Robert Wise Today
For over 50 years, movies have been Robert Wise's passion and the medium in which he developed as a craftsman and brilliant storyteller. Never pushing himself as a "personality" like so many directors, he has always favored letting his work take the spotlight over himself. What he has given to the world in film Postersentertainment, however, certainly is cause for his name to be recognized. THE SOUND OF MUSIC and WEST SIDE STORY alone have entertained—and continue to entertain—millions worldwide.

Robert Wise's story of success in Hollywood is that of commitment to hard work and serving the stories he tells cinematically. His filmography has spanned genres and subject matter. In an AFI seminar in 1980 the great director told students: "People ask me, do I prefer to do musicals to drama or comedy? I like them all. If it's good, exciting, gripping, original material, that's what's important, what counts."* From big musicals to gripping, gritty dramas steeped in social criticism, Robert Wise has put his mark of excellence on over 40 films and his journey as an artist follows the development of American film itself.

His story starts here...

The young Robert Wise
Young Film Lover
in the smalltown of Winchester, Indiana, where in 1914 Robert Wise Jr. was born to Robert Wise Sr., a meatpacker, and his wife, Olive Longenecker.

It was in the small town's moviehouse that a young Robert immersed himself in as many films as he could, viewing one dime matinee after another. One summer, he even won a season pass to the theater, favoring the Hollywood light on the the screen to the hot Indiana summer sun.

The young film lover didn't set out to make movies, though. As a kid, Wise liked to write, and by the time he entered Franklin College, in Franklin, Indiana, his focus was on journalism. When the Depression took its grip on the Wise family, Robert had to leave school and earn a living. What could have been an unfortunate situation turned out working in Wise's favor and changing his life.

The Family Wise
Robert, brother David, Mrs. Wise, nephew Jim Wise, brother Lloyd and Mr. Wise.
An RKO Radio PictureAt the time, Wise's brother David worked in the accounting department at RKO in Hollywood, and the Wise family encouraged Robert to seek employment there as well. Soon the impressive young Wise was offered a job as a porter in RKO's editing department. For a movie fan, this was a great place to be, and in his journeys between the studio's projection and cutting rooms, Wise absorbed the day-to-day workings of the studio.

Rather quickly, Wise was promoted to assistant sound and music editor. Some credits as sound effects editor:
Of Human Bondage (1934) (apprentice)
The Gay Divorcee (1934)-one of the first Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers Movie
The Informer, directed by John Ford
and Mark Sandrich's Top Hat
While hitting a lull in the production schedule in 1935, Wise worked in tandem with seasoned editor T.K. Woods to create a ten-minute film on the South Seas out of some extra footage. The result was A TRIP THROUGH FIJILAND, for which Wise earned his first screen credit and a $500 bonus.
Kate Hepburn

In 1935, Wise edited the music for ALICE ADAMS, staying up two and a half days, with two hours sleep, to finish the film for a sneak preview.

His dilligence and creativity brought him to the next step of his career at RKO: assistant editor. Wise built on his knowledge of film employed as an assistant editor on the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie, CAREFREE (1938). Then, with William Hamilton and Henry Berman as his editing guides, Wise worked on Garson Kanin's BACHELOR MOTHER (1939;) the critically acclaimed and popular HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, (1939); and Mark Sandrich's THE STORY OF VERNON AND IRENE CASTLE (1939).

In the 1940s, Wise works his way up to the directing chair....


1. AFI Seminar, 1980

Intro | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s+


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