Monday, June 22, 2020

Wise Guy: Book Review of Robert Wise: The Motion Pictures by J. R. Jordan

It's astonishing that I have seen so many of Robert Wise's movies that I like and yet never really added him to my list of favorite directors.  Maybe it's just the fact that he stayed under the radar over the years.  A workman-like attitude towards his craft without actually having to be the face of his movies (unlike some I could name). Some of those movies I wasn't even aware that his name was lisyed as director.

Robert Wise: The Motion Pictures by J. R. Jordan:

The format of the book is well laid out.  It takes a look at each of the movies that Wise directed in chronological order.  One of the things I like about this book is that it is not a biography as such, which I probably would have found tedious.  Although it does include a few tidbits about his life, the author keeps that at a minimum.

The depth of the research behind the movies was really impressive.  The film analysis portion of each chapter gives one a better viewpoint into the content of the movie.  And it opened my mind up to movies that I'd either heard about or knew of remotely but hadn't seen.  It was a discovery that Wise had directed them.  Being a big fan of film noir I discovered several movies that fit the film noir mold that I should check out.

Of course, Wise is also an Academy Award winner, albeit two of those Oscars are for movies that I would be hard pressed to watch (much less review) since they are musicals  (The Sound of Music and West Side Story).  But given his talents, it was a phenomenal career and the author doesn't stint on the info.

One thing that bothered me about the book was that sometimes I got lost when reading the encapsulations of the films.  It seemed to me that the author talked as if his readers had seen every movie, kind of like as if we had watched it together and were discussing it after the fact.  I was OK when it was a movie I had seen, but in some cases, if I hadn't seen the movie, I got lost with what was happening. 

Overall, if you are a fan of these films, you will be sure to learn some new things.  The author is engaging without being overly gushing about the man himself.  And I liked that.

I am going to review a few of the movies that Wise directed over the next couple of months as a result of reading this book.  (It has been WAY too long for a scheduled comparison of Wise's classic The Day the Earth Stood Still with the less than stellar remake from a few years back... I get way too bogged down with life and blogathons, it seems.)



  1. Robert Wise is a favourite director of mine and it is the beginnings of his career that come to my mind first. Back in 2013 I wrote about Born to Kill and most of the comments that post received were surprise that it was a Wise film because the people reading only associated him with The Sound of Music and West Side Story. It's funny how we come at the same subject from different angles.

  2. Adding this book to my tbr wishlist!

  3. Great stuff...this is why I've nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award!


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