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Billy Wilder wasn't a genius

By Mark Cousins   May 2002

I wonder if, before he died in March, Billy Wilder’s life flashed before his eyes like some Hollywood biopic? If so, did it occur to him that no one life could really contain so much, that perhaps the memory banks of some latter-day Zelig had accidentally shorted with his own?

He was named Billy after Buffalo Bill, on whom his mother had developed a crush. Aged ten, he saw Archduke Franz Josef’s funeral; Otto Von Hapsburg was in the cort?ge. Decades later, Wilder would give the ageing Hapsburg a tour around Paramount studios.

In Vienna during the first world war,…

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