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Nobody's Perfect: Billy Wilder: A Personal Biography [Paperback]

Charlotte Chandler
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Aug 2004
"'Nobody's perfect' is the line that most sums up my work," Billy Wilder told writer Charlotte Chandler. "There is no comedy, no drama about perfect people."Film is the Cinderella Art of the 20th century, and Billy Wilder was one of its most legendary figures. When he died recently, Wilder left behind an incredible celluloid legacy. "Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity, The Apartment, Lost Weekend, Sabrina," and other Wilder films have become a part of our shared experience and collective memory.In "Nobody's Perfect," Billy Wilder speaks for himself, in what is as close to an autobiography as there ever will be. Charlotte Chandler, author of earlier authorized biographies of Groucho Marx and Federico Fellini, met Wilder in the mid-1970s and began a friendship that continued until his death. Over the course of more than twenty years, she interviewed not only Wilder, but many of the actors and other creative people who worked with him. The result is this remarkable book, a very personal look at one of Hollywood's true creative geniuses.In a life as dramatic as his films, Wilder survived World War I and escaped the Holocaust, though his mother and grandmother both died at Auschwitz. When he arrived in Hollywood, he found himself a writer without a language, a man without a country.Wilder's great gift as a screenwriter soon became apparent, as did his easy rapport with actors. As a writer-director, he worked with such stars as Greta Garbo, William Holden, Tony Curtis, Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers, Gloria Swanson, Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Marilyn Monroe -- most of whom were interviewedfor this book.He gave Garbo her laugh, Swanson her comeback, Holden his stardom, Lemmon a career, Matthau an Oscar, and contributed greatly to Marilyn Monroe's immortality.Actors from Wilder's films talk enthusiastically about Wilder. Danielle Darrieux, the star of the first picture he directed, remembers him from 1933. Ginger Rogers tells how "The Major and the Minor" paralleled her own life. Jack Lemmon reveals how wearing a dress affected him as a man. Tony Curtis talks about what it was like to work with Billy Wilder -- and under Marilyn Monroe.Chandler's conversations with Wilder and the others began when he was still a working director and continued through the time he was retired but didn't know it. A man of the 20th century, Billy Wilder lived into the 21st century, alone from his time, a legend forever.This revealing and vastly entertaining book is a wonderful, timely tribute to this great writer-director, a legacy of Wilder's wit, insight, and remarkable wisdom.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Applause Theatre Book Publishers (15 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557836329
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557836328
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 938,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Charlotte Chandler is the author of three previous books, HELLO, I MUST BE GOING, GROUCHO AND HIS FRIENDS, THE ULTIMATE SEDUCTION, and I, FELINI. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Star-struck biographer 26 Dec 2002
I was utterly charmed, and illuminated, by Cameron Crowe's recent 'Conversations with Wilder'. And quite disappointed by Chandler's new biography. To be sure, it is a star-studded extravaganza, counting cameos by Ginger Rogers, Jack Lemmon, Gloria Swanson, Fred Zinnemann, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, Olivia de Havilland and others, but Ms Chandler loses her sense of direction and focus every time she sits opposite an old-time star, and all of a sudden Billy Wilder is all but forgotten. Some anecdotes are touching, others completely irrelevant, and more often than not Ms Chandler reveals herself to be of the wide-eyed, star-struck variety. What lingers on in my mind are the many testimonies by female stars, some of them divas, professing to be very hurt that Billy Wilder apparently did not care very much for them as people. Those parts are actually heart-wrenching, but ultimately the book does not deliver what it promises.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I have been a fan of Billy Wilder films ever since I saw 'Some Like It Hot' when I was 17. Since then I have watched many of his films. Some are wonderful ('The Apartment', 'The Seven Year Itch') and some not so great. I was thrilled to receive 'Nobody's Perfect - a Personal Biography' for Christmas, and couldn't wait to learn more about the life of director/writer Billy Wilder.
I do not usually enjoy biographys - I find they can get weighed down in petty details without exploring the character of the person who is being written about. This book, however, has completely changed my mind about biographys. It is written with real passion and flaire, giving us a great insight into how Billy worked.
I found this book impossible to put down. It is written in a very fast-paced way and it is mainly written in Billy Wilder, and his friends and collegues, own words. The first few chapters are about his background, where he grew up etc. Once Billy Wilder is in the movie industry, every movie he worked on has a chapter dedicated to it. There is also a synopsis of the plots of all his movies, which I find very useful.
This book generally focuses Billy Wilder's work, as opposed to his private life. However, Billy Wilder loved making movies so much that his work WAS his life in many respects. It has interviews with many of the actors, writers and producers Billy worked with over the course of his career, including Jack Lemmon, I A L Diamond, Christopher Lee and Shirley McClaine. These interviews are incredibly interesting, but even more so are the interviews with Billy himself.
I would really recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the movie industry. It is a highly informed, well written piece of work which once you start reading you really can't put the book down!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read. 1 Aug 2014
A great read for any movie buff. I like reading the opinions of his co-workers as well as his own opinions of them, and there is plenty of this in the book. It's also a sor of "The Rise and fall of Billy Wilder". Like the the way he can laugh at himself, ie the way he says he had retired but didn't know he had retired. We see the reason movies have changed, like going to see a 24 year old movie head. Movies are so much poorer without his like. In those days we could see two good movies a week, now I feel lucky if I see five a year! I remember watching TV on his receiving the Lifetime Achievment Award and my, son remarking "Did he make all those?" Every one of them is a gem.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of Hollywood's True Greats 11 Nov 2011
By Keith M TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Billy Wilder was one of Hollywood's true greats. Along with his acknowledged classics (Some Like It Hot, The Appartment, Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity), Wilder also directed some brilliant films which tackled issues not readily addressed by Hollywood films - indeed issues that were regarded by many as 'no-nos' in terms of likely commercial success. These covered alcohol abuse (The Lost Weekend), tabloid/exploitative journalism (Ace In The Hole), adultery (The Seven Year Itch) and war 'black comedy' (Stalag 17). Wilder was one of the first 'mainstream' directors to tackle Hollywood head-on on such subjects, and indeed received numerous rejections from major stars over roles which they considered would prejudice their future careers.

Chandler's book is structured in chronological order of the films Wilder directed which I find very helpful to provide a complete filmography, with (as might be expected) much more extensive detail being provided for his more renowned works such as Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot. There are many interesting quotes/interviews with many of the major actor/actresses Wilder worked with such as Jack Lemmon, Ray Milland, Marlene Dietrich, Tony Curtis, Fred MacMurray, Gloria Swanson and Barbara Stanwyck, but, perhaps not surprisingly, not from Marilyn Monroe. Although, pleasingly, the book's focus is very much on Wilder's filmwork, it also covers some of the most important elements of his upbringing/early career in Austria/Germany and the impact of the Nazis on his work and that of his close associates.

Definitely worth a read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Slight Billy Wilder biography 22 Oct 2010
By N.Evans
In order for this book to have been truly informative it would've have to have been twice as long, as it stands it reduces Billy Wilder's formative years to a few pages and then devotes not nearly enough time to his subsequent European and Hollywood career. To be fair the chapters on "Some like it hot" and "The Apartment" are quite detailed but ultimately you end up feeling you haven't learned a great deal about the man. A light holiday read then but look elsewhere for something more sunbstantial.
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