My one bone of contention with Sikov is his frequent citing of Wilder's alleged misogyny. Please. Yes, Wilder has created his fair share of loathsome female characters. But they are certainly no more vile than the men who populate Wilder's world. Kirk Douglas' ruthless reporter in Ace in the Hole? Dean Martin's always-on-the-make Las Vegas singer in Kiss Me, Stupid? Wilder's skepticism for the wiles of humankind goes beyond misogyny. Commenting on a childhood spent in and around the family-owned Hotel City in Kraków, Wilder said, "I learned many things about human nature [there] . . . none of them favorable." His films, more frequently than not, are a ledger of that ongoing lesson.
That said, Sikov has penned a compelling and authoritative portrait of the man he believes to be "America's greatest writer-director." No argument from this quarter. On Sunset Boulevardis testament to the fact that gods do indeed walk the earth. Even in Hollywood.
ON SUNSET BOULEVARD: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder | By ED SIKOV | Hyperion | 675 pages $35 hardcover