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Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (14) | Personal Quotes (14)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 22 October 1947Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA
Date of Death 21 January 1978Manila, Philippines  (helicopter crash)
Birth NameWilliam Brent Girdler
Nicknames Billy
Bill
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Born October 22, 1947 in Jefferson County, Kentucky, William Brent Girdler launched his filmmaking career with the 1972 release of Asylum of Satan. He made a total of nine films in six years and provided the music for the Pat Patterson quickie Dr. Gore. Girdler died in a helicopter accident in the Philippines after completing his final movie The Manitou.

Girdler wore many hats in respect to his filmmaking, writing six of his nine films and composing the music for three. He also produced two of his own movies. His early works were filmed in his hometown of Louisville, KY with the assistance of many friends and local investors. Girdler's first two low budget horror entries, Asylum of Satan and Three on a Meathook, made only a slight impact on the drive-in movie scene, but they got his foot in the door with Sam Arkoff and AIP. Girdler subsequently made three blaxploitation films: Zebra Killer, Abby, and Sheba Baby. After his AIP stint ended, Girdler directed the political thriller Project Kill starring Leslie Nielsen. Eager to return to horror, Girdler sought finances from Edward Montoro and thus brought Grizzly and Day of the Animals into the world. Girdler hoped to strike gold when he bought the rights to Graham Masterton's 1976 best-selling novel 'The Manitou' for $50,000, and he did just that. Within three months of securing the rights, Girdler began shooting the movie with Tony Curtis and Susan Strasberg in the leading roles.

William Girdler's most successful effort is Grizzly, a bleak Jaws knockoff starring a giant fuzzy bear. Made on a fairly tight budget, Grizzly ranked among the most successful films of 1976. Abby, a 1974 Exorcist rip-off which prompted a lawsuit from Warner Brothers, was also a box-office hit and made more money via domestic rentals than Blacula. Legal issues prevented Girdler from seeing profits for both films. Other box office hits born of Girdler include the Pam Grier vehicle Sheba Baby and The Manitou (a posthumous hit).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: www.williamgirdler.com

Spouse (1)

Avis Smith (July 1977 - 21 January 1978) (his death)

Trade Mark (1)

Frequently uses (odd and low) music by Ragland, Robert O. and Schifrin, Lalo

Trivia (14)

Worked as a music composer for The Body Shop.
His film after The Manitou (1978), "The Overlords". was planned but never started production.
Died when the helicopter in which he was a passenger hit electrical power lines and crashed. He was 30 years old.
Died at the age of 30.
Wrote the script for The Manitou (1978) in three days, along with Jon Cedar and Tim Pope.
Sued by Warner Bros., which alleged that Abby (1974) was a rip-off of The Exorcist (1973).
Sued Film Ventures Internatonal chief Edward L. Montoro for profits from Grizzly (1976).
He was a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock.
Frequently used music by Lalo Schifrin and Robert O. Ragland.
Brother-in-law of J. Patrick Kelly III.
Buried in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. [2000]
Made radio and TV commercials before making his first film.
Joined the Air Force at age eighteen. While serving in the Air Force Girdler was stationed in California, where he handled audio/visual services and cut his teeth by working on documentaries and educational films. Moreover, Girdler also served as a hurricane hunter in Puerto Rico prior to embarking on a career as a filmmaker in the early 1970's.
Brother of Lynne Kelly.

Personal Quotes (14)

[Starlog issue 13, 1978] The Manitou (1978) was something that was never done before. So I did it. It's a cross between The Exorcist (1973) and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). It has a lot of shock in it as well. I'm a director who believes a lot in the instant shock theory as well as build up shock. Under the [Alfred Hitchcock] theory, it's better to build an audience up, then get them to relax, then hit them over the head with everything you got. It keeps them constantly tense.
I know what my other pictures were. I know what was bad about them. I also know that they were pretty good when you consider how inexpensively they were made. Anybody should be able to make a good movie if they spend $20 million the way they did on The Exorcist (1973). Comparatively speaking, for what we spent on it, Abby (1974) was probably a better picture than "The Exorcist."
Other people learned how to make movies in film schools. I learned by doing it. Nobody saw [William Friedkin's] or Steven Spielberg's mistakes, but all my mistakes were right up there on the screen for everybody to see.
I love making movies so much that hard work doesn't bother me. I work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Some days, I'm so excited about what we're doing I can't wait to get out of bed the next morning and start again. If I were an attorney or running a factory, I would probably die or spend all my time on a golf course. I would have been miserable and ended up an alcoholic by the time I was 30.
I'm constantly called an egomaniac, but you have to have an ego to survive. I don't pretend to be anything I'm not. I don't think I'll ever be a D.W. Griffith.
When I was first called a rip-off artist, I got really offended. But everybody who makes a film is a rip-off artist. Ripping off an audience is a much more serious thing than ripping off a story.
I'm in the business to make money. Why kid yourself? Nobody wants to lose money. We haven't and never will get into the art stuff. I'm not out to give messages to the world. We look at scripts for their commercialism. Art is not the objective of my films, but we try to put as much art into them as possible.
I don't have a tremendous respect for critics. I agree with Hitchcock [Alfred Hitchcock], who said the definition of a critic is one who criticizes. That's all they do. They know knowing about picture-making. Critics don't buy tickets, so I don't care.
[from a 1977 newspaper interview] I don't know how I'll feel in ten years, but right now I'm not trying to win an Academy award or make message films. All I want to do is entertain people and make a profit for my investors. If I do win one and start getting good reviews, that's fine, too. But the approval that means the most right now is the approval the public gives me when they pay $30 million to see one of my pictures. Their approval is what counts.
When I'm making a film, I can turn the lights on for day and off for night. I can tell people what to do or say, and, in 90 to 100 minutes, I have complete control of a character. That's a strange trip. I guess everybody would like to have godliness, but directors and producers get wrapped up in that easier than most.
The main thing is I can make a living doing what I want. Most people can't.
[Mid-America] will never become MGM, but then I don't want it to. I think we'll be moderately successful. I never expect anything, so I'm never disappointed. I don't claim to be a businessman. All I want to do is make films.
[from a newspaper interview in 1975] I classify myself as an action director. I like period pictures like Chinatown (1974). I'd be comfortable with almost any type of film except comedy. Hitchcock [Alfred Hitchcock] is my idol. He's great; he's the only director whose pictures people will go see just off his name alone -- because they know they'll be entertained.
[from a newspaper interview in 1977] We made all our pictures fast and cheap. Now we can start making them better and a little more carefully. The Manitou (1978) will be a good picture. Not great, but good. I'm proud of The Manitou (1978).

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