Today in history, March 27th 2002, two giants of the entertainment industry, Oscar winning writer and Director Billy Wilder and beloved American comedian Milton Berle with a career spanning over 8 decades, passed away.
Billy Wilder directed Marilyn in her two most successful comedies: “The Seven Year Itch” (1955) and “Some Like It Hot” (1959). In his many statements to biographers and journalists, his full appreciation for her talents, and dispair at the strains of working with her, are eloquently and directly expressed. Wilder defined Marilyn’s special magnetism on camera as “flesh impact- she looks on the screen as if you could reach out and touch her… she had a quality no-one else ever had on the screen expect Garbo.” And years after her death, he summed up his feelings: “I miss her. It was like going to the dentist, making a picture with her. It was hell at the time, but after it was over, it was wonderful. “
Dubbed “Hollywood’s most mischievous immigrant,” Wilder was behind some of the most iconic and highly respected movies ever to come out of Tinsletown. His impressive list of credits also include “Double Indemnity” (1944), “A Foreign Affair” (1948), “Sunset Boulevard” (1950), “Stalag 17” (1953), “Sabrina” (1954), all of which were Oscar nominated, as well as “The Lost Weekend” (1945), and “The Apartment” (1960), both of which won Oscars. In 1986, Wilder recieved a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
After Wilder passed away in 2002, he was buried at Westwood Villiage Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, the same final resting place as Marilyn (and only two plots away from his long time friend and colleague Jack Lemmon.) His headstone reads:
A tribute to arguably one of his greatest gifts to the world: “Some Like It Hot.”
Milton Berle was one of America’s best known TV entertainers, he first met starlet Marilyn on the Columbia lot in her first co-starring roles: “Ladies Of The Chorus” (1949) as he was romantically linked with Adele Jergens, the star of the movie at the time. Marilyn and Milton met again in 1955 at Madison Square Gardens, she was riding a pink elephant at the circus benefit, and he was the ringmaster for the day. He announced “Here comes the only girl in the world who can make Jane Russell look like a boy!” The crowd of 18,000 roared in delight. Berle also made a cameo as himself in one of Marilyn’s later pictures: “Let’s Make Love.” (1960)