Biography of Robert Wise

Robert Wise was an American director, producer and editor, who won Academy Awards for his work on the movie musicals The Sound of Music and West Side Story. For both films, he took home the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Film. Wise was known as a true craftsman, skillfully directing in a wide variety of genres, from musical to western to science fiction.

Raised in Indiana, Wise took an early interest in film, and moved to Hollywood to become a film professional when his family could not afford to send him to college during the Great Depression. After starting out as a sound editor, he became a film editor, working as an assistant on films like Stage Door and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In 1941 he was nominated for an Academy Award for Film Editing for his work on Citizen Kane.

Noted for his intense work ethic, Wise got his start directing The Curse of the Cat People. His large filmography includes Two Flags West, This Could Be the Night, The House on Telegraph Hill, Mademoiselle Fifi, The Day the Earth Stood Still, So Big, Tribute to a Bad Man, Helen of Troy, I Want to Live!, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Desert Rats, West Side Story, Two for the Seesaw, The Sound of Music, The Haunting, The Sand Pebbles, Star!, The Andromeda Strain, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Two People, and Rooftops.

In contrast to his contemporaries who were labeled "auteurs"—directors known for a distinctive and recurrent "style"—Wise was celebrated as a master craftsman, bending his aesthetic and approach to whatever genre he was tackling. He was also known for directing many films about racial tolerance and acceptance. Over the course of his career, he won four Academy Awards, the D.W. Griffith Award, and the National Medal of Arts.

Study Guides on Works by Robert Wise

If given the opportunity to name one of the best films ever made, many would justifiably cite Robert Wise's The Sound of Music (1965) as their favorite. Adapted from the 1959 stage play of the same name, the film tells the true story of the Von...

West Side Story is the 1961 film adaptation of the wildly successful stage musical which had taken Broadway by storm just a few years earlier. The film was co-directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, who made history by becoming the first pair...