William Wyler Biography

(Swiss-German-American Film Producer and Director)

Birthday: July 1, 1902 (Cancer)

Born In: Mulhouse, France

William Wyler was an American filmmaker, producer and scriptwriter. In his directorial career of 45 years, he created films like ‘Ben-Hur’, ‘Mrs Miniver’ and ‘the Best Years of Our Lives. He was an inattentive student during his school days and developed an interest towards concerts and films at a young age. While working as a shipping clerk in New York, he decided to pursue a career in film direction. After directing some silent films, he made ‘Hell’s Heroes’, his first sound film. He was notable for his ability to make successful films based on several classic literatures like ‘Wuthering Heights’, which is based on a classic novel of Emily Bronte by the same name. While serving the United States Army Air Force during the World War II, he learnt so many things about war. He utilized this knowledge for making some great documentaries like ‘The Fighting Lady’. These documentaries represent the War’s footage that he captured carefully. Due to his fastidious nature, he was known by his nickname - ‘90-Take Wyler’. Several of his films won Academy Awards in various categories. He won the Oscar Award three times.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Willi Wyler

Died At Age: 79


Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Sullavan (m. 1934–1936), Margaret Tallichet (m. 1938–1981)

father: Leopold

mother: Melanie

children: Catherine Wyler, David Wyler, Judy Wyler, Melanie Ann Wyler, William Wyler Jr.

Born Country: France

Directors American Men

Died on: July 27, 1981

place of death: Beverly Hills, California, United States

Ancestry: Swiss American

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Childhood & Early Life
Born as Willy Wyler in a Jewish family of Mulhouse, Alsace, William Wyler was the son of Leopold and Melanie, a German descendant. His father was a dry goods merchant by profession.
He attended several schools and was expelled more than once for indiscipline. It was his mother who introduced him to opera, concerts, theatre and films. He attended the Paris Conservatoire where he studied music for several months.
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After receiving a job offer from his mother’s cousin Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal Studios, he shifted to New York, in 1920. There he used to work as a shipping clerk.
While working there, he decided to pursue a career in film making. Thereafter, he moved to Los Angeles and did several jobs. For a brief period, he also served as an assistant director.
As a director, his debut film was ‘The Crook Buster’. It was released in 1925 and the duration of this film was twenty four minutes. In the following year, he directed his first full length film ‘Lazy Lightning’.
After that, he directed several low budget silent westerns. His first non-western film ‘Anybody Here Seek Kelly’ - a silent film - was released in 1928. In the next year, he directed his first talkie film ‘Hell’s Heroes’.
In 1935, his romantic comedy ‘The Good Fairy’ was released. This film tells the story of a young orphan girl. Based on Lillian Hellman’s play ‘the Children’s Hour’, his film ‘These Three’ appeared under the production of MGM producer Samuel Goldwyn in 1936.
In 1937, he directed ‘Dead End’, a comedy drama film. In 1940, his film ‘The Westerner’ appeared. After directing ‘Little Foxes’ in 1941, he directed one of his best films ‘Mrs. Miniver’ in 1942.
During the period 1942 to 1945, he served as a major in the United States Air Force. He captured some live-footage of the war during his stint with the US military. He represented these important footage in the form of documentaries like ‘The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress’ and ‘The Fighting Lady’. He released both of these works in 1944
He directed ‘The Heiress’ under the banner of Paramount Pictures in 1949. This film is a love story of a young woman. Due to the success of this film, his name was nominated for Oscar.
In 1951, ‘Detective Story’ appeared and it earned him instant fame. In 1953, he directed one of his successful films ‘Roman Holiday’, a romantic comedy.
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In 1966, he directed ‘The Collector’, a psychological thriller. This is a story of an eccentric bank employee who collects butterflies and later starts collecting human beings by kidnapping them. He directed ‘Funny Girl’ in 1968.
Major Works
His first talkie film ‘Hell’s Heroes’ was released in 1929. Shot outside of a studio, this film depicts the story of three criminals and their effort of saving a newborn child.
Based on the satirical novel of Sinclair Lewis, his film ‘Dodsworth’ skilfully portrays the difference between the US and the European culture and manners. Released in 1936, this film earned him an Oscar nomination for the Best Director.
Released in 1942, ‘Mrs. Miniver’ narrates the story of a British housewife and a German pilot during the World War II. The representation of this classic story earned him his first Oscar Award.
Released in 1946, one of his successful films ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ is the story of three persons who served in the World War II. The film depicts their life after the war.
Awards & Achievements
He won Academy Award in the Best Director category for his film ‘Mrs Miniver’ which was released in 1942. ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ again earned him the Oscar as the Best Director in 1946. He won the Academy Award for the third time for his film ‘Ben-Hur’, which released in 1959.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1934, he married Margaret Sullivan whom he divorced in 1936. In 1938 he tied the nuptial knot for the second time with Margaret Tallichet with whom he had five children.
After the failure of his film ‘The Liberation of L.B. Jones’, released in 1970, he retired from film direction. He died from a heart attack in Beverly Hills, California.
Due to his fastidious nature, this celebrated director used to force his actors to retake scenes for several times which created lots of tensions and conflicts among his actors. Due to his careful attention towards detail, he earned the nickname ’90-Take Wyler’ and ‘Once-more Wyler’.


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1960 Best Director Ben-Hur (1959)
1947 Best Director The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
1943 Best Director Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Golden Globe Awards
1960 Best Director Ben-Hur (1959)
BAFTA Awards
1960 Best Film from any Source Ben-Hur (1959)
1949 Best Film from any Source 1947 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

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