First cousin, once-removed, on his mother's side of Carl Laemmle, who was known on the Universal Studio lot as "Uncle Carl."
Younger brother of writer/director Robert Wyler.
Interred at Forest Lawn (Glendale), Glendale, California, USA, in the Eventide Section, space 2, plot #2998.
Father of Catherine Wyler (born July 25, 1939), Judy Wyler (May 21, 1942), David Wyler, Melanie Ann Wyler (born November 25, 1950) and William Wyler Jr.
Cousin-in-law of Carl Laemmle Jr.
He was an assistant director on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) and 34 years later directed its remake, Ben-Hur (1959).
Became the youngest director on the Universal lot on his promotion in 1925.
His penchant for retakes earned him many nicknames including '90-Take Wyler' and 'Once-More Wyler'.
Bette Davis credited him for making her a box office-star after he directed her Oscar-winning performance in Jezebel (1938).
In April of 1945 he permanently lost the hearing in his right ear while filming a bombing mission from a B-25.
Was originally set to direct The Sound of Music (1965) but was unable to find much enthusiasm for the material ("I just can't bear to make a picture about all those nice Nazis") and, after he found a more worthy project in The Collector (1965), pulled out.
Brother-in-law of Cathy O'Donnell.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 1220-1233. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Born Willi Wyler on July 1, 1902, in Mulhouse in Alsace Province, Germany (later ceded to France after World War I), he was brought to America in 1920 by his mother's first cousin, Carl Laemmle, owner of Universal Pictures. By 1925 Wyler had worked his way up through the family business and was made a director, helming the two-reel western The Crook Buster (1925). He was credited as "William Wyler" on the film, though he never officially changed his name.
Carl Laemmle, the owner of Universal Studios, was the first cousin of Wyler's mother. Laemmle offered Wyler, who was then living in his native Alsace in France, a job in Universal's New York office. Wyler accepted the offer and emigrated to America in 1920. He was 18 years old.
Directed three Best Picture Oscar winners (Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Ben-Hur (1959)) and one Oscar-winning Best Documentary, The Fighting Lady (1944). He won the Best Director Oscar for each of the three winning feature films. An additional ten films he directed, from Dodsworth (1936) to Funny Girl (1968), were nominated for Best Picture Academy Awards.
Directed 31 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances (more than any other director): Bonita Granville, Walter Huston, Maria Ouspenskaya, Claire Trevor, Bette Davis, Fay Bainter, Laurence Olivier, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Walter Brennan, James Stephenson, Patricia Collinge, Teresa Wright, Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Henry Travers, May Whitty, Fredric March, Harold Russell, Olivia de Havilland, Ralph Richardson, Eleanor Parker, Lee Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Anthony Perkins, Burl Ives, Charlton Heston, Hugh Griffith, Samantha Eggar, Barbra Streisand and Kay Medford. Davis, Bainter, Brennan, Wright, Garson, March, Russell, de Havilland, Hepburn, Ives, Heston, Griffith and Streisand won Oscars for one of their performances in one of Wyler's movies.
Is portrayed by Joe Grifasi in Will There Really Be a Morning? (1983)
According to screenwriter Joe Eszterhas' 2004 autobiography "American Animal," producer Martin Ransohoff removed three-time Oscar winning director Wyler from The Americanization of Emily (1964) because Wyler wanted to change Paddy Chayefsky's script. It was a rare instance in which a producer supported a screenwriter over a director, particularly one of Wyler's caliber. As Chayevsky, himself an Oscar-winner, was known to have contractual guarantees written into his contracts protecting his scripts, Ransohoff may have had no choice but to replace Wyler with Arthur Hiller.
He was asked by Laurence Olivier to direct Henry V (1944), for which the British government had released the actor from the navy air services to film in order to boost public morale. Wyler, who was in England as an officer in charge of a US Army Signals Corps motion picture unit assigned to the US Army Air Force, declined the offer and told him to direct it himself. Still considered the best film adaptation of Shakespeare, "Henry V" won Olivier a special Oscar and his third Best Actor nomination.
Laurence Olivier credited Wyler with teaching him how to act on film. During the shooting of Wuthering Heights (1939), Wyler constantly heckled Olivier after many takes with such epithets as "Lousy!" When Olivier asked the notoriously uncommunicative (towards actors) director, he replied, "Stop trying to reach the third balcony of the Manchester Opera House." Olivier curbed his tendency to go over the top and won his first of 10 acting Oscar nominations in the role. Olivier had had contempt for the movies, but after working with Wyler he developed respect for the medium.
Was hired to replace Sidney Lumet as director of Funny Girl (1968). Lumet left the picture over differences with producer Ray Stark and star Barbra Streisand. Wyler originally declined the offer, because he was deaf in one ear and said he couldn't do a musical, but reconsidered after meeting Streisand. Several co-stars later publicly blasted Wyler and Streisand for many of their scenes being cut in favor of focusing almost entirely on Streisand.
Has directed three films on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time: Ben-Hur (1959) at #56, Mrs. Miniver (1942) at #40 and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) at #11.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 898-900. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
As of the 5th edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (edited by Steven Jay Schneider), 7 of Wyler's films were listed: Dodsworth (1936), Jezebel (1938), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), The Heiress (1949), Roman Holiday (1953) and Ben-Hur (1959).
Was at one point considered as director for September Affair (1950).
He is the only person to direct three Best Picture Academy Award winners: Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Ben-Hur (1959).
His friendship with actor Gregory Peck almost ended during the stressful filming of The Big Country (1958) where the two men found themselves clashing so often that towards the end of production they were not on speaking terms and Wyler was quoted as telling the press that he would never do another film with Peck. The two mended their friendship a year later following Wyler's Oscar win for Ben-Hur (1959) but they never worked together again.
William Wyler and Margaret Sullavan got divorced after a 16 month marriage when he discovered that Sullavan had gotten an abortion without even telling him that she was pregnant. She felt a baby would damage her career and thought that Wyler would have wanted her to have the baby.
His films were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in a record seven consecutive years: Dodsworth (1936), Dead End (1937), Jezebel (1938), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941) and Mrs. Miniver (1942). Of the seven films in question, Mrs. Miniver (1942) was the only one to win the award.
At twelve, he received a record twelve Academy Award nominations for Best Director. He was nominated for Dodsworth (1936), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), The Heiress (1949), Detective Story (1951), Roman Holiday (1953), Friendly Persuasion (1956), Ben-Hur (1959) and The Collector (1965), winning for Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Ben-Hur (1959).
Is one of four directors who have directed Academy Award winning performances in all four acting categories. The others being Elia Kazan, Hal Ashby and Martin Scorsese.
Cousin of actress Antonia Carlotta.
Directed 13 films nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture: Dodsworth (1936), Dead End (1937), Jezebel (1938), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), The Heiress (1949), Roman Holiday (1953), Friendly Persuasion (1956), Ben-Hur (1959) and Funny Girl (1968), with Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of Our Lives and Ben-Hur all winning Best Picture.
He has directed ten films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Dodsworth (1936), Jezebel (1938), Wuthering Heights (1939), Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (1944), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), The Heiress (1949), Roman Holiday (1953), Ben-Hur (1959) and Funny Girl (1968).