Wes D. Gehring is a professor of film at Ball State University and an associated media editor for USA Today Magazine, for which he also writes the column “Reel World.” The award-winning author of twenty-eight books, Gehring has written biographies of such screen legends as Charlie Chaplin, W. C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Irene Dunne, Carole Lombard, James Dean, Steve McQueen, and Red Skelton. Here he answers some questions about his new biography of Hoosier film director Robert Wise:
What drew you to write about Wise?
I was drawn to Wise because of his neglect as an auteur. He was always getting the left-handed compliment of being a "craftsman," but somehow critics missed his consistent themes & character types. Also, he is fascinating because he made classic films in multiple genres.
How important were Wise’s Indiana roots to his subsequent career in films?
Of all the Hoosiers in Hollywood I've written about, other than Red Skelton, his Hoosier/depression era roots were most central to Wise's film career.
Is there one element that makes Wise’s films immediately identifiable to film fans?
The key element of a Wise picture is his passion for painful stories about the disenfranchised, exasperated by age, gender, and/or racial prejudice.
What is your favorite Wise film?
My favorite Wise film varies between The Set-Up and The Day the Earth Stood Still.