Thursday, September 15, 2005

In Memoriam

Robert Wise 1914 - 2005

As I lay in bed this morning listening to my alarm clock radio crackle with the sounds of NPR, I was very saddened to hear that film director Robert Wise, passed away last night.

Wise is probably best known for directing West Side Story and The Sound of Music, but he worked on a wide variety of other films in his life, spanning over four decades. I had a friend in college who teased me saying Robert Wise was my director made in heaven, because not only did he do musicals, but he did SCI_FI as well! Wise directed the first feature length Star Trek film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well the 1950's classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still, which I believe is one of the smartest, best sci-fi pictures of that era.

No genre was too daunting for Wise, he tackled Horror, directing the original '63 version of The Haunting, and Film Noir (The House of Telegraph Hill). In fact when reviewing his resume , there doesn't seem to be any genre from which he strayed, having done Comedy and Drama as well.

Wise had the sort of amazing start to his career that typifies our romanticized vision of the early golden days of Hollywood. A college drop out, he moved here to pursue his dreams, and got his first job carting reels of film around RKO studios. A staff editor took Wise under his wing, and taught him the craft of editing. After only a couple years, Wise found himself working with Orson Welles, editing Citizen Kane, and later The Magnificent Ambersons.

I have an enormous amount of respect for Robert Wise, not only because I think he did wonderfully creative work, and was a very talented director, but because he refused to let himself be pigeonholed by an industry that loves to categorize. Wise faced critics along the way who said his varied choice of projects just reflected a lack of artistic style, but Wise protested, insisting he enjoyed putting his own spin on the conventions of whatever genre he was working within. I admire this streak of independent spirit, his creative passions knew no boundries.

Thank you Robert. For leaving behind a legacy of films for us to treasure. You will not be forgotten.


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