On William Wyler

I bet if you asked young cineastes in 1967 if they considered the director of Dodsworth an excellent director they’d cough politely and change the subject to Howard Hawks, but William Wyler understood the long take and deep focus; Andrew Sarris has noted a poignant, sophisticated moment in The Best Years in Our Lives when Fredric March looks at Hoagy Carmichael and maimed compatriot Harold Russell playing “Chopsticks” while in the background Dana Andrews calls March’s daughter Teresa Wright. Developing uncharacteristically subtle deep focus scenes that avoided facile close-ups, Wyler let his actors develop performances independent of montage. This approach could molder into stodginess, as Mrs. Miniver and Ben-Hur prove. Yet look at this list.

1. The Heiress
2. The Letter
3. Dodsworth
4. These Three
5. Jezebel
6. Carrie
7. The Little Foxes
8. The Best Years of Our Lives
9. Come and Get It
10. Funny Girl

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