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« TIFF Quickies: Animated Bollywood, Mother/Daughter Science, and Annette Bening | Main | The New Classics: I Am Love »
Tuesday
Sep102019

The Wise Guy

A quick shout-out to the director Robert Wise, who was born 105 years ago this very day. He passed in 2005, by then a four-time Oscar winner for a couple little movies called The Sound of Music and West Side Story (he won for both directing and producing), although he was nominated a couple other times. I mean he edited Citizen Kane! Obviously he was nominated other times. 

I do love his nomination for directing Susan Hayward's 1958 melodrama I Want To Live!, a film which looks way overcooked to modern eyes (as does most of Hayward's output) but which I love all the same. But Wise should've had several more nominations, if you ask me -- in between his two musical masterpieces he only directed one of the greatest horror films of all time, The Haunting, still effective to this day. There didn't seem to be a genre he couldn't master. How many nominations would you have given Robert Wise?

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Reader Comments (11)

Definitely The Haunting.

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

At least 3 more. Isn't that Natalie Wood with him?

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterrdf

RIP Wise, who was quite an eclectic director⁠—from The Magnificent Ambersons to Star Trek: The Motion Picture! I especially appreciate how genre-oriented he tended to be, and would add 1951's double whammy, The Day the Earth Stood Still and The House on Telegraph Hill. Also, big kudos to giving Paul Newman his breakout starring role in 1956's Somebody Up There Likes Me. (I Want to Live! is actually 1958, by the way.)

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Yes, a good director, worth celebrating, and The Sound of Music is one of my favourite films.

He actually won four Oscars - two apiece for West Side Story and The Sound of Music.

He was also president of the Academy for a few years in the 1980s. An impressive career.

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

rdf - yeah that is a production still from West Side Story, which I consider his masterpiece (although it is one of my favorite movies so I'm probably biased.)

As the original article stated, Robert Wise's diverse filmography was certainly one of the most striking things about him. He's behind the helm for two of the most beloved music musicals (even if West Side Story was more of Jerome Robbins's project) and yet he had his share of dramas both epic (The Sand Pebbles) and not-so-epic (Executive Suite). I thought he should have probably gotten more attention for his science fiction films (like The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain, Star Trek: The Motion Picture) and his horror films (like the aforementioned The Haunting and The Body Snatchers), but unfortunately those genres don't get much love from the Academy. His epic musical Star! did get seven Oscar nominations, but it didn't win any of them, and Wise was left off the nominations roll call.

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

A director of great versatlity with a record of sterling accomplishment decade after decade.
He co-directed one of the great Val Lewton classics, "The Curse of the Cat People"(1944), basically taking over from the initially assigned Gunther von Fritsch. "Born to Kill"(1947) ranks among the best of all noirs. Here Wise guided Claire Trevor through what's probably her finest performance. Other excellent crime films from Wise: the breezy, under-rated "Mystery in Mexico" and two terrific Robert Ryan showcases, "The Set-Up"(1949) and "Odds Against Tomorrow"(1959). I also have soft spots for the marvelously photographed all-star western "Two Flags West"(1950), Wise's lovely peplum "Helen of Troy"(1956) and the tense and entertaining disaster epic "The Hindenburg"(1975). In short, there's an awful lot to discover and enjoy beyond Wise's famous 60's hits.

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Aside from the three he received, and to be honest though I enjoyed all three I think only West Side Story really merited a nod for him, I'd say the Robert Ryan boxing film The Set-Up and The Haunting are clear misses.

He helmed many-Executive Suite, The Andromeda Strain, Three Secrets, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The House on Telegraph Hill and Born to Kill-which move wonderfully but aren't quite distinctive enough for nominations.

All his films that I've seen with the exception of the misfire Audrey Rose, I still have a handful to catch up with, show his sure hand at directing.

I think Susan Hayward and her films get a bit of a bad rep as overcooked because the pictures that garnered the most notice, and therefore get the most viewing nowadays, are those florid melodramas like I Want to Live! and I'll Cry Tomorrow but if you go deeper into her filmography there are films such as The President's Lady and I'd Climb the Highest Mountain with quieter more subdued work.

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Don't forget that he's a damn good editor as he edited Citizen Kane and at least tried to salvage The Magnificent Ambersons.

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Robert Wise was a great studio director- the Steven Spielberg of his day. A master of all genres from horror to musical to dramas- check out his underrated "Star" with Julie Andrews

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

The Old Hollywood Movies are overcooked for the modern eyes in general - they don't understand irony or subtlety. They think that the characters don't have sex or go to the bathroom simply because it's not shown in the movies, think about it! I Want to Live! is superb - Susan Hayward won her Oscar for her great performance but also because the superlative quality of the movie which was a controversial hit then.
And Robert Wise could direct anything.

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSe_bas_tian

"Star" should be released in a blu ray special edition

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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