Billy Wilder's Berlin
|The 'Kidney Killer', a sweet ride|
Wilder was Jewish, and the rise of Nazism led to his moving first to Paris, then to Hollywood in 1933. The rest of his family remained behind; his mother and stepfather died in Auschwitz.
Wilder also served in the US Army in WWII, and was stationed in Germany. A Foreign Affair was actually made because he was granted funds from the government to make a movie about the situation in Berlin. He took the opportunity to do research by talking to many of the residents in Berlin, and as a result, many of the little vignettes in the film are based on real conversations. If Wilder could find comedy in the remnants of Berlin, he could find comedy anywhere.
A Bombed-Out Shell
|The ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church|
Germany surrendered unconditionally on 8 May, 1945, just over a week after Adolph Hitler committed suicide in his private bunker. Following the surrender, the city of Berlin was divided into four sectors, to be overseen by the US, Britain, France and the Soviet Union, following the dictates of the Potsdam Conference. Much of the movie was filmed in the Soviet sector, rather than the American sector, as portrayed. Also of interest are the tactics of re-building portrayed in the film, such as using baseball as a de-Nazification tool to teach kids how to question authority but still play by the rules. Millard Mitchell does an excellent job as the Colonel.
A Side Note...
Links and Sources
Battle of Berlin, Wikipedia
Archival Discovery Reveals a Ruined Berlin, Der Spiegel
Yet another book I'd like to fully read, 'Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder' has some amazing excerpts and detailed descriptions of many of his films, including the one above.
And just for kicks, Lilly Von Schtupp.