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Wellman films


mrbarr
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I recorded just about all of the Wellman films aired over the past month and am working my way through them. They are, by far, the most interesting and best films I have seen all year. While I was familiar with a number of the more famous Wellman movies, I never really saw him as the great filmmaker that he is until seeing these early 30s movies, most of which I had never heard of before. Thanks so much to TCM for making them available. With these films, Wellman is permanently cemented alongside Ford, Hawks, Chaplin, Keaton, Wilder, Kubrick and a few others for me as the true greats of American cinema. The movies that have really stood out for me are Wild Boys on the Road, Heroes for Sale, Baby Face, and the Robin of El Dorado. This last was particularly interesting and would be so relevent as a remake today. Lots more tos ay about these movies, but will save for later. One small thing - Wellman actually shot two scenes of children being run over by trains within the same year! Both are amazing scenes - horrific and shocking.

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What was sad about the William Wellman nights was TCM failed to show "Wings"!

 

The film, completed with a then unheard-of budget of $2 million, was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (then called "Best Picture, Production") for the film year 1927/28, and won a second Academy Award for Engineering Effects. The film was written by John Monk Saunders (story), Louis D. Lighton and Hope Loring, and was directed by William A. Wellman, with an original orchestral score by John Stepan Zamecnik (J S Zamecnik), which was uncredited.

 

In 2006, director William A. Wellman's son, William Wellman Jr., authored a book about the film and his father's participation in the making of it, titled "The Man and His Wings: William A. Wellman and the Making of the First Best Picture".

 

Sad TCM failed to show this important film!

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CK,

 

Wings is finally coming to TCM next month as part of the 31 Days of Oscar celebration.

 

Given that the film is owned by Paramount, it may only be for one screening. According to the schedule, it is set to only run on February 4th. It should be the restored version.

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Some Wellman films that I discovered last year that really impressed me were "Roxie Hart," (very funny and the basis for the musical "Chicago") and "Yellow Sky," a brooding western. I'm rather surprised at how Wellman became a semi-forgotten figure.

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Mike, I wonder how much of the "semi-forgotten" status is due to any old hatchets that may or may not be buried. He's had respected films on-screen for decades, but he's not one of the big-name directors and, as this retrospective showed many of us, he's certainly worthy of that praise. The month of Wellman films convinced me to not forget him.

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Do you think Wellman may have lacked a core group of films or stars and was simply too broad-based a director to be "known for one thing"?

 

The discussions about his early career being fed by the "weeper films" (I guess they were equivalent to today's Chick Flix) and then seeing his broad number of topics and stars makes me wonder if he didn't flee from doing "any one kind of film over and over". As if to avoid typecasting.

 

And, if that's the case, was his choice rewarded by then being overlooked because he never staked his claim to any one type of film?

 

Regardless, I have far more appreciation for his career than I did before TCM gave us those many. And those were excellent, albeit brief, interludes with his son and Osborne. Thanks for the documentary, too.

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Do you think Wellman may have lacked a core group of films or stars and was simply too broad-based a director to be "known for one thing"?>>

 

BuffaloChuck,

 

I think that is what happened to Wellman. He's similar to Michael Curtiz in that regard. He showed up, did his job well, made good films and went home.

 

The auteur theorists never bothered with him because they were too busy canonizing Ford, Hitchcock, Hawks, Cukor, Capra and Minnelli.

 

Guys like Wellman, Raoul Walsh, Allen Dwan and others would have to wait for a channel like TCM that has the abilities to show how their work progressed and evolved over the years.

 

I give credit to Schickel when he originally put this series together that he included Raoul Walsh and Wellman in with the better known big guns of the era.

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LZ, as you conclude and Chuck proffers, I too have this feeling that the limited mental capacities prevented writers from acknowledging Wellman and man others - the writers only needed a few name to drop, to write about, etc.- they had no need to be complete or correct.

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  • 1 year later...

If there are any other William Wellman fans in the forums, they should be delighted at the new Forbidden Hollywood collection, of which all 6 movies are being shown tonight on TCM. Let's hope this does at least a little bit to restore Wellman's reputation as a filmmaker.

 

(A DVD release of "Wings" might help, too).

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