Director and producer Robert E. Wise, who notched up five Oscars and numerous other awards in a long and fruitful career, can claim one more distinction — a library named after him.
Although restricted to a single room in the cavernous headquarters of the Directors Guild of America, the Robert E. Wise Library will be the repository of the guild’s most important records and documents, as well as myriad books, directors’ biographies, almanacs and movies, all resting on elegant mahogany shelves. On a 35-inch TV set, members will be able to watch videos of DGA seminars and awards shows.
On Saturday, when the library was dedicated, the TV showed “West Side Story,” which Wise produced and co-directed with Jerome Robbins. Wise dutifully posed with guests at the reception, waiting with good humor while a photographer shot frame after frame.
“I never print the first take,” said Wise, whose experience behind the camera began in 1944 with “The Curse of the Cat People” and included classics like “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “The Sand Pebbles,” “I Want to Live” and “The Sound of Music.”
As DGA president Jack Shea prepared to deliver a short speech, it was momentarily unclear where he, Wise or anyone else should stand in the cramped space of the hallway outside the library.
“We’d like some direction,” Wise quipped. “Any directors in the crowd?”
Indeed there were. Randall Kleiser, who helmed “Grease” and “It’s My Party,” said that, like many younger directors, he saw Wise as an idol. “He was very inspirational to me,” said Kleiser, who studied under Wise at USC. “I was just amazed at the amount of time he spent with me as a student — I didn’t know anything.”
Wise, who was DGA president from 1971 to ’75, explained that the library was the result of a bequest to the guild from his late wife Patricia. “So it means more,” he said, “than just plucking my name out of the air.”