Skip to main content
The Independent Critic

William Holden, Marthe Keller, Hildegard Knef, Jose Ferrer, Frances Sternhagen, Henry Fonda, Michael York
Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond, Thomas Tryon (based upon a story by)
Rated PG
114 Mins.
Eureka Entertainment (Blu-ray/DVD)

 "Fedora" Gets Eureka's Masters of Cinema Treatment 

In Billy Wilder's Fedora, Dutch Detweiler (William Holden) is a down-on-his-luck Hollywood producer who attempts to lure the esteemed yet reclusive actress Fedora (Marthe Keller) out of her self-imposed retirement. Fedora was one of Wilder's last films, an experience reminiscent of Hollywood's golden era for a director that hung in there when many of the Hollywood icons before him had long ago folded up their director's chair.

Fedora, as Roger Ebert used to say, is the kind of film that grows on you. While nowhere near the best film from a director known for the likes of Sunset Boulevard and Sabrina, the film does feature Wilder holdover William Holden and does bring back Hollywood themes common in Wilder's works. It's a good film, not a great one but a good film from Billy Wilder is still significantly better than a good majority of the Hollywood dreck churned out these days.

The film has been picked up by U.K. based distributor Eureka Entertainment for its Masters of Cinema series and has been given quite the treatment that includes the film's first DVD and blu-ray U.K. release. The film's extras are basic but essential:

  • New high-definition 1080p presentation
  • Deleted Scenes
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Restoration Comparison
  • A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard, a new essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns, a vintage piece on the film’s production, and archival imagery

Anyone familar with the film knows that it's not simply a "Hollywood starlet comes out of retirement" film, but instead has quite a bit more emotional gravitas. The film's first half serves to tell the story of everything that unfolds in Fedora's life on a remote island with a Countess (Hildegard Knef), a plastic surgeon/physician (Jose Ferrer), and an English maid (Frances Sternhagen). While it sounds simple enough, these three seem to intensely control every aspect of Fedora's life and it would seem that every aspect of Fedora's life is controlled.

The film's big reveal is solidly pulled off, though it comes at about the film's mid-point and leaves far too much unnecessary exposition that follows. Fedora that follows is a rambling film that would likely not play as well for American audiences, but will likely prove satisfying for Wilder's fans and fans of classic Hollywood fare.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic