31 Days of Oscars Blogathon 2015 (week 4: Pictures and Directors): William Wyler, Three Times Best Director Winner

William Wyler

William Wyler is someone we can call an Oscar Winner director. Well, after John Ford he is (with Frank Capra) the second movie director who has received the most Oscars. He won the award for a total of three of his films: Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of Our Lives and Ben-Hur. These three movies were also awarded Best Picture. Today, for the fourth of The 31 Days of Oscars Blogathon 2015: Pictures and Directors, I decided to write about William Wyler and these three memorable films.

Mrs Miniver: 

Mrs Miniver

Mrs. Miniver was released in 1942 and it stars a bunch of incredible actors: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty, Henry Travers and Richard Ney. The story takes place in England during the beginning of the World War II. Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) is married to Clem Miniver (Walter Pidgeon) and they have three children: Vin (Richard Ney), Judy and Toby. This middle-class family lives in the little city of Balham. At the beginning of the film, Mrs. Miniver is back from town where she went to do some shopping. At the train station, Mr. Ballard (Henry Travers), who works at the train station, wants to show her something special. She accepts and he shows her a beautiful red rose that he had cultivated himself. As he admires Mrs Miniver he tells her that he wants to name this rose the Miniver rose and wants to present it to the annual village flower contest. Of course, Kay Miniver is honoured. The next day, Kay, Clem, Judy, and Toby go to the train station to welcome Vin who is back from university. During their lunch, Carol Beldon (Theresa Wright), Lady Beldon’s granddaughter, comes asks Mrs. Miniver to convince Mr. Ballard not to present the Miniver rose to the contest. As it is a beautiful rose, it may have chances to win and her grandmother, Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty) has always won the contest and this is something very important for her. Carol says this very gently and without any bad intention. However, Vin opposes to her (not very politely), but she stays nice and sweet. Not a long time after, the two fall in love with each other and get married. Anyway, everything goes right for the Miniver and the people of Balham until the war explodes. England becomes a victim of the German bombings and the people of Balham have to survive in a climate of fear. Vin decides to enlist in the Royal British Air Force to protect his country.

Among the three William Wyler’s films that won the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Direction, Mrs. Miniver is my favourite one. It’s a truly fantastic and unforgettable picture. After he directed this film, William Wyler admitted that his first objective with it was to make a propaganda film. He was convinced that the USA should participate in the war against Nazism. So, with this film, he decided to show to the ordinary American citizens what their British equivalents were going through. The film was a success and had a good effect on American’s help for the British during the war. Also, Winston Churchill claimed that this film had done a lot for the war effort. Of course, when you first watch Mrs. Miniver, you don’t appreciate it as a propaganda film, but as a masterpiece. Well, there are many reasons why it deserved the Best Director (and Best Picture)’s Oscar. It’s first interesting to see a film, not only about war but also about how the ordinary people, those who were not on the front, were living the war. Indeed, in this film, we never see the English soldiers fighting on the front. This is how the sound dimension becomes very important in this film. It was brilliantly used in a way to show us how the war can be frightful. Of course, I’m thinking of this scene when Kay, Clem, Toby, and Judy are in their nuclear bunker and the German’s planes start throwing bombs on Balham. As they can’t go outside because they would be killed, they only hear the bombings and they don’t see them. That’s the same thing for the public because Wyler decided not to show us what was going on outside. So, we notice that to “hear” the war is even more terrifying than seeing it because we don’t know what to expect. Is it worst or less worst than what we are expecting? The next day, the Miniver are back to their house who has been seriously damaged by the bombings. However, life has to continue. With this film, Wyler did an amazing job with the actors’ direction. Greer Garson won the Oscar for Best Actress and Teresa Wright won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Both were truly remarkable and played their part with so much sensibility. The film also received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (Walter Pidgeon), Best Supporting Actor (Henry Travers) and another for Best Supporting Actress Oscar (Dame May Whitty). Greer Garson didn’t like this film as she thought it wasn’t a good story. I always thought this was very strange as it is a fantastic film and as she gave a beautiful performance. This is the film that made me like Walter Pidgeon. I saw him before in How Green Was My Valley, but he didn’t impress me that much. He did with Mrs. Miniver. I like his beautiful deep voice. It makes me think of Gregory Peck’s voice. I love Teresa Wright since I saw her in Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock, 1938) and that’s the same for Dame May Whitty since I saw her in The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock, 1938). So, it was a real pleasure to see another film with them. Finally, Henry Travers gives us a very touching and humble performance. He is really lovable. In fact, all the actors and their characters are, even Lady Beldon! Well, with Mrs. Miniver, William Wyler made a movie that I’ll always keep in my heart. A brilliant, touching, beautiful and almost perfect film that, once you have seen it, you can forget it. It’s a movie that makes you understand another side of the war. It’s also a movie that grants a great regard to the importance of the family, a value that we tend to neglect, but that becomes very important in times of crisis like the war. Mrs. Miniver is a film that makes you live many emotions and always in a good way.

