'To See the Dream'

Wyler by the bullet

<i>The Desperate Hours</i>
The Desperate Hours

• Worked on the chariot race scene in the first Ben-Hur (1925); more than 30 years later, Wyler directed the Charlton Heston remake.

• Directed Universal's first all-sound film shot outside of a studio, Hell's Heroes (1930).

• Married Margaret Sullavan after they fought famously on the set of The Good Fairy (1935), one of Preston Sturges' best early screenplays.

• Married a Texan, Margaret Tallichet, an SMU graduate from Dallas (1938).

• Daughter Catherine was named for Cathy in Wuthering Heights (1939).

• Worked with renowned cinematographer Gregg Toland on six films.

• Greer Garson married the actor who plays her son in Mrs. Miniver (1942), about which its director famously said, "Christ, what a tearjerker."

• The hallway reunion scene in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) was based on Wyler's own return home from World War II, during which he lost most of his hearing in the Air Force.

• Wyler's friend Dashiell Hammet was the first writer on Detective Story (1951).

• Audrey Hepburn's screen test for Roman Holiday (1953) was extended without the actress' knowledge (the camera operator was instructed to keep filming after a "cut" was yelled), and it was on the basis of this footage ("Was I any good?") that she got the part.

• Spencer Tracy had agreed to play the Fredric March role in The Desperate Hours (1955) but wouldn't cede top billing to Humphrey Bogart.

• Jessamyn West adapted her book Friendly Persuasion (1956) with Wyler's brother Robert. The author, who wrote To See the Dream about the experience, said of filmmaking: "A movie is a guess at an echo."

• Wyler quit The Sound of Music to make The Collector (1965) after casting Julie Andrews as Maria.

– Gleaned from William Wyler: The Authorized Biography by Axel Madsen (1973)

  • More of the Story

  • When It Felt True

    The Austin Chronicle's Raoul Hernandez curates an AFS Essential Cinema series on the 'enigma' of William Wyler

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