By Jessica Pickens
If you had to list the top directors of the classic film era, Billy Wilder would most likely be among those listed. Not only was Wilder a brilliant filmmaker, he was also a prolific screenwriter, particularly when he was teamed with Charles Brackett.
When it comes to Wilder’s directing projects, there are a few that are mentioned the most often. Some of his best known films include “Sunset Boulevard” (1950), “Sabrina” (1954), “Some Like It Hot” (1959), or “The Apartment” (1960).
While these films are excellent, here are five other overlooked Wilder films you should check out:
Starring: Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Diana Lynn, Rita Johnson
Weary of her career failures in New York City, Susan Applegate (Rogers) decides to go home to Iowa. The only problem is that Susan finds out that she doesn’t have enough money for the train ticket home. However, she hatches an idea and transform her look into a 12-year-old girl so she can get the child’s fare ticket and goes by the name Su-Su. The train conductor is suspicious and Susan hides in a train compartment, which belongs to Major Philip Kirby (Milland), who takes Su-Su under his wing thinking that she is a child. When the train tracks flood, Major Kirby takes Su-Su home to stay at his fiancé’s (Johnson) home. The only issue is Su-Su, who is supposed to be a child, finds she is falling in love with Major Kirby.
Starring: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry, Howard Da Silva
Don Birnam (Milland) is a writer who struggles with alcoholism. He is supposed to go out of town with his brother Wick (Terry), who discourages his drinking. Don’s girlfriend Helen (Wyman) also worries about his drinking. The film chronicles and the lengths Don goes to get a drink, including pawning his typewriter which helps him make a living.
“The Lost Weekend,” based on a novel by Charles R. Jackson, was the first film to show the serious effects of alcoholism, where it was used as a comedic device in earlier films.
Starring: James Stewart
Charles Lindbergh’s (Stewart) prepares for his solo flight from New York to Paris. In the long hours of his historic transatlantic flight, Lindbergh daydreams about his past, including remembering working as a barnstormer with a flying circus. The film follows Lindbergh through his full flight until he successful lands The Spirit in Paris, France.
The film is based on Lindbergh’s autobiography “The Spirit of St. Louis,” published in 1954.
Starring: Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, John Williams
Elderly barrister Sir Wilfred Roberts (Laughton) takes on the case of Leonard Vole (Power), who is accused of killing a rich widow. While evidence points that Leonard is guilty, the case takes several unexpected turns.
“Witness for the Prosecution” was based on a play by Agatha Christie. It is Tyrone Power’s last film before his death in 1958 at age 44.
Starring: James Cagney, Arlene Francis, Pamela Tiffin, Horst Buchholz
C.R. MacNamara (Cagney) is a Coca-Cola executive who works and lives in Cold War West Berlin. He is given the responsibility of watching after his boss’s beautiful teenage daughter, Scarlett Hazeltine (Tiffin), who falls in love with a man from East Germany.
“One, Two, Three” was James Cagney’s last film appearance until 1981.
Jessica Pickens is a North Carolina-based writer. She has a degree in print journalism and now works in public relations. Outside of work, she writes about pre-1968 films at CometOverHollywood.com with a special interest in musicals, films released in 1939, and World War II-era films. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.