William A. Wellman

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Scharphedin2
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William A. Wellman

#1 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Aug 30, 2008 12:38 pm

William A. Wellman (1896 – 1975)

Image

How do you know what goes wrong and makes a bad movie?
I worked harder than any other goddamn director I know. I
tried harder. I knew how to make a picture, but sometimes
something was lacking, sometimes it wasn't. I made some fine
pictures… I've only had one real desire in this business: to make
every kind of picture that was ever made. And I did. I made
musicals, I made kid pictures, I made romantic comedies, the
whole list. I'm very proud of that. Now, how many directors
have done that?



Filmography

The Twins of Suffering Creek (uncredited, 1920)

Second Hand Love (1923)

The Man Who Won (1923)

Big Dan (1923)

Cupid’s Fireman (1923)

Not a Drum Was Heard (1924)

The Vagabond Trail (1924)

The Circus Cowboy (1924)

When Husbands Flirt (1925)

The Boob (1926)

You Never Know Women (1926)

The Cat’s Pajamas (1926)

Wings (1927) Culture Publishers (R2 JP); Continental Home Video (Brazil)

The Legion of the Condemned (1928)

Ladies of the Mob (1928)

Beggars of Life (1928)

Chinatown Nights (1929)

The Man I Love (1929)

Woman Trap (1929)

Dangerous Paradise (1930)

Young Eagles (1930)

Maybe It’s Love (1930)

Other Men’s Women (1931)

The Public Enemy (1931) Warner (R1) – also as part of James Cagney: The Signature Collection and Warner Bros. Pictures Gangster Collection, Vol. 1

Night Nurse (1931)

The Star Witness (1931)

Safe in Hell (1931)

The Hatchet Man (1932)

So Big! (1932)

Love Is a Racket (1932)

The Purchase Price (1932)

The Conquerors (1932)

Frisco Jenny (1932)

Central Airport (1933)

Lilly Turner (1933)

Heroes for Sale (1933)

Midnight Mary (1933)

Wild Boys of the Road (1933)

College Coach (1933)

Female (uncredited, 1933) Warner (R1) – as part of Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume 2

Looking for Trouble (1934)

Viva Villa! (uncredited, 1934)

Stingaree (1934)

The President Vanishes (1934)

The Call of the Wild (1935) 20th Century Fox (R1) – also as part of Clark Gable Collection

The Robin Hood of El Dorado (1936)

Small Town Girl (1936)

Tarzan Escapes (uncredited, 1936) Warner (R1 and R2 UK) - included in The Tarzan Collection

A Star Is Born (1937) Image Entertainment (R1); Alpha (R1) and several other public domain releases from Madacy, Master Movies, Ventura Distribution, etc.

Nothing Sacred (1937) – Several public domain releases in (R1) from Alpha, Genius Entertainment, Slingshot and Catcom

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (uncredited, 1938)

Men with Wings (1938)

Beau Geste (1939) Universal (R1) – as part of The Gary Cooper Collection

The Light That Failed (1939)

Reaching for the Sun (1941)

Roxie Hart (1942) 20th Century Fox (R1)

The Great Man’s Lady (1942)

Thunder Birds (1942) 20th Century Fox (R1)

Lady of Burlesque (1943) Image Entertainment (R1); Roan Group (R1); Alpha (R1); as well as several Public Domain releases including St. Clari Vision (R1) – as part of Barbara Stanwyck Collection, and Genius Entertainment (R1) – as part of AMC Movies: Hollywood Divas

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) 20th Century Fox (R1); 20th Century Fox (R2 UK) – also as part of Henry Fonda DVD Collection; Fox Pathé (R2 FR)

Buffalo Bill (1944) 20th Century Fox (R1) and (R2 UK)

This Man’s Navy (1945)

Story of G.I. Joe (1945) Image Entertainment (R1)

Gallant Journey (1946)

Magic Town (1947) BBC (R2 UK); Suevia Films (R2 ES)

The Iron Curtain (1948)

Yellow Sky (1948) 20th Century Fox (R1)

Battleground (1949) Warner (R1, R2 and R4) – also as double feature with Raoul Walsh’s Battle Cry in (R1), and as part of World War II Collection: Battlefront Europe (R1)

The Next Voice You Hear… (1950)

The Happy Years (1950)

Across the Wide Missouri (1951) Warner (R2 FR)

It’s a Big Country (1951)

