His father was a traveling salesman who did a lot of business in Europe, and Wilde spent much of his youth traveling in Europe with him, where he became fluent in several languages. For several years he studied medicine in college, but he gave it up to pursue acting; he also gave up a spot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic fencing team. He appeared in a number of plays in New York and on the road, playing everything from bit parts to leads. In 1940 he was hired as a fencing instructor and a featured player for the Broadway production of Hamlet with Laurence Olivier; some of the rehearsals were in Hollywood, where he landed a film contract. On-screen from 1940, Wilde played small roles as heavies in several films, then switched studios and began getting leads in B movies. His career took off after he played Chopin in A Song to Remember (1945), for which he received a Best Actor Oscar nomination. For several years he starred in major productions, such as the 1952 Best Picture winner The Greatest Show on Earth, then in the mid-late '50s he was back in B movies, often playing swashbucklers. In 1955 he formed his own company, Theodora Productions, to produce, direct, and star in his own films; he ultimately made 11 films in that capacity, but earned little critical respect for his work. Divorced from actress Patricia Knight, Wilde married his frequent costar, actress Jean Wallace.