One of Hollywood's most consistent and enduring filmmakers, Billy Wilder was also among its most daring. In feature after feature, in a wide variety of styles and genres, he explored the taboo subjects of the day with insight, wit, and trenchant cynicism; adultery, alcoholism, prostitution -- no topic was too controversial or too racy for Wilder's films. Unlike the majority of Hollywood's other historically provocative voices, however, he was a major commercial success as well as a critical favorite, with two of his features garnering Best Picture Oscars and numerous others honored with various Academy nominations. Sophisticated and acerbic, his intricate narratives, sparkling dialogue, and painterly visuals combined to illuminate the darker impulses of modern American society with rare brilliance.
He was born Samuel Wilder in Sucha, Austria. After first studying law, he began a career as a journalist with a Vienna newspaper, later relocating to Berlin as a reporter for the city's largest tabloid. By 1929, he was working as a screenwriter, often collaborating with director Robert Siodmak. He swiftly became one of the German film industry's most prolific and sought-after writers, but Adolf Hitler's 1933 rise to power effectively brought his career to a halt as Wilder, a Jew, was forced to flee for his life.