Billy Wilder Thanks TV For Making Movies Less Low-Brow

Billy Wilder was one of the most accomplished filmmakers in Hollywood, but he was not always recognized for his creative genius. When Wilder first started making movies, cinema was looked down upon by other creatives. It was the newest artistic medium, which gave it a gritty and untraditional flavor. Older creative professions, like writing, were considered more respectable. Since the invention of new digital media forms, cinema has now passed into the ranks of older, more respectable art forms. According to Wilder, we have television specifically to thank for this change in perspective.

Wilder has a reputation for mastering every genre, from mysteries like "Double Indemnity," often considered the pinnacle of noir, to musical comedies like "Some Like It Hot," to melodramas like "Sunset Blvd." However, directing films was not always considered an "honorable profession," he explained to film critic Michael Clement (via FilMagicians).

Other artists, particularly "writers from New York," had a hypocritical view of movies. They looked down on them while simultaneously involving themselves in a number of projects. "People came to Hollywood to make quick money," Wilder recalled. Among them were F. Scott Fitzgerald — "who I knew at Paramount, by the way," Wilder added — and William Faulkner.

Faulkner and Fitzgerald were too good for Hollywood

Fitzgerald is known for his seminal jazz-age work "The Great Gatsby," while Faulkner is best recognized for Southern gothics like "As I Lay Dying." Fitzgerald racked up writing credits in the late '30s, including "Three Comrades" and "Winter Carnival," but did not make a big splash in Hollywood.

Faulkner, on the other hand, had a close working relationship with the acclaimed director Howard Hawks. The novelist assisted Hawks on a number of his more famous films, including "The Big Sleep" and "To Have and Have Not," both of which star Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Faulkner worked with Hawks on something like "half a dozen pictures," the director told BFI. "I could call on him any time and ask him for a scene, and he always gave it to me," Hawks insisted.

As Wilder puts it, novelists and other artists "would all put their fingers in the pie, but not with any genuine interest" (via FilMagicians). Some directors may have been angered by this hypocrisy, but Wilder saw it as an opportunity to prove them wrong. "They would kind of look down on movies, which is my delight," he exclaimed. "Everyone has been looking down on movies as something kind of third-rate up until, thank God, the invention of television. Now we have something to look down on."

It's a cynical worldview, but an accurate one. The advent of television definitely improved the artistic credibility of cinema. In the same way, the growing popularity of reality television in the '90s led to a more respectable view of narrative TV series, which made way for shows like "The Sopranos." It's hard to imagine that "Double Indemnity" was the "Jersey Shore" of its day, but history is funny that way.