William Wyler used his memories of U.S. Air Force combat service during World War II to direct the Academy Award-winning film "The Best Years of Our Lives."
He directed 41 feature films and was nominated for best director 12 times by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Wyler won the Oscar for best director for "Mrs. Miniver" in 1942, "The Best Years of Our Lives" in 1946 and "Ben Hur" in 1959.
His credits as a film director spanned the quickie two-reel westerns he began making in 1925 to his final film, "The Liberation of L.B. Jones" in 1970, a story about problems faced by blacks.
Films he took particular pride in, besides his three Oscar triumphs, included "Jezebel," 1938; "The Little Foxes," 1941; "The Heiress," 1949; "Detective Story," 1951; "Roman Holiday," 1953; "The Desperate Hours," 1955; "Friendly Persuasion," 1956; "The Children's Hour," 1961; and "Funny Girl," 1968.
Wyler delighted in taking works of major playwrights and novelists and bringing them to the screen. Movies he made included plays or novels by Lillian Hellman, Somerset Maugham, Jessamyn West, MacKinlay Kantor, Emily Bronte, Henry James and Theodore Dreiser.
"The story is always the central problem in any film I have directed," he said in a 1947 interview.
"You have to have the passion to tell the story, and you have to know how to tell it with style."
Wyler volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Forces early in 1942. He was commissioned as a major and assigned to make combat documentaries in Europe.
One of his 1994 documentaries, "The Memphis Belle," about bomber operations over Axis territory, was described by film critic Bosley Crowther as "one of the finest fact films of the war."
In 1920, he got his first motion picture job as a $15-a-week office boy through his mother's first cousin, Carl Laemmle, who was head of Universal Pictures. Because of his knowledge of French and German, Wyler was promoted to head the studio's foreign publicity.
He began directing in 1925, and he later said the now forgotten low-budget westerns he started with taught him the basic elements of a good motion picture.
|1939||Best Director||Wuthering Heights||Nomination|
|1940||Best Director||The Letter||Nomination|
|1941||Best Director||The Little Foxes||Nomination|
|1942||Best Director||Mrs. Miniver||Win|
|1946||Best Director||The Best Years of Our Lives||Win|
|1949||Best Director||The Heiress||Nomination|
|1951||Best Director||Detective Story||Nomination|
|1953||Best Director||Roman Holiday||Nomination|
|1953||Best Picture||Roman Holiday||Nomination|
|1956||Best Director||Friendly Persuasion||Nomination|
|1956||Best Picture||Friendly Persuasion||Nomination|
|1965||Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award||Win|
|1965||Best Director||The Collector||Nomination|