Westward the Women (1951) Warner (R2 FR)

My Man and I (1952)

Island in the Sky (1953) Paramount (R1) – also as part of The John Wayne Century Collection

The High and the Mighty (1954) Paramount (R1) – also as part of The John Wayne Adventure Collection

Ring of Fear (uncredited, 1954) Paramount (R1) – also as part of John Wayne’s Batjac Productions Presents: The Suspense Collection

Light’s Diamond Jubilee (TV, 1954)

Track of the Cat (1954) Paramount (R1) – also as part of John Wayne’s Batjac Productions Presents: The Suspense Collection

Blood Alley (1955) Warner (R1) – also as double feature with John Farrow’s The Sea Chase, and as part of John Wayne: Legendary Heroes Collection

Good-bye, My Lady (1956)

Darby’s Revenge (1958)

Lafayette Escadrille (1958) Warner (R2 FR)


Forum Discussions

Across the Wide Missouri (Wellman, 1952) R2 France

Gangsters Collection, Vol. 1

Nothing Sacred (Wellman, 1937) – who owns it?

Paramount – Wellman, Boetticher

And, of course William Wellman’s films have been discussed as part of the on-going lists project; specifically in the Defend Your Darlings and the 1950s Discussion and Suggestions threads.


Web Resources

Cinema Scope – “Inside/Out: A Modest Proposal Concerning William A. Wellman” by Andrew Tracy (Cinema Scope #30)

Film Comment – Online “reprint” of Wellman interview by Scott Eyman (originally published in issue #29 of “Focus on Film”)

Film Reference

Film West – Excerpt from article “The Wild Man of Hollywood” by Sean McCloy from Film West Magazine # 34

National Board of Review – “Between Action and Cut” by John Gallagher (October, 2004)

TCM Spotlight

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Scharphedin2
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#2 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Aug 30, 2008 12:44 pm

William Wellman directed more than 70 films in a career that spanned four decades, and included amongst many other achievements the first film awarded a “Best Film” Oscar (Wings, 1927). He was known as a reliable, craft-oriented director, who worked fast and within budget, shooting mainly two takes of each set-up (the one he needed, and the one in case the laboratory messed up).

Like many of his colleagues in early Hollywood, he led a tough life, and brought true lived experience to his films! He joined the air force as a teenager, because he wanted to learn to fly, and ended up as a pilot in World War I – an experience that served him well in the direction of several films throughout his career. Upon his return from the war, he went to Hollywood, and worked for a short time as an actor, before taking his place behind the camera. His direct, no-nonesense attitude, as well as the fist fights and general rough-housing that took place on the sets of many of his films, earned him the nick-name “Wild Bill,” and he famously did not get along with many of the actors and producers that he worked with. He told John Wayne to get away from behind the camera and behave himself on the set of The High and the Mighty, he fired Robert Mitchum on Blood Alley for his inflated ego, and carried a lifelong desire to put Jack Warner in the hospital for changing the ending of his last film – Lafayette Escadrille (the incident that led Wellman to retire from making movies).

Wellman himself claimed that he came into the industry out of a desire to make money, and he had a modest attitude toward the “art” of his films. He frowned at Dore Schary’s bid that they would make the kind of pictures they wanted to make together; he saw his job as being to make the kinds of pictures that people wanted to see, and, at the end of his career, prided himself on having made films in just about every genre. Possibly for this reason, Wellman’s critical reputation has not been of the highest order. Lewis Jacobs, in his big work on the American Cinema – “The Rise of the American Film,” dedicated ten lines to Wellman, and lumped him with amongst others W.S. Van Dyke and William K. Howard (although, he commented that the latter was “…of more serious purpose”).

