hile the '50s found Wise incredibly prolific, starting
one film as soon as he finished another, the '60s would
find him concentrating mostly on fewer but bigger
films. He had already proven his skill as a filmmaker,
his ability to work with actors, his versatilityand
In 1960 he was chosen by Mirisch-United Artists to direct his first full musical, the screen adaptation of the Bernstein/Sondheim-scored WEST SIDE STORY. The film proved how professionally and creatively Wise was equipped to handle the new medium, even making some new strides. And the result was a major artistic and box-office achievementconsidered one of the most beloved musicals of all timeand earned ten Academy Awards, including Best Director.
"...The major problem is to find ways to make the musical and theatrical parts of the the stage show compatible with the screen, to keep them from being embarassing."*
Another New York love story, the smaller, absorbing drama TWO FOR THE SEESAW (1962), starring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine, followed the blockbuster musical WEST SIDE STORY. After SEESAW, Wise challenged himself by getting the opportunity to put his stamp on the thriller film again (something he hadn't done since his B-movie Lewton days) with his next film, THE HAUNTING (1963).
A big blockbuster war drama was what Wise set out to direct and produce next. THE SAND PEBBLES was based on Richard McKenna's novel about an American gunboat in China during the 1926 revolution. When financing
The beloved musical became one of the greatest hits of his career and earned six Academy awards, including two for WiseBest Director and Best Picture. It proved once again that Wise was a director who could surround himself with the creative talent to move his skillful direction apace.
SOUND OF MUSIC
THE SAND PEBBLES, starring Steve McQueen, reflected the pacifist views of Wise, particularly regarding the Vietnam War, but the anti-war statement is implied. The realistic sets, locations in Asia, and hundreds of extras provided Wise with the biggest challenge of his careernot many directors could have handled the task with the same aplomb. That year the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture.
"It's the most difficult picture I ever made"
Wise capped off his decade of big pictures with one of the last big musicals to be made by Hollywood: STAR! (1969), starring Julie Andrews.
SITE INDEX | SITE CREDITS