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Famed Filmmaker Wilder Dead at 95 - 2002-03-29

Filmmaker Billy Wilder, who directed the movie classics "Sunset Boulevard" and "Some Like it Hot," has died at the age of 95.

A Jewish refugee from Nazi Europe, Billy Wilder arrived in Hollywood in the 1930's, speaking almost no English. He learned the language quickly and began a collaboration with screenwriter Charles Brackett. Together they turned out a succession of hit movies, including "Double Indemnity" in 1944 and "The Lost Weekend" the following year. Wilder earned an Academy Award as director of that film about a self-destructive writer, and shared the Oscar with Brackett for the film's screenplay.

In 1950, the collaboration culminated in "Sunset Boulevard," a drama about a fading silent film star.

Wilder and Brackett shared an Oscar for the screenplay of that picture. Through the 1950's, Billy Wilder made "Stalag 17," a story of prisoners-of-war, and the courtroom drama "Witness for the Prosecution."

With actress Marilynn Monroe, he made "The Seven-Year Itch" in 1955 and "Some Like it Hot" in 1959. That film also marked the start of a fruitful collaboration with the actor Jack Lemmon, who starred in Wilder's classic comedy-drama "The Apartment" in 1960. That film won the Oscar as best picture, and Wilder received the Oscar for best director. He shared the award for the screenplay.

The actor Karl Malden said Billy Wilder will be best remembered for his comedies, like the Roaring '20s farce "Some Like it Hot." "He changed the whole system of film making as far as comedy is concerned. The comedies that he helped write and direct and sold are things that I think will live forever," he said.

Billy Wilder once paraphrased the words of General Douglas MacArthur, as he spoke of the day he would leave the movie scene. "I don't think old directors die," he said. "They just fade out, slowly."

Billy Wilder died at his home in Los Angeles. A friend said he had been ailing with pneumonia.