ise stepped into the new decade with a developed sense
of film craft, cultivated from his editing and directing
experience as well as the influence of mentors Orson
Welles and Val Lewton. With his meticulous preparation
and commitment to realism, Wise excelled in a variety
of genres. |
That year, Wise also signed a six-picture deal with Twentieth Century-Fox. The first film he made with the studio was another example of Wise's prowess with a period piece, TWO FLAGS WEST (1950), starring Joseph Cotten and Linda Darnell. THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL (1951), his following film with Fox , was a thriller set in San Francisco which earned an Academy Award that year for best art direction in black and white.
Next, Wise delved into another genre: science fiction. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) is considered a science fiction classic and allowed Wise, a committed humanist, to make a message about nuclear proliferation through the main character in the film, an extraterrestrial.
In 1953 Wise made two, yet very distinct, World War II desert pictures. DESERT RATS, the sequel to DESERT FOX (1951), both starring James Mason, showcased Wise's talent for working on dramatic and action scenes and is one of his favorite films from the Fox period.
Two films in one year would be more than most directors
could handle, but in 1953 Wise made three, with the
third being SO BIG, a drama starring Jane Wyman,
based on the Pulitzer-prize-winning Edna Ferber novel.
MGM nabbed the prolific, gifted director in 1954. He started his four-picture run directing a new movie sub-genre, "the boardroom drama" with EXECUTIVE SUITE. The film, which included Wise's brilliant innovations in sound and editing, had an all-star cast and was Wise's greatest critical achievement and biggest box-office hit up to that point.
In SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956), the young Paul Newman starred as boxer Rocky Graziano. The fight scenes were carefully choreographed and storyboarded and the film was an editing tour-de-force, earning an Academy Award nomination for best editing.
"Paul [Newman] would get an idea for something, a little switch or a little change, something he wanted to do. And on the surface I would say, 'No, I don't think that right, Paul. Forget it.'...Then occasionally I was wrong and it would be good. So I got so I would say, 'Well, O.K., I don't think it's very good, but let's give it a whirl. We'll see. Who knows?' That's how I worked and molded the scenes with Paul."*
Eileen Heckart, Robert Wise and Paul Newman
on the set of SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME.
A little melodrama, UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957), followed a little comedy, THIS COULD BE THE NIGHT (1957). And in 1958 the submarine action film RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP paired two megastars, Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable.
The story of Barbara Graham, the first woman to be executed in California, provided the story for Robert Wise's next brilliant and affecting drama, I WANT TO LIVE! (1958). The very personal film for Wise portrayed
The story for I WANT TO LIVE! was based on newspaper articles by San Francisco Examiner reporter Ed Montgomery
Tackling more controversial subject matter, racism, Wise directed ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW (1959), a crime film. With ODDS, he finished off the decade as one of the most versatile as well as risk-taking directors.
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