Likewise, Andrew Sarris, in his seminal book “The American Cinema” included Wellman in the category “Less Than Meets the Eye”:
With Wellman, crudity is too often mistaken for sincerity. What is at issue here is not the large number of bad films he has made, but a fundamental deficiency in his direction of good projects. On parallel subjects, he runs a poorer second to good directors than he should. The Public Enemy with Cagney should not be all that inferior to Hawks’s Scarface, or Nothing Sacred with Lombard and Hecht to McCarey’s The Awful Truth, or Story of G.I. Joe with Mitchum and Steele to Ford’s They Were Expendable. Wellman, like Wyler, Huston, and Zinnemann, is a recessive director, one whose images tend to recede from the foreground to the background in the absence of a strong point of view. Roxie Hart is framed like a Sennett primitive without the Sennett pacing. The Light That Failed keeps floating back in its frame like a Sunday painting. The Ox-Bow Incident looks grotesque today with its painted backdrops treated like the natural vistas in a Ford Western. Again, a Hollywood director cannot be criticized for working with fake sets, but his technique can be called into question if it emphasizes the fakery. With Wellman, as with so many other directors, objectivity is the last refuge of mediocrity.
My personal viewing experience of Wellman’s films is less than a dozen films seen over a very, very long period of time, but I have only good memories of those films. I remember being completely taken in with Across the Wide Missouri and Westward the Women, when I saw these on television as little more than a kid – I wonder, if they will hold up for me today? The Ox-Bow Incident is a film that I admire greatly. The Track of the Cat could have easily been a very average film, but the stylized approach was fascinating. Island In the Sky and The High and the Mighty were highly competent star vehicles for John Wayne, as far as I could tell.

Wellman is definitely a director I look forward to exploring further, and thankfully a good number of his films are available on DVD. Meanwhile, it would be interesting to read comments on Wellman’s career in general, and any of his films specifically.

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myrnaloyisdope
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#3 Post by myrnaloyisdope » Sat Aug 30, 2008 6:25 pm

I think Wellman is one of the more underrated directors of the classical Hollywood era. I'm not entirely sure why his legacy has suffered. He's not on the level of Howard Hawks, or John Ford, but he does fit pretty nicely with the Raoul Walsh and Michael Curtiz school of talented, prolific, but workmanlike directors with long careers stretching from the silents to the 50's. But while Walsh is associated mostly with his gangster pictures, and his westerns, and Curtiz has Casablanca, Wellman isn't so easy to define.

I think a several factors have hindered his reputation. Firstly he doesn't have a signature film that you can look to and say that's what a Wellman film is. The Public Enemy is probably his best known film, but it's more famous for launching James Cagney than for it's director, while Wings is of historical significance due it being the first Oscar winner for Best Picture, but like most silent films it's underviewed and underappreciated. Secondly and perhaps more importantly is the fact that his incredible versatility makes him tough to categorize.

There is no single genre that you could really identify with Wellman, because he did westerns, gangster films, comedies, social dramas, melodramas, action pictures, musicals, and war pictures. What makes Wellman so impressive is that he excelled in each genre, while being incredibly prolific.

I'm absolutely in awe of the scope of his pre-code work, particularly the 16 films(!) he made from 1931-1933, during which he did just about everything, and did it very well. It's kind of a shame that The Public Enemy is about the only film of that period that is readily available(although thankfully Night Nurse is also out, because his work during that period is absolutely inspired. Heroes For Sale, Frisco Jenny, The Star Witness, Midnight Mary, and Wild Boys of the Road, are all virtually forgotten yet they are among the finest films of the period.

I'll soon be posting some of my thoughts on his pre-code work in case anyone is interested.

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david hare
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#4 Post by david hare » Sat Aug 30, 2008 6:57 pm

Another knockout precode Wellman is Love is a Racket - a rapid fire 70 minutes in which people literally get away with murder. Terrific cast including Doug Fairbanks Jnr, Ann Dvorak (the junkie from 3 on a Match), Lyle Talbot (ditto Match), Frances Dee and the archetypical 30s bulldyke Cecil Cunnuingham.

Am on the lookout for more precodes as we speak.

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Matt
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#5 Post by Matt » Sat Aug 30, 2008 7:04 pm

I also have to recommend Other Men's Women from 1931 with James Cagney, Mary Astor (who gives a devastating performance), and the fairly forgotten Grant Withers. The thing I love about Wellman's films, particularly those from the '30s and '40s, is that they, for the most part, still feel fresh and modern some 75 years on.

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tryavna
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#6 Post by tryavna » Sun Aug 31, 2008 1:12 pm

That's a nice appreciation of Wellman, Scharph, and I think Myrnaloyisdope is absolutely right in placing Wellman alongside of Walsh and Curtiz as one of those truly admirable workmanlike director. At the same time, as with directors of his generation who cultivated a "tough-guy" persona, I'm suspicious of Wellman's own dismissals of artistic ambitions. Surely, Track of the Cat has to be one of the most experimental Hollywood films of its decade -- and perhaps the most experimental Western before the advent of the "spaghetti western."

