From Berlin to Marilyn: Billy Wilder On Assignment

Billy Wilder On Assignment is a new collection of the Austrian-born filmmaker’s early journalism, and as Donna Ferguson writes in The Observer today, one of his roving reports from Weimar Berlin may have inspired Marilyn’s unforgettable entrance in Some Like It Hot (and you can read more about the film’s other German influence, the 1951 movie Fanfaren der Liebe, here.)

“In an arresting scene from one of director Billy Wilder’s most famous films, Some Like It Hot, Marilyn Monroe sashays along a Chicago railway station platform in a figure-hugging outfit, leaving Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis gobsmacked.

Until now, few have made the connection between this scene and some of Wilder’s own experiences as a young Austrian journalist in the 1920s. This month, the first major collection of Wilder’s journalism ever published will reveal the way his early writings shaped and influenced memorable scenes, characters and plots from films he later wrote and directed, including Sunset Boulevard and The Apartment.

In Billy Wilder on Assignment, Wilder’s German-language journalism from both Austrian and German publications is collected together in one volume and translated into English for the first time.

The all-female musical troupe in Some Like It Hot appears, for example, to have much in common with the Tiller Girls, a famous British dance troupe Wilder wrote about for an Austrian tabloid in 1926. ‘This morning 34 of the most enticing legs emerged from the Berlin express train when it arrived at Westbahnhof station,’ he writes, aged 19, in a paragraph that could have been lifted straight out of the movie’s script. ‘Those figures, those legs …'”