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Wise, Robert

Entry updated 19 December 2017. Tagged: Film, People.

(1914-2005) US film director, who began his career as a film-cutter at RKO Studios and by 1939 was a fully qualified editor. He worked on Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941) and also – at the studio's insistence when the director was safely out of the country – directed a few scenes in Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). He then worked with the Val Lewton unit at RKO, first as editor, then as director. He made three films for Lewton – Curse of the Cat People (1944; co-directed with Gunther von Fritsch), Mademoiselle Fifi (1944) and The Body Snatcher (1945) – and stayed with RKO until 1949. In 1951 he directed The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). He did not return to the genre until The Andromeda Strain (1971). A versatile director, he made many kinds of films, including the musicals West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1964), as well as two superior contributions to the supernatural genre aside from his Lewton films: The Haunting (1963), based on Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and Audrey Rose (1977). He returned spectacularly to sf with the controversial Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), an ambitious attempt to fuse the simplistic original television series with post-Star Wars special effects and a transcendental vision after the fashion of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Subsequently he directed only the feeble youth musical, Rooftops (1989). Wise's work in sf and supernatural fantasy, at least until 1971, did more than that of most directors to bring some maturity to these genres in the cinema. [JB/PN/KN]

Robert Wise

born Winchester, Indiana: 10 September 1914

died Los Angeles, California: 14 September 2005


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