I've always marveled at how Billy Wilder's comedies sparkle with dark humor and sharply cynical wit, but he was equally adept at creating fascinating mixes of drama and film noir in movies such as Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity. He was the creative force behind some of my favorite films, which Ive listed below.
Some Like It Hot
is possibly the greatest comedy ever made. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play jazz musicians who dress in drag and join an all-girl band, where they meet the sexy singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe). I loved the hilarious Cary Grant impression by Curtis as his character Joe tries to win Sugar's heart by impersonating a suave, debonair millionaire.
is a complex film noir that goes beyond the genre's usual archetypes, and it has the bite of a tragedy about human frailties. Told in flashback, Sunset Boulevard
is the tale of a down-on-his-luck hack screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) who happens to knock on the door of the mansion of silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson).
Stylish direction, an excellent script, and memorable performances combine in this film to create a masterpiece of film noir. Insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) falls in lust with Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), an unhappily married femme fatale. Soon Neff is enmeshed in a scam involving murder and an insurance policy paying double for accidental death.
elicits both laughs and tears as it skewers the cynicism of the corporate world. C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is lost in the crowd of employees in a New York insurance company, but he discovers an unusual method of currying favor with his superiors: He lends his apartment to the company's executives as a trysting place for their extramarital affairs.
Kirk Douglas gives an outstanding performance in the film noir Ace in the Hole
(1951), one of Billy Wilder's best movies. Douglas portrays an unscrupulous New Mexico reporter who yearns to be a big-shot journalist in New York. When he happens upon a man trapped in a cave-in, he slows down rescue efforts to make the news story bigger. The trapped man's wife refuses to attend a special mass for her husband, saying, "I don't go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons."
While his wife and son are in the country, Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) stays in Manhattan and works through the summer heat. His familial devotion is tested when his sexy neighbor (Marilyn Monroe) starts dropping by his air-conditioned apartment. This is a smart, sophisticated comedy, and who could forget Monroe's iconic scene where air from a subway grating blows her skirt up.