Turner Classic Movies
Robert Wise
Written by Diana Saenger   

robertwise.jpgDate of Birth: September 10, 1914

Place of Birth: Winchester, Indiana

Date of Death: September 14, 2005

Place of Death: Los Angeles, California

Legendary Robert Wise, the filmmaker who directed West Side Story, The Sound of Music and served as an editor for Citizen Kane, passed away at age 91 from heart failure.

Wise fell in love with movies at an early age, especially after winning a summer pass to see every movie in his hometown theater. When the depression hit, Wise couldn't attend a second year of college and joined his older brother in Hollywood at RKO studios where Wise, then 19, got a job in the shipping department.

He next moved into the sound effects and music editing department, and eventually found his way to the film editing department.

Wise had completed editing My Favorite Wife with Cary Grant and Irene Dunn, when he was summoned by Orson Welles to edit Citizen Kane. Wise, now 27, earned an Oscar nomination for his work.

Spurred on by prominent filmmakers around him, Wise began directing B-Movies such as The Curse of the Cat People and A Game of Death. Admiring Wise's skills, horror film producer Val Lewton asked Wise to direct Boris Karloff in the 1945 The Body Snatcher.

Wise would direct 39 movies during his career and be nominated for seven Academy Awards. Two of those awards were for his impressive work on West Side Story, (10 Academy Wards) and The Sound of Music, (Five Academy Awards) the Best Director award shared with Jerome Robbins. He was also nominated for The Sand Pebbles (1966). His movies covered a wide range of themes, and when Wise was once asked about his style, he responded, "I approach each genre in the cinematic style that I think is appropriate and right for that genre."

However, many of Wise's films did have a significant impact on the movie-going public. Joshua Klein, a freelance film writer and contributor to the second edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, paints a vivid impression of Wise's work in the section about "The Day the Earth Stood Still." "Beginning in an almost documentary style, it spreads a chilling antiwar message via spectacular special effects and memorable characterizations," said Klein. "More than a B movie, it is the first popular adult science-fiction film to send out a real message about humanity."

Wise's last film was Rooftops in 1989, a period music piece with relative unknowns. In addition to his creativity in films, Wise also served the process. During his latter years, Wise served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences 1985 1988, and the Directors Guild of America. In 1968 the Directors Guild awarded Wise the D.W. Griffith Award, one of the Guild s highest honors. Wise also received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966, a special Oscar for sustained achievement.


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