William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Director


William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Director


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This book provides the first comprehensive study of William Wyler's major films. Despite his status as the most decorated American film director in history (including 3 Oscars and a record 12 Oscar nominations), Wyler is the only major director from American film's “classic period” whose work has never been subjected to rigorous study. The book focuses both on Wyler's evolving views of America — as articulated through his films in terms of such themes as capitalism, World War II, and HUAC — and on his directorial style, which emphasizes depth-of-field photography, minimal cutting, and thematically suggestive mise-en-scène. Indeed, Wyler was lionized in the late 1940s by André Bazin, who felt that Wyler distinguished himself from other directors by manipulating the medium the least, thus allowing life's mysteries and intricacies to remain intact on screen. This study also details the production histories and script evolutions of Wyler's most important films, particularly those he made with Samuel Goldwyn. Those films, most made in collaboration with cinematographer Gregg Toland, reflect his richest and most expressive work. The book also establishes that what some of Goldwyn's biographers call the “Goldwyn touch” was, in fact, the “Wyler touch.” Goldwyn never produced films that were as critically acclaimed after Wyler left him, and the producer's only Oscar was for the Wyler-directed The Best Years of Our Lives. The book draws extensively on Wyler's papers as well as Goldwyn's, citing letters, production memos, treatments, and scripts to demonstrate Wyler's deep involvement in the development of his films.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY




978-0-8131-4211-1 (pdf version)


978-0-8131-4210-4 (epub version)




André Bazin, Gregg Toland, Samuel Goldwyn, HUAC, World War II, depth-of-field photography


Film and Media Studies | Radio | Television

William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Director
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