Thursday, September 15, 2005

MUSICALOBIT: Robert Wise

The death has been announced of Robert Wise, director of The Sound of Music.

The youngest of three brothers, Wise entered the movie business by taking a gopher's role at RKO, where he was talent-spotted by a sound effects editor. He found favour with Orson Welles, who pulled him in to edit Citizen Kane. Having done a "marvellous job", it wasn't to be long until he was promoted to the director's chair for himself. His directorial debut - the slightly-less-excellent sequel The Curse of the Cat People - would set him on a path of directing mainly half-forgotten b-movies. In 1961, though, he found his true calling, as his work on the big screen version of West Side Story won him two oscars.

His greatest work, though, would be on the 1965 nuns and nazis singalong The Sound of Music. The high-water mark of the movie musicals, the film fixed Rogers and Hammerstein's reputation in the popular mind and, forty years on, enjoys a lucrative afterlife entertaining karaoke crowds.

His last major work was the debut Star Trek film - a return toe genre for Wise, who had earlier directed the cult scifi invasion movie The Day The Earth Stood Still - and he eked out a happy semi-retirement contributing to talking heads shows and directing the odd TV movie.

The 91 year-old died of heart failure in Los Angeles on Wednesday. He was the last surviving member of the Citizen Kane crew.


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