BILLY WILDER ON ASSIGNMENT
edited by NOAH ISENBERG
in conversation w/ IRWIN WINKLER
Acclaimed film director Billy Wilder’s early writings—brilliantly translated into English for the first time.
Before Billy Wilder became the screenwriter and director of iconic films like Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot, he worked as a freelance reporter, first in Vienna and then in Weimar Berlin. Billy Wilder on Assignment brings together more than fifty articles, translated into English for the first time, that Wilder (then known as Billie) published in magazines and newspapers between September 1925 and November 1930.
From a humorous account of Wilder’s stint as a hired dancing companion in a posh Berlin hotel and his dispatches from the international film scene, to his astute profiles of writers, performers, and political figures, the collection offers fresh insights into the creative mind of one of Hollywood’s most revered writer-directors.
Wilder’s early writings—a heady mix of cultural essays, interviews, and reviews—contain the same sparkling wit and intelligence as his later Hollywood screenplays, while also casting light into the dark corners of Vienna and Berlin between the wars. Wilder covered everything: big-city sensations, jazz performances, film and theater openings, dance, photography, and all manner of mass entertainment. And he wrote about the most colorful figures of the day, including Charlie Chaplin, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Prince of Wales, actor Adolphe Menjou, director Erich von Stroheim, and the Tiller Girls dance troupe. Film historian Noah Isenberg’s introduction and commentary place Wilder’s pieces—brilliantly translated by Shelley Frisch—in historical and biographical context, and rare photos capture Wilder and his circle during these formative years.
Filled with rich reportage and personal musings, Billy Wilder on Assignment showcases the burgeoning voice of a young journalist who would go on to become a great auteur.
Noah Isenberg is the George Christian Centennial Professor and Chair of the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author, most recently, of We’ll Always Have ‘Casablanca’: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie (W.W. Norton, 2017; Faber & Faber, 2017), which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and also named an Editor’s Choice by the New York Times Book Review. Among his other books are: Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins (California, 2014), which was selected by Huffington Post as a Best Film Book of 2014 and, as editor, Weimar Cinema: An Essential Guide to Classic Films of the Era (Columbia, 2009), which was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. His current projects include a book on Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot for Norton and a short interpretive biography of Wilder for the Yale Jewish Lives series.
in conversation with
Irwin Winkler’s career as a producer, director and writer encompasses popular and influential movies that have impacted contemporary culture. With a passion for big, bold, meaningful stories, his films include an array of true screen classics, garnering among them 12 Academy Awards and 52 Oscar nominations. He published a memoir in 2018 titles A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood.