Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

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The Wise Touch; Conversation with filmmaker Robert Wise, by Harry Kreisler, 2/28/98

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest is movie director Robert Wise, who has just been awarded the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award.

For over fifty years Robert Wise has made great movies. He won the Academy Award for West Side Story and for The Sound of Music. But his movies have done more than just entertain us. Working in all genres, he has helped us think about the human condition. Racism, capital punishment, power and purpose in the corporate boardroom, questions of war and peace, the dangers of nuclear and biological weapons -- all have been addressed at one time or another in his films, and often ahead of his time. After watching a Robert Wise film, we leave the theater not only entertained but also enlightened by a director who uses his mastery of cinema not so much to leave us conscious of his style as to tell us a story so that we might better understand the world around us.

In addition to being a film editor at one time, and a director, Mr. Wise was also President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and a winner of the Irving Thalberg Award. A retrospective of his work is being shown at the Pacific Film Archive on the Berkeley campus.

  1. Background ... movies as a kid
  2. Hollywood ... first jobs ... becoming a film editor ... mentors
  3. Working for Orson Welles ... first meeting ... editing Citizen Kane
  4. Becoming a Director ... Val Newton ... Curse of the Cat People ... The Body Snatchers
  5. The Wise Touch ... importance of the story ... not a soapbox ... research and reporting the truth ... different genres and cinematic style ... the studio system
  6. Wise Films: I Want to Live! ...  films with a comment ... using sound and images ... telling a story in cinematic terms ... the execution scene
  7. Wise Films: The Day the Earth Stood Still ... casting Michael Rennie ... everyone is for peace ... dealing with the Defense Department
  8. Other Wise Films: Somebody Up There Likes Me; Executive Suite ... preparation ... Paul Newman ... portraying the corporate world ... an all-star cast
  9. Musicals: The Sound of Music; West Side Story ... social milieu ... top money maker ... biggest challenge
  10. Conclusion ... three Ps ... importance of film schools ... public education and film

Robert Wise appeared at the Pacific Film Archive on February 27 and 28, 1998, during PFA's tribute to the distinguished career of this director, producer, and former editor.


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