The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Happiest Couple

Wilder left with Brackett and Joan Fontaine on the set of The Emperor’s Waltz

Here’s an amazing article definitely worth your time. Written by Matthew Dressen it chronicles two men who who formed one of the most successful partnerships in movie history.

Successful in spite of

The work went well, but this wasn’t a situation where two kindred spirits recognized each other despite their disparate backgrounds: Brackett and Wilder had nothing in common, culturally, politically, socially, or temperamentally. Brackett had faith in organizations: the Screen Writers Guild, the Anti-Nazi League, an anti-Race Riot group, and eventually the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where he served as president.

Wilder, who’d seen the Nazis use organizations to do horrible things, wasn’t much of a joiner. Brackett was, in Wilder’s words, “a rabid Republican” (he voted for Alf Landon) who took the New Deal as a personal affront; Wilder’s sympathies were with the left. Brackett’s manners were impeccable and diplomatic; Wilder was volatile enough to tell Louis B. Mayer to go fuck himself after a screening.

Wilder was a legendary womanizer (Brackett, allusive as always, called him “the compleat amorist”); Brackett avoided scandal, and after the death of his first wife, married someone exactly as well-bred: his wife’s sister. Wilder collected modern art and at one point dreamed of  commissioning a home built by the Eameses; Brackett recorded his hatred of modern art in his diaries and for most of his life maintained a house in Rhode Island he inherited from his wife’s family, where he told one interviewer he planned to die.

Most of all, Brackett had an aristocrat’s sense that he was part of a dying breed—watching his children playing in a pool one evening, he mused, “How lovely it is to have a tiny remaining part of a sort of life that is supposedly scheduled for extinction.” Wilder had exactly as much patience with that attitude as expected from a man who’d never been anybody’s idea of an aristocrat.

Definitely check out the rest of it.

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