Robert Wise

The Wise Man In The Movie World

Robert Wise: “My three Ps – passion, patience, perseverance. You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker.”

Robert Earl Wise, Wisethe famed director, was born on September 10th 1914, Winchester, Indiana, USA. He was the son of a meat packer, and in 1931 started to study journalism at Franklin College, but due to The Depression was not able to carry on with his education.

He then went to Los Angeles with his brother and was given a job when he was nineteen years old in the film business at RKO Corporation. He started working in the editing department on the film Citizen Kane, but was quickly promoted to the position of director with his first film The Curse of the Cat People. It was this early training in editing that explains, in part, his success with his later work.

Wise was a great filmmaker and teacher, having a career that lasted for over 60 years, and included some of the most popular movies ever. He chose films that had a message, particularly showing human compassion and strength. Wise once said:

“I don’t have a favourite kind of film to make. I just look for the best material I can find.”


As you can see from the list below, Robert Wise has directed films that are science fiction, horror and musicals, as well as westerns, adventure, war and comedies. Wise himself says that he has done every genre there is. Here is a complete list of all the films Wise directed:

Action in Arabia (1944; second unit director, uncredited)
• Mademoiselle Fifi (1944)
• The Curse of the Cat People (1944)
• The Body Snatcher (1945)
• A Game of Death (1945)
• Criminal Court (1946)
Wise• Born to Kill (1947)
• Blood on the Moon (1948)
• Mystery in Mexico (1948)
• The Set-Up (1949)
• Three Secrets (1950)
• Two Flags West (1950)
• The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
• The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)
• Something for the Birds (1952)
• The Captive City (1952)
• Return to Paradise (1953) (producer)
• So Big (1953)
• Destination Gobi (1953)
• The Desert Rats (1953)
• Executive Suite (1954)
• Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)
• Tribute to a Bad Man (1956)
Wise• Helen of Troy (1956)
• Until They Sail (1957)
• This Could Be the Night (1957)
• Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
• I Want to Live! (1958)
• Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
• West Side Story (1961; co-director and producer)
• Two for the Seesaw (1962)
• The Haunting (1963; director and producer)
• The Sound of Music (1965; director and producer)
• The Sand Pebbles (1966; director and producer)
• Star! (1968)
• The Baby Maker (1970; executive producer)
• The Andromeda Strain (1971; director and producer)
• Two People (1973) (producer)
• The Hindenburg (1975)
• Audrey Rose (1977)
• Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
• Wisdom (1986; executive producer)
• Rooftops (1989)
• The Stupids (1996; actor)
• A Storm in Summer (2000)

WiseWise agreed to direct The Sound of Music movie after William Wyler had decided not to go ahead with it. Wise decided to direct it, but only if 20th Century Fox agreed to finance The Sand Pebbles in 1966. Using his experience and skills as a director, Robert Wise managed to bring the best crew together to make The Sound of Music. Among them were:

Screenwriter - Ernest Lehman
Production Designer - Borris Leven
Production Illustrator - Maurice Zuberano
Editor - William Reynolds
Cinematographer - Ted McCord

WiseWise made fabulous use of the spectacular Austrian mountain scenery and the beautiful old city of Salzburg, finding some wonderful locations. In particular, the classic opening aerial view of Maria in the mountains, perfectly captures the spirit of the film, and has been described as ‘pure film magic’. Nobody can deny the fact that The Sound of Music is a beautifully made film, but when asked why the movie was so successful, Wise humbly explains that:

“The Sound of Music just happened to come out when the world was hungry for this kind of warm, emotional, family entertainment”.

WiseRobert Wise deservedly won an Oscar for his great work as Best Director in The Sound of Music in 1965. He also won an Oscar for Best Director in West Side Story in 1961, along with many other awards and nominations. These included Lifetime Achievement Awards in 1997 with the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and in 1998 with the American Film Institute (see photo right, with Jack Lemmon and Julie Andrews).

Wise was married twice. His first wife was Patricia Doyle, and they were married from 1942 until she died in 1975. He re-married in 1977, to Millicent Franklin, until he died in 2005. He had a son, Robert E. Wise, by his first marriage.

WiseHe has been described as being a kind, patient but demanding man with an amazing ability to work with talented people. Robert Wise once said about Julie Andrews herself:

“There is a genuiness about her, an unphoniness. She goes right through the camera on to the film and out to the audience. Julie seems to have been born with the magic gene that comes through on the screen.”

He was also president of The Directors Guild of America and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In his latter years, Wise was involved in making DVD versions of his many films, and was actively involved in promoting them.

WiseOn September 14th 2005 Robert Wise died from heart failure at the age of 91 years old in Los Angeles. He was considered to be one of the most recognized directors of the twentieth century, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6338 Hollywood Boulevard. It is a lasting memorial to this great man, as well of course to the many movies that he has made.

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