The Best Years of Our Lives 

The Best Years of Our Lives

The Best Years of Our Lives was released in 1946 and starred Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo and Kathy O’Donnell. War is over. Al Stephenson (Fredric March), Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) and Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), three American soldiers (who had never met before) are going back home. They are traveling in the same plane as they had discovered they all come from the same place: Boone City. The three become friends. Their richest wish is to get back to a normal life with their family, but this won’t be easy. Homer has lost his two hands during the war and he has to face a family who doesn’t know how to handle the situation. He only wants them to treat him like a normal person. Al is happy to be back to his wife and kids, but he drinks a lot and Fred’s wife has lost interest in him has his new job is not very well-paid. Fred also falls in love with Peggy, Al’s daughter, but this is a difficult situation as he is already married. Back to their home, the three soldiers will live hard, but also good moments.

I always thought that The Best Year of Our Lives was a good complement to Mrs. Miniver. You know, Mrs, Minver tells us the story of ordinary citizens DURING the war and The Best Year of Our Lives tell us the story of three soldiers and their family AFTER the war. Of course, Mrs. Miniver takes place in England and The Best Years of Our Lives takes place in the United States. I haven’t seen many postwar films, but I’m sure this is one of the bests. It’s the kind of film that makes you say “WOW”, the kind of movie that makes you understand, just like Mrs. Miniver, another side of the war. The actors in this film are wonderful. Frederic March won the Oscar for Best Actor and Harold Russell won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. However, my favourite performance in this film was Dana Andrews’ one. We can see he did his job seriously and that he knew how to share many emotions. I think he is a very versatile actor. I also like the fact that he falls in love with Teresa Wright and vice versa. The two make a beautiful couple and they have a good chemistry together. Fredric March leads some funny scenes (because yes, there are some funny scenes!). I can think of the moment when he forgets to take off of his pyjamas to take his shower. William Wyler directed some beautiful and memorable scenes, some very powerful scenes. I can think of the moment when Omer decides to show to his lovely fiancée, Wilma (Kathy O’Donnell,  what it will be like to live with someone who has lost his arms. This scene proves us that she really loves him. Another scene I love is when Dana Andrews goes in that old defected warplane just to feel another time what it is like to be in this kind of plane. Of course, the ending is also unforgettable and I love the moments when a character gives a hug or a kiss to another character because this is done with so much love and it’s so beautiful. Also, a part we’ll never forget after watching this film is when each soldier, at the beginning, is arriving at their home. This is another great emotional moment. The Best Years of Our Lives is certainly one of the most wonderful films ever made. I think that this and Mrs. Miniver are two films that everybody should watch to understand what it was like to live the war out of the front. Now, I would like you to watch this beautiful fan-made trailer. If you haven’t seen The Best Years of Our Lives yet, I’m sure it will make you want to.

