American Masters (1985– )
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Directed by William Wyler 

A tribute to director William Wyler consisting of interviews and excerpts from his many classic films.

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Episode credited cast:
A. Scott Berg ...
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Storyline

A documentary on the film director William Wyler (1902-1981), this feature was conceived by his daughter, Catherine, as a loving tribute to him. Utilizing a wealth of film clips, many in black and white, the movie features interviews with Bette Davis, Samantha Eggar, Greer Garson, Lillian Hellman, Audrey Hepburn, Charleton Heston, John Huston, Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, Ralph Richardson, Terence Stamp, Barbra Streisand, Billy Wilder, Talli (the former Margaret Tallichet) Wyler, and the director himself. Some of the best of the Hollywood commentary comes from Wyler himself, interviewed only a few days before he died in 1981. Written by alfiehitchie

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1 May 1986 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

William Wyler died just three days after being interviewed for this documentary. See more »

Quotes

Billy Wilder: I'm no pushover. I laugh at Hamlet.
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Connections

Features Wuthering Heights (1939) See more »

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Adequate intro to Wyler

This is a good introduction to the work of one of cinema's finest and most professional directors. Although Wyler was sometimes criticised for having no discernible style of his own (he was no auteur, and I imagine he probably though the very notion ridiculous), he was famed for his meticulous approach to film-making, and willingness to have a crack at almost anything. As he himself said, he didn't want to just make the same film over and over -- he wanted to try different genres and make as many varied movies as he could.

This documentary features interviews with Wyler himself (recorded just three days before his death -- you can't possibly get tighter timing than that!), along with his wife and many of the stars he worked with over his long decades as a Hallywood A-list director. We don't get huge insights into the man behind the camera, but we learn a bit about his personal life, his background, his enthusiastic approach to living. There are also lots of clips from his better known films.

What shines through is Wyler's dedication to his work, his insistence on getting scenes right. He was (in)famous for making his actors do a shot numerous times -- there are legends that he sometimes did 40, 50, 60 or more takes of certain scenes. Charlton Heston and Wyler question the accuracy of those claims, but other actors insist they were no exaggeration. Either way, there's no doubt he was a perfectionist -- or that those he bossed around respected and admired him regardless of how badly he treated them on set. As Gregory Peck pointed out, every actor wanted to work with Wyler, because more actors won Oscars in his films than any other director's!!! This will be of only passing interest to hardcore Wyler fans, who would love to learn more about the man, to perhaps see dailies of him at work (if any exist), to see even more of that final interview. But as a quick way of getting familiar with his work, it does the business, and does it quite well. Because he eschewed the whole auteur approach to movie-making, Wyler has been somewhat marginalised over the years -- I think critics prefer directors with a one-track vision, as that makes it easier for them to write about! But as the testimonies on display here prove -- from the likes of heavyweights like Billy Wilder, John Ford, Laurence Olivier and Bette Davis -- Wyler's name should be revered with the very best of Hollywood's directors.


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