Wise, Robert Earl

Wise, Robert Earl
▪ 2006

      American producer and director (b. Sept. 10, 1914, Winchester, Ind.—d. Sept. 14, 2005, Los Angeles, Calif.), directed films for some 56 years during which he was noted for his mastery of a number of genres in order to be true to a movie's material. For each of two of his biggest successes—West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965)—he was rewarded with two Academy Awards, as director and as producer of the best picture. Because of the Depression, Wise had to leave college in 1933, so he moved to Hollywood and gained employment in the RKO movie studio, first as a messenger and eventually as a film editor. His work attracted the attention of Orson Welles, who hired him to edit Citizen Kane (1941). Wise's brilliant cutting of that film led Welles to use him the following year for The Magnificent Ambersons. Controversy arose, however, when the studio forced Wise to shoot new scenes and make cuts that Welles felt ruined the film. Wise next was asked to take over the direction of The Curse of the Cat People (1944). It became a cult classic, and Wise received a promotion to director. Among the best known of his films over the following decades were The Body Snatcher (1945), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), I Want to Live! (1958), The Haunting (1963), The Sand Pebbles (1966), and The Andromeda Strain (1971). In addition to his Oscars, Wise's honours included the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1966), the Directors Guild of America's D.W. Griffith Award (1988), and the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award (1998).

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