In 2018, Hillsdale College , a liberal arts college in Michigan, hosted a lecture series celebrating Billy Wilder . Over four days, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, SUNSET BOULEVARD, SOME LIKE IT HOT and THE APARTMENT were screened.
Included for audiences were talks about Wilder by Anthony Slide, Alain Silver, Daniel M. Kimmel and Leonard Maltin.
And the college have made the talks available to view . https://www.hillsdale.edu/educational-outreach/center-for-constructive-alternatives/2017-2018-cca-iv-films-Billy-wilder
Best for me was Leonard Maltin who spoke for nearly an hour, without notes. An excellent and knowledgeable speaker, he spoke at length about Billy Wilder’s career.
Points highlighted from his talk:
- Wilder sought out raw material he could mold and shape. Other than “The Apartment”, all his films were based on other material – short stories, plays, silent films, books.
- No one had ever done a serious study of alcoholism- seemingly uncommercial, but “The Lost Weekend” won Oscars.
- ”Ace in the Hole” was inspired by the true story of a man trapped in a mine which became a media circus.The film flopped when it was released in 1951 and Paramount re-titled it “The Big Carnival” in a blatant attempt to mislead the public – it didn’t help. Now it’s held up as one of his best films.
- Fred MacMurray had never played a heel, he was a light comedy lead, yet perfect in “Double Indemnity” – and 16 years later, Wilder cast him again in “The Apartment” , also as a heel.
- ”The Apartment” took criticism for its story line about attempted suicide – the film is comedy, social satire – it runs the gamut of emotions.
Other general comments by Mr. Maltin:
”The studio system was “a jail with velvet iron bars”.
“Films were made for an audience. To see them in any lesser form (TV etc) is to lessen their impact.”
A member of the audience called out, “Mr. Maltin, I consider you a national treasure “
Leonard reposted: “Flattery will get you everywhere!”
A big thank you to Hillsdale College for making these lectures available to view.
I am reminded that I used to love reading “Film Fan Monthly” which Leonard edited and published from 1966 to 1975. A great magazine for fans of vintage Hollywood.
Over the years, in the blog, I’ve reviewed three of Leonard Maltin’s books- Hooked on Hollywood, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy and The Real Stars.