Robert Earl Wise was an Oscar-winning director and producer who made a career out of making iconic films. He left an indelible mark on the history of cinema, and defined the science fiction genre for three generations.
Demonstrating an unusual flexibility that surpassed any lack of a consistent style or theme, Wise was an efficient master craftsman who was first and foremost committed to conveying a thoroughgoing sense of reality in his films.
He was born September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Indiana, USA. He left us on September 14, 2005, in Los Angeles, California at the venerable age of 91. Friday, September 10, 2021, would have been his 107th birthday.
Let’s take a look back at his remarkable career. Robert Wise is famous for directing West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), not to mention the cult classics The Day the Earth Stood Still (1956) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture(1979). He directed in all major genres, including science fiction and horror. He did everything from
Wise grew up in Connersville, Indiana, and in 1931 enrolled at nearby Franklin College to study journalism, but the Great Depression curtailed his education. In 1933 he went to Hollywood and began working in the film-shipping room at RKO Studios, where his brother was an accountant. After serving as a sound, music, special-effects, and assistant editor, he rose to the rank of full editor in 1939, working on such films as Bachelor Mother (1939), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), and My Favorite Wife (1940). Most famously, he edited Citizen Kane (1941), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), which he significantly reedited (and for which he directed an additional scene) after RKO had taken that feature film out of director Orson Welles’s hands.
The Curse of the Cat People (1944)
The Body Snatcher (1945)
The Haunting (1963)
Audrey Rose (1977)
The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Awards and Honors
Robert Wise won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1967. In 1998 Wise received the AFI Life Achievement Award. He won two Academy Awards for Best Picture and two for Best Director: The Sound of Music (1966) and West Side Story (1962). Wise was nominated for three other Oscars: Best Film Editing Citizen Kane (1941), Best Director I Want to Live! (1958), and Best Picture The Sand Pebbles (1967). Wise Awarded honorary membership in the Society of Operating Cameramen in 1982. Robert Wise was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960.
From 1971 to 1975, Wise was president of the Directors Guild of America. He was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1985 through 1988.
Robert Wise directed three films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant: The Day The Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, and The Sound of Music. Likewise, he edited three films in the registry: Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), Citizen Kane (1941), and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).
Robert Wise will be remembered as long as movies are watched.
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Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.