Introduction: Robert Wise (03:43)
This episode of “The Directors” revisits the work of Robert Wise, the versatile filmmaker who created classics of science fiction, musicals, and other genres. Among his most beloved motion pictures are “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music,” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
Wise's Early Life and Career (03:00)
Wise was born in Winchester, Indiana in 1914. He dropped out of college and sought his fortune in California, where his brother got him a job at RKO Pictures. He was promoted to editor and worked with Orson Wells on “Citizen Kane.”
Wise's First Directing Credits (02:57)
In 1944, Wise landed “The Curse of the Cat People” after its original director was sacked. He was pressured to finish the film quickly and did in only 10 days. His next assignment was “Mademoiselle Fifi,” which is set during the Franco-Prussian War.
Wise's Macabre Tale (02:24)
In 1945, Wise directed “The Body Snatcher,” which was adapted from a story by Robert Louis Stevenson. The film stars horror icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and it showcases the director’s aptitude for their genre.
Western Noir (02:48)
Wise-directed “Blood on the Moon” was released in 1948, boosting the career of its star, Robert Mitchum. The director followed with “The Set-Up,” which stars Robert Ryan as a washed-up boxer who is determined to continue.
Sci-Fi Classic (02:22)
Wise started the 1950s with the rescue drama, “Three Secrets,” and the Civil War picture, “Two Flags West.” But he had much greater success with “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” which depicts aliens arriving on Earth.
Blockbuster Drama (02:01)
Wise directed “House on Telegraph Hill” before releasing a pair of World War II dramas: “Destination Gobi, and “The Desert Rats.” The director assembled an all-star cast for 1954’s “Executive Suite,” which propelled him to international stardom.
Greek Epic (02:28)
Wise adapted “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” for “Helen of Troy.” The film showcases a young Brigitte Bardot as Andraste and Rossana Podesta as the titular character. It was the first time the director worked with such a grand canvas.
Boxing Biopic (04:42)
Newcomer Paul Newman was cast as Rocky Graziano for Wise’s “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” James Dean had been cast in the leading role before he was involved in a fatal crash. “Tribute to a Bad Man” was released the same year, starring James Cagney.
War Films (03:17)
Wise reunited with Newman for “Until They Sail,” which also features Jean Simmons and Joan Fontaine. It is set in New Zealand where four sisters form relationships with GIs that are stationed in their town. Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster butt heads in “Run Silent Run Deep.”
West Side Story (03:30)
Wise next tackled “I Want to Live,” which stars Susan Hayward as a death-row inmate who has been falsely accused of murder. Wise also worked on “Odds Against Tomorrow” before directing and producing an adaptation of a popular Broadway musical
“The Haunting” (02:10)
Wise made a comedy, “Two for the Seesaw,” before returning to the horror genre. This was one of the director’s favorite films to work on, and it is considered one of the greatest ghost stories ever filmed.
Another Iconic Musical (02:56)
Julie Andrews stars in “The Sound of Music.” Wise turned a stationary Broadway musical into a visually stunning spectacle that became an instant classic. It overtook “Gone with the Wind” to become the highest grossing film in history.
“The Andromeda Strain” (03:43)
Wise recruited Steve McQueen to star in his next film, “The Sand Pebbles,” which is set in 1926 China. Wise then reunited with Andrews for 1968’s “Star” before returning to science fiction for an adaptation of a Michael Crichton story.
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (03:23)
The Star Trek movie is an adaptation of the iconic sci-fi TV series, and was Wise’s final box office smash. Wise may not have been known as an auteur, but he was an immensely talented filmmaker who could excel in any genre.
Credits: Robert Wise (00:40)
Credits: Robert Wise
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