Also, like a lot of directors of his generation, Wellman is justly appreciated for the cleanness of his action sequences, but what's always struck me about his films is the indirectness with which he depicts actual violence. A great deal of the violence that happens in his films happens off-screen or is obscured by objects in the foreground of the image. I've always felt that this practice gives his action films a weirdly poetic quality -- which is probably most on display (for me, at least) in Beau Geste. I guess this tendency towards indirectness is also what makes Track of the Cat so experimental (i.e., the elision of color), but it can also get quite gimmicky: The Next Voice You Hear... is an intriguing idea but a completely unsatisfying movie.

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myrnaloyisdope
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#7 Post by myrnaloyisdope » Tue Sep 02, 2008 12:09 pm

A great deal of the violence that happens in his films happens off-screen or is obscured by objects in the foreground of the image.
I'm reading a critique/biography of his work right now, and that's one of the tecniques that the author points out as being a Wellman staple. It's actually pretty fascinating to realize how regularly he does this, not just with violence but with death. Most notably in The Public Enemy where you reach this big climax of Cagney's character going to get revenge, and then you don't get to see it, you only hear it. Or how in A Star is Born, you don't actually see Norman Maine go into the ocean, but rather the shot is of his bathrobe on the shore.

I have yet to see The Hatchet Man, but there is a indirect violent sequence in that film, as Edward G. Robinson's character beheads his best friend, but the scene cuts to Loretta Young as the best friend's daughter sleeping with a doll, and the dolls head pops off.

As for Wellman's artistic ambitions, it's clear that he was willing to take chances, from his invention of a boom-mic prototype for Beggars of Life, to his use of odd camera angles, and later his early support and embrace of both Technicolor and Cinescope. He was very adept at adapting to new technologies, for a couple of reasons I think, firstly he loved to work fast and steadily, so there wasn't time to waste in awe of new technology, he would just shoot first, and ask questions later. He also worked so often and on so many different projects that he was able to practice and perfect the technologies. I think this factor also helped him in an artistic sense, because he had amble opportunity to figure out what worked and what didn't, and he would re-use ideas, techniques, themes and shots based on his prior experience.

The other fact that hints at his artistic ambitions is that all his movies are filled with Wellman-esque touches that make even his weakest programmers fascinating. His use of indirect and metaphorical violence, the trademark moving camera of his early work, the use of odd angles, and his use of visual cues such as the prosthetic leg in the mud in Wild Boys of the Road, all point to a director who was interested in imbuing his work with something personal. The fact that he worked so regularly on works of various importance and quality would seem to undermine this fact a bit, because it implies that he didn't care about his work, as long he was working. But I think it's more of a personality trait, he always wanted to be busy so he would take whatever pictures came his way, some were successful and some weren't. That he was able to liven up pretty much every film he made through his own skills, speaks to his incredible talent.

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Re: William A. Wellman

#8 Post by myrnaloyisdope » Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:30 am

I re-watched a couple Wellman pictures in the past few weeks.

First up was Other Men's Women, which I would consider the beginning of his pre-code peak, as it was his first picture at Warners. The picture isn't particularly significant, save for being an early James Cagney picture. Nonetheless it's a fun picture, probably the most notable aspect is the fact that it was filmed mostly outdoors, which for an early talkie wasn't common. There's some great sequences early in the film where Cagney and Grant Withers are seen bullshitting on the top of a moving train. It all feels so natural and authentic, and kind of has a rawness that is pretty unusual for an early American talkie. the use of the moving camera really makes the picture stand out. At times some of the edits reminded me of early Jean Renoir, giving the film a sort of ragged quality, that gives the film a certain energy. I also should mention my fascination with Joan Blondell, who even in 1931, was bringing the sass 100%.

I also re-watched The Public Enemy, which is possibly Wellman's most well-known film. Once again I was very impressed. The film is energetic, raw, and brutal. Of course the most famous sequence is with Cagney planting a grapefruit in poor Mae Clarke's grill, which depending who you talk to was an invention of either Wellman, Cagney or both. But either way the sequence stands out for it's brutality. The film's other famous sequence incorporates a famous Wellman trademark, as Cagney seeks his vengeance against the gang that double-crossed him, but instead of showing the action Wellman leaves the viewer outside, only seeing a badly injured Cagney stumble out and giving his iconic line: "I ain't so tough". I think it's pretty bold that Wellman would deny his audience the satisfaction of a visual climax. I can't imagine a major director of a major film pulling that kind of trick today. But somehow Wellman is able to pull it off. I'm not sure what to make of the choice. On one hand it's frustrating as a viewer to be denied the satisfaction of seeing what essentially is the film's climax, but on the other it stands out and makes the film unique.

