Best known for achieving critical success as a director in an amazing variety of film genres: horror, noir, western, war, science fiction, musical and drama, with many repeat successes within each genre. His greatest artistic triumphs remain towering classics of cinema to this day: West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965) — both of which brought Robert Wise Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.
Robert Wise’s film career spanned over 60 years and included some of the most popular, most critically acclaimed and most influential films ever.
Born in 1914 in Winchester, Indiana, he dropped out of college, came west, started at the bottom in a sound-editing studio, worked his way up to editing Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” and “Magnificent Ambersons“, and, before he died, in 2005, Wise directed 40 films.
Wise’s early training in sound scores and editing are evident in his work, but his explanation for his own success was in his emphasis on the quality of the stories that he chose to bring to the screen. Wise was unique in being comfortable directing in a wide variety of genres. He agreed to direct “The Sound of Music” in exchange for the studios backing of “The Sand Pebbles“. Perhaps the only two things those films have in common is Wise himself. Horror, Film Noir, Melodrama, Westerns, Thrillers, Science Fiction, Musicals, Comedy, Action-Adventure, Pseudo-documentary, and Sports; one would be hard-pressed to think of even a sub-genre that Robert Wise didn’t cover, and cover well.
Though “Sound of Music” is, of course, his most popular directorial effort, Wise was proud of the social commentary of films like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “I Want to Live!”. He was awarded the National Medal of Art by President George H. W. Bush in 1992, and received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award in addition to his four Oscars and numerous other awards.
— Nate Lee