Remembering a classic creator


THE MAN AND HIS MUSICALS: Scenes from `Sound of Music' and `West Side Story.'

THE MAN AND HIS MUSICALS: Scenes from `Sound of Music' and `West Side Story.'  

"My three Ps: passion, patience, and perseverance... You have to do this if you've got to be a filmmaker... I'd rather do my own thing ... choose projects that take me into different kinds of genres...I don't have a favourite kind of film to make. I just look for the best material I can find." He said in an interview years ago.

A master of the film medium, Robert Wise, who passed away recently in Los Angeles at 91, directed and produced two of the greatest movie musicals, `West Side Story' and `The Sound of Music.'

He made 39 movies of varying genre over a period of 50 years and created some masterpieces and classics. Deservedly, he was honoured with four Oscars for his creations. Wise attracted attention when he edited Orson Welles' `Citizen Kane.' However, with his characteristic modesty Wise credited his success as editor to Orson Welles and the camera maestro Gregg Toland.

His body of work reveals an astonishing range. From Science Fiction (`The Day The Earth Stood Still' -1951), drama (`I Want To Live!' -1958), boxing (`The Set - Up' - 1949; and `Somebody Up There Likes Me' - 1956), war stories (`Run Silent Run Deep' - 1958), westerns (`Tribute To A Bad Man' -1956), to horror (`The Curse of the Cat People' - 1944; and `The Body Snatcher'- 1945).

`Executive Suite' (1954), a Wise classic, was a trend-setter. It exposed the backroom politics and horse trading of the corporate world of movies where board meetings, power games and chair-grabbing dominated

Remembering a classic creator

The movies which made Wise immortal are `The West Side Story' (1961), and `The Sound of Music' (1965).

While most musicals made in Hollywood since sound came to movies in 1927, have attained the status of cult films and classics, these two movies have been hailed as the greatest of them all.

Interestingly Wise not only directed the two classics but also produced them winning four Oscars as director and producer of both movies.

`West Side Story' is a modern `Romeo and Juliet' set in the New York City tenement slums of early 1960s. Wise and Jerome Robbins directed this classic, which has music by Leonard Bernstein. It raked in 10 Oscars in all and was a box-office bonanza. `The Sound of Music,' based on the true story of the singing Von Trapp family who escaped from Nazi-ruled Austria, was a mega hit with Julia Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the lead and was one of the top grossers of all time. It won five Oscars including two for Wise. Its music topped the charts globally.

Robert Wise was born on September 10, 1914, in Winchester, Indiana, U.S.. He left college during the Depression to seek work. His brother, an accountant at RKO, helped him to get a lowly job at the studio.

Remembering a classic creator

He worked his way up to become a film editor. He edited such movies as `The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle,' `The Hunchback of Notre Dame,' `All That Money Can Buy' and `Citizen Kane.'

He also edited the under-rated Orson Welles masterpiece, `The Magnificent Ambersons' (1942). He received the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966 and the Directors Guild of America's (DGA) highest honour, the D. W. Griffith Award, in 1988.

Wise's `Two for the Seesaw' (1962), `The Sand Pebbles' (1966), `The Andromeda Strain' (1970) and `Star Trek' (1979) are the other note-worthy films.

Robert Wise was a much respected man in the dog-eat-dog world of movies. Ironically, he passed away the day before a retrospective of his films began in Spain.

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