Robert Wise joined his older brother who worked as an accountant at the RKO Pictures’ in Los Angeles and took up a job at the editorial department in the studio.
During the next decade he became an assistant, then an apprentice of the editor for sound effects, and eventually a film editor.
He edited notable films that included ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ in 1939 made by Lon Chaney.
He then went into film direction and directed his first movie ‘Citizen Kane’ written by Orson Welles in 1941.
He directed the film ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ in 1942 but did not get any credit for it.
He directed the low-budget horror B-movie ‘The Curse of the Cat People’ and ‘Mademoiselle Fifi’ in 1944 and ‘The Body Snatcher’ in 1945 for producer Val Lewton and ‘RKO Pictures’.
He made his first A-film, which was an ambitious western for ‘RKO’ titled ‘Blood on the Moon’ in 1948 starring Robert Mitchum.
His last film for RKO was ‘The Set-Up’ in 1949 based on the fight sequences in the boxing ring which won him a prize at the ‘Cannes Film Festival’.
He left ‘RKO Pictures’ and joined ‘20th Century Fox’ on a three year contract and made the classic science fiction film ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ in 1951.
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He left ‘20th Century Fox’ to join ‘MGM’ to make the film ‘Executive Suite’ in 1954 in collaboration with screenwriter Ernest Lehman about power struggles inside a company.
He again teamed up with Lehman to make his biggest hit in the 1950s with ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ in 1956. It was based on the autobiography of middleweight boxing champion Rocky Graziano and starred Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Robert Loggia.
In 1958 he made the WW II naval drama ‘Run Silent Run Deep’ which starred Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable. He made ‘I Want to Live’ in the same year. It was a prison drama for which he received his first Oscar nomination for ‘Best Director’.
He made the musical ‘West Side Story’ in 1961 based on Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the backdrop of the streets of modern New York which won 10 Oscars.
His next effort was the horror movie ‘The Haunting’ in 1963 which is regarded as one of the best horror films ever made.
He made his second musical ‘The Sound of Music’ in 1965 based upon the exploits of a governess, played by Julie Andrews, and six Austrian children during the Second World War. The film won five Oscars including the best picture and best director.
His won another Oscar nomination for the war movie ‘Sand Pebbles’ starring Steve McQueen as a sailor during the 1920 Chinese Civil War.
He made another musical ‘Star!’ in 1968 with Julie Andrews in the lead which didn’t have great success.
Wise bounced back with the thriller ‘The Andromeda Strain’ in 1971 based on a novel by Michael Crichton about scientists trying to deal with an extraterrestrial virus.
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He served as the President of the ‘Directors guild of America’ from 1971 to 1975.
His historical epic ‘The Hindenburg’ in 1975, starring George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft, was a disaster and so was a metaphysical thriller about reincarnation titled ‘Audrey Rose’ in 1977.
He directed the science fiction film ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ in 1979 but could not become a blockbuster as expected by ‘Paramount Pictures’.
From 1984 to 1987 he served as the President of the ‘Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’.
He returned in 1989 with his last film, the urban musical ‘Rooftops’, starring Jason Gedrick which was an outright flop.
In 2000 he made the family drama movie ‘A Storm in Summer’ for the television written by Rod Sterling and starring Peter Falk.
Awards & Achievements
Robert Wise won his first ‘Academy Award’ nomination for ‘Best Editing’ in 1939 for the film ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’.
In 1949 he won the ‘Critics’ Prize’ at the ‘Cannes Film Festival’ for the film ‘Set Up’.
He won his first ‘Academy Award’ and ‘Golden Globe Award’ nomination for ‘Best Director’ for ‘I Want to Live’ in 1958.
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In 1961 he won ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Director’ for the film ‘West Side Story’, which also won ‘Best Picture’ Oscar. He was also won a nomination for the ‘Golden Globe Award’ for ‘Best Director’.
In 1963 Wise was nominated for a ‘Golden Globe Award’ for ‘Best Director’ for ‘The Haunting’.
In 1965 Wise won ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Director’ for his film ‘The Sound of Music’, which also won ‘Best Picture’. He also received a nomination for the ‘Golden Globe Award for Best Director’.
He won his next ‘Academy Award’ nomination for ‘Best Picture’ for ‘The Sand Pebbles’ in 1966 and nominations for the ‘Golden Globe Award’ for ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Motion Picture – Drama’.
In 1979 he received a nomination for the ‘Saturn Award for Best Director’ for ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’.
He received the ‘D. W. Griffith Award’ from the ‘Directors Guild of America’ in 1988.
In 1992 he received the ‘Sidney P. Solow Memorial Award’ from the ‘Technology Council’.
In 1998 he received a ‘Lifetime achievement Award’ from the ‘American Film Institute’.
He was inducted into the ‘Producers Guild Hall of Fame’ in 1999
Personal Life & Legacy
He married actress Patricia Doyle on May 25, 1942 who died on September 22, 1975. They had a son, Robert A. Wise from this marriage.
He married Millicent Franklin on January 29, 1977 who was with him till his death. He also had a stepdaughter, Pamela.
Robert Wise died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California on September 14, 2005 at the age of 91.
The library of the ‘Directors Guild of America’ was named after Wise in 1998.