year Itch and the one that's generally mentioned in the first breath when mentioning Wilder, Some Like It Hot. I thought I'd make it easier on you kiddies by rolling off the titles of Wilder films that were later remade for your generation, but other than the awful musical version of Sunset Boulevard, all that springs to mind is the Harrison Ford version of Sabrina—and none of you (or anyone) saw that. (Cue crickets.) Using archival footage, this documentary follows Wilder from his beginnings as a journalist and screenwriter in Berlin, which—as a Jew—he fled with the rise of the Nazis. (His mother, stepfather and grandmother all died at Auschwitz.) He arrived in Hollywood in 1933, shared an apartment with fellow emigre Peter Lorre and began a new screenwriting career that took off in 1939 with the release of Ninotchka starring Greta Garbo. And the rest is movie history, which you'll get your fill of tonight. In fact, make a night of it by hiding the remote and keeping TCM on for two darker pictures from the director known mostly for light comedies. Double Indemnity, whose 1944 release date makes it among the earliest film noirs, was co-written by Wilder and hard-boiled crime novelist Raymond Chandler. The Lost Weekend, the first American film to seriously dramatize alcoholism, gets what's arguably the best performance given on film by Ray Milland. It won Wilder best director and best adapted screenplay (from the Charles R. Jackson story) Oscars. Double Indemnity is shown at 6:30 and The Lost Weekend at 10. By the time the night is over, you'll know why Gramps keeps saying they don't make movies like they used to.

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