Ben-Hur

Ben Hur

Ben-Hur is a film released in 1959 and starring Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harrareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, and Kathy O’Donnell. This film received a great total of 11 Oscars (!) including Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Actor (Charlton Heston) and Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith). Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), a Jewish prince and rich merchant, lives in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century during the Roman Empire Era. His friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) comes to see him. He is now the new commandant of the Roman garrison. He asks his friend not to be part of the Jewish rebellion against the Roman Empire. Judah has to choose between his friendship for Messala and his loyalty to his people. Even if he is a pacifist, he chooses the loyalty. Then, Messala becomes his enemy. After an incident, Messala betrays his former friend and makes him a slave in the Roman galleys. Ben-Hur only wishes to recover his freedom and to get his revenge.

Ben-Hur is certainly the most well-known William Wyler’s film. I mean, everybody knows Ben-Hur, even those who don’t watch classic films or those who don’t know who is William Wyler. This is probably because of the horse race’s scene, one of the most famous scenes in cinema’s history. I must admit before I saw this film, I really didn’t know what to expect from this scene. I was saying to myself that it couldn’t be THAT iconic. Well, it was. It’s really the best scene of the film and one of the most remarkable work of filming and editing. For this scene, William Wyler chose the camera angles, but he left the details of its shooting to his second-unit directors Andrew Marton and Yakima Canutt. When he saw the result, Mrs Wyler said that this was “one of the greatest cinematic achievements” he had ever seen. Wyler supervised the editing of this scene. This might have been a tough job as there is a lot of action and movements in it. Well, this editing was a success and that’s what makes this horse race so thrilling. I remember, when I was watching the film, I didn’t want this scene to end has it was so well-made. Oh, I think it will be a good idea to watch it now.

With Ben-Hur, William Wyler (who was Jewish) wanted to make a movie “that would appeal to all religious faiths” (IMDB). I think he did a great job on this level. What’s also interesting is the fact that it was the remake of another film: Ben-Hur : A Tale of the Christ, a silent film directed by Fred Niblo in 1925. William Wyler and Henry Hathaway (another great movie director) actually worked on this film as the assistant directors. One more time, William Wyler did a great job with the actors in this film. Charlton Heston gives us a great performance for sure. However, I must admit I don’t really remember Hugh Griffith’s performance. I, unfortunately, didn’t have time to watch this 3h30 film very recently, so it’s less fresh in my memory. Ben-Hur is a great epic that had a good success. It cost $ 15 M to produce and it made around $ 150 M at that world Box Office only for the initial release. I must admit, it’s not my favourite William Wyler’s film, but it remains an excellent and worth watching one, especially for the horse race’s scene. William Wyler certainly did an amazing direction job. Finally, another thing I’ll never forget about Ben-Hur is the wonderful score composed by Miklós Rózsa. What would be this film without this grandiose music?

William Wyler is my third favourite movie director and it was a pleasure to write about three of his films. He received the Best Director Oscar for three of his films, but he was also nominated for 9 more: Dodsworth, Wuthering Heights, The Letter, The Little Foxes, The Heiress, Detective Story, Roman Holiday, Friendly Persuasion and The Collector. He really was one of the greatest movie directors in Hollywood. My favourite Wyler’s film is Roman Holiday. It’s also my 10th favourite movie of all times. Now, I would like you to watch my little video tribute I made in honour of William Wyler. Enjoy!

This was already my last contribution for The 31 Days of Oscars Blogathon. It was a real pleasure to participate in this very nice event! I hope I’ll be back next year for the occasion. And thanks to all the hosts for taking care of this blog event. Make sure to read the other entries written for this blogathon.

http://aurorasginjoint.com/2015/01/05/31-days-of-oscar-blogathon-2015/

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11 thoughts on “31 Days of Oscars Blogathon 2015 (week 4: Pictures and Directors): William Wyler, Three Times Best Director Winner

  1. Three Oscars is a great accomplishment, but my initial reaction was, “Only three?” Such a gifted filmmaker – I don’t think I have a fave Wm Wyler film, come to think of it.

    This post is a great tribute to a very talented filmmaker.

    Liked by 2 people

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