Given what I've read about Wellman I find it a bit unusual that his films display an aversion to violence. I mean he was a WWI pilot, the quintessential man's man, and yet he seldom showed violence on screen, while at the same time doing multiple westerns, gangster and war pictures. I'm not sure how to resolve that.

I also checked out 1942's Roxie Hart, which was a lot of fun. For those who don't know it's based on the same play that Chicago was. I'm a big Ginger Rogers fan, and this film works great as a showcase for her, she gets to be sassy and dance a little. What a supreme talent. I'm not sure how the film fits in Wellman's ouevre (not sure he has an ouevre), but it's nicely paced and has some cute touches, I particularly liked how the judge would rush into every photo of Roxie Hart during the trial. There's also a neat little touch, where Roxie is down on her knees giving a heartfelt appeal in front of the jury's bench, and she raises her skirt (none-so-subtlely) to show some thigh. Without knowing the script, I can't say for sure whether these touches were the influence of Wellman or not, but they do add something to the film. Aside from that, well the film is pretty nicely paced, with a lot of really funny moments, and I think nicely demonstrates Wellman's ability to tell a story well.

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Re: William A. Wellman

#9 Post by ezmbmh » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:03 pm

On a whim popped in Public Enemy mostly to see Cagney. He was just what I remembered, all that energy almost ready to detonate from the start, a deserved star-making performance. What I never noticed before was Wellman’s direction and how it matched and perfectly set off both Cagney’s performance and the feel and power of the film itself. The angles and camera movements were dynamic, never dull, and, as someone has pointed out above, the film feels modern, kinetic, much more than the dull or “recessive” direction he’s been accused of. Hawks or Ford, no. But yes, to me, right with Curtiz and Walsh, whom I like for similar reasons. Will pay more attention from now on.
SpoilerShow
Two more small things. I remember as a kid being far more shocked by Cagney trussed up like a ham at the end, falling forward into the room, than the famous grapefruit scene. It occurred to me this time that was part of the dynamic of the film itself—it’s all kinetic energy, embodied by Cagney, of course, and it’s not just his end, but the brutal end to the energy, the movement of camera and character, his mobile leaping face frozen fish-eye dead. Still gets me and now I think I know why.
And does anyone else think the scene where Harlow goes Bernhardt talking to Cagney is one of the lamest ever? Both the acting, startlingly leaden and off, and the camera, so lively elsewhere, fall asleep. And the scene itself doesn’t even make sense—she seems t be calculating…what? And since she basically disappears, who cares?

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Re: William A. Wellman

#10 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:34 pm

You know what, I think the love scene with Harlow sticks out like a sure thumb. BUT, I think it almost pays off by the silent, abrupt way it ends: Tom Powers storming out on a warpath; Harlow back turned to the camera, lingering in a lonely, disappointed silence, never to be seen again. It's almost like a last chance at normalcy and decency which Powers, unaware, completely walks away from. And it is like a last moment of happiness before the gang war completely consumes and destroys him.

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Re: William A. Wellman

#11 Post by starmanof51 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:43 pm

ezmbmh wrote:And does anyone else think the scene where Harlow goes Bernhardt talking to Cagney is one of the lamest ever? Both the acting, startlingly leaden and off, and the camera, so lively elsewhere, fall asleep. And the scene itself doesn't even make senses. he seems t be calculating…what? And since she basically disappears, who cares?
She's straight up horrible in the whole thing if you ask me, but that scene is particularly agonizing. Amateur hour. Having her and Blondell swap parts would have helped - Joan's not ideal casting for that bit either, but she wouldn't have embarrassed herself.

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Professor Wagstaff
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Re: William A. Wellman

#12 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Wed Nov 10, 2010 11:55 pm

I'm relatively new to William Wellman, whose only films I had seen (until recently) were The Ox Bow Incident and The Public Enemy. Fortunately, I found his pre-code collection (Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 3) at a very good price and dove right in. My DVD player has been a nonstop rotation of those titles. I'm taken by how handsome the films are, his wonderfully provocative subjects, and the uncomprimising stories. He's a real craftsman in every sense, and he does it in such a short space of time. Any suggestions on where I should go from here? A Star is Born and Wings seem like obvious titles I should check out.

