We are saddened to announce the passing of Audrey L. Wilder, beloved wife of the Academy Award-winning Hollywood screenwriter and director Billy Wilder. Opened in 2006 to coincide with the centennial anniversary of his birth, the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum was made possible by a singular gift from Audrey. Designed by Michael Maltzan, the Billy Wilder Theater is home to the museum’s rich calendar of public programs and the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s renowned cinematheque. Her generosity created a remarkable venue for film and spoken word experiences for UCLA students, Angelenos and visitors from around the world.
A longtime resident of Westwood, Audrey believed in the importance of supporting her community and chose to honor Billy’s legacy with the state of the art Theater just blocks from their home. On the occasion of the opening, Audrey said “Billy would have been so proud to have this superb theater bearing his name open right in our own neighborhood of Westwood…while film may have been his passion, his other love was art. So it seems especially fitting that this theater be located in the Hammer Museum setting. I hope it serves to enrich the cultural life of the city through film, art, and conversation. And Billy would have been so relieved to get the tax break.” The Theater features two large scale photo murals of Billy Wilder including the 1985 Helmut Newton photo of Billy and Audrey.
Audrey met her husband Billy when he was directing The Lost Weekend (1945), and they were married in 1949. Speaking to director Cameron Crowe, Billy recounted their meeting in a 2001 interview. “She was under contract to Paramount, and I was a director. They sent her to the set to play a small part as a hatcheck girl. I said, “Stand here, hand him [Ray Milland] his hat.” I was directing a scene in Lost Weekend where Ray Milland goes into a nightclub and he gets boozed. And then he also sees a purse lying next to him, belonging to a lady who belonged to a man. And he steals some money from that thing, because he has got no money, and they get him, they catch him. The strongman, you know, in the nightclub. Then I saw the arm of the hatcheck girl come in, with the hat of Ray Milland. They throw him out, then they take the hat and throw it out with him too. And I only saw the arm, and I fell in love with the arm.”
They were married for 53 years. Billy died in 2002.
A private memorial is planned.