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Re: William A. Wellman

#13 Post by HarryLong » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:08 am

TRACK OF THE CAT is another must-see. In fact just about anything up to that title.

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Re: William A. Wellman

#14 Post by Jonathan S » Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:23 am

My favourite Wellmans are Wings, Beggars of Life (though I've never found a good copy), A Star is Born, Nothing Sacred, The Light that Failed, Beau Geste (though it owes a lot to Brenon's silent version) and The Story of G.I. Joe, which for me is his masterpiece.

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Re: William A. Wellman

#15 Post by HarryLong » Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:08 pm

Just browsed through his filmography above & noted two other titles I think worth seeking out: BATTLEGROUND and YELLOW SKY.
I think it's worth noting that I'm not generally a fan of war films or westerns, yet I very much like these two films.

And BEAU GESTE!

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Re: William A. Wellman

#16 Post by myrnaloyisdope » Sat Nov 13, 2010 2:48 am

Check out the Forbidden Hollywood Volume 3 box with the 6 Wellman films. Heroes For Sale is pretty incredible in its ability to tackle WWI, drug addiction, communism, labor riots, the depression, technological innovation and the death of the American dream all in about 70 minutes and yet not feel rushed. If you can track down The Hatchet Man, that's another great one that succeeds in spite of the ridiculous casting of Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young in yellowface. It's wonderfully atmospheric and has some really innovative sequences. I recommend any of his Warner pre-codes, which for the most part of a certain vibrancy and energy that makes them compelling. Even the crummy ones like So Big! and The Purchase Price are at least interesting failures, with either a neat concept or some general weirdness to keep them afloat.

Outside of his pre-code work, I watched The Story of G.I. Joe and was very impressed. It has a very medititative tone that reminded me quite a bit of Terence Malick. There's a really strikng sequence early on where a group G.I.'s are in bed at night, all the while German propaganda plays over the radio. Wellman lets the scene play quite a long time, using some great close-ups and almost rhythmic editing to really build a sense of weariness and desperation amongst the G.I.'s.

My favorite Wellman sequence might be the Louise Brooks flashback right at the beginning of Beggars of Life. It's such a brilliant use of multiple exposures and it's something I've never seen done quite the same way by anyone else. Ruth Chatterton's final speech in Frisco Jenny is another incredibly powerful sequence.

I think one of the most impressive things about Wellman was his ability to work in any genre, without ever seeming out of place. He's a bit like Raoul Walsh in that sense in that he tackled everything.

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Re: William A. Wellman

#17 Post by JakeB » Thu Jan 19, 2012 12:16 pm

There has been a screening of Beggars of Life announced for the Bradford International Film Festival in April. Tickets are £16, because Mark Kermode's skiffle band are providing the soundtrack. Ah well... At least there is the film to look forward to. That film still isn't available on DVD in a good copy.

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Tommaso
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Re: William A. Wellman

#18 Post by Tommaso » Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:28 am

I've watched "Safe in Hell" last night and was completely floored by it. Even by pre-code standards, this must have been pretty extreme stuff for the audience of the time, and it still works extremely well today. That sequence when the five crooks line up in the hotel lobby to wait for Dorothy MacKaill to come out of her room is unbelievable in its exposition of the lecherousness of these people. The depiction of moral obscenity with what in fact is often truly beautifully shot imagery is striking throughout the whole film. It's a bit as if someone had taken a Sternberg film (let's say, anachronistically, "The Devil is a Woman") and turned its sets and emotional force into a thing of outright depravity, to stunning effect.

Great film, and much better - and probably more important - than some of the films in the Forbidden Hollywood Wellman set. Why Warner didn't include it in that one is completely beyond me. Now it's unsafe in Warner Archive hell...

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rohmerin
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Re: William A. Wellman

#19 Post by rohmerin » Thu Mar 22, 2012 8:16 am

I liked the sordid Safe in Hell too.
But the biggest surprise that a Wellman's film has produced on me was So Big. Moving, small forgotten melodrama with an extroardinary Barbara Stanwyck as sacrified mother, and Bette Davis as a painter a la Tamara de Lempika. Nothing sordid or pre-code atittude, but it is so, so touching as another 30's melo, the sublime Back Street.

Love is a racket was quite dissappointing.

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