William Wellman

“Richard Schickel has called Wellman “an American original,” and indeed he was. Originals are not required to be perfect, only different, and Wellman had his share of failed enterprises. However, his best films can still stand alone in their portrayals of men under stress - only Howard Hawks surpasses him in this regard - and in their clear-eyed if cranky view of mankind at its best and worst.” - Ted Sennett (Great Movie Directors, 1986)

William Wellman

Director
(1896-1975) Born February 29, Brookline, Massachusetts, USA

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Drama, Western, Action, Adventure, Crime Drama, Crime, War, Melodrama, Adventure Drama, Combat Films, Comedy Drama, Message Movie
Key Collaborators: Cedric Gibbons (Production Designer), Andy Devine (Leading Character Actor), Alfred Newman (Composer), James Basevi (Production Designer), Adolphe Menjou (Leading Actor), Robert Lord (Screenwriter), Dore Schary (Producer), Robert Fellows (Producer), Archie Stout (Cinematographer), Sidney Hickox (Cinematographer), William Mellor (Cinematographer), Edward M. McDermott (Editor)

"William Wellman’s critical reputation is in many respects still in a state of flux long after re-evaluations and recent screenings of his major films should have established some consensus of opinion regarding his place in the pantheon of film directors. While there is some tentative agreement that he is, if nothing else, a competent journeyman director capable of producing entertaining male-dominated action films, other opinions reflect a wide range of artistic evaluations, ranging from comparisons to D.W. Griffith to outright condemnations of his films as clumsy and uninspired. His own preferred niche, as indicated by his flamboyant personality and his predilection for browbeating and intimidating his performers, would probably be in the same general class as highly masculine filmmakers like Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Raoul Walsh." - Stephen L. Hanson (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 2000)
"Although William Wellman's name is most often associated with action pictures, gaining him a reputation for working mainly with men, he brought his expertise to bear on a range of genres in the best Hollywood manner. Wellman earned the nickname "Wild Bill" for his impatience with actors, his devil-may-care personality, and his spell as a pilot in World War I." - Ronald Bergan (Film - Eyewitness Companions, 2006)
"Wellman was an efficient, erratic journeyman, as good as his material. Though praised for his handling of vigorous masculine action in war movies (Wings, The Story of GI Joe), thrillers (The Public Enemy), westerns and outdoor adventures (Beggars of Life, Wild Boys of the Road), he was at his best with dark satire and melodrama, where his cynicism about modern mores enhanced sparkling scripts by Dorothy Parker (A Star is Born), Ben Hecht (Nothing Sacred), and Nunnally Johnson (Roxie Hart)." - Geoff Andrew (The Director's Vision, 1999)
"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... 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 s strong point of view." - Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema, 1968)
"Expressing themes of courage, loyalty, and rugged individualism in a stark, semirealist style was the essence of Wellman's career. He lensed classic crime dramas, Westerns, war films, social explorations, and comedies with the same hard, sentimental simplicity." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
“A director of 76 movies, a number of them Hollywood milestones… In the end, Wellman was not so much a stylist or an artist as a man who saw excitement in the movie business and jumped on board for the ride.” - The Encyclopedia of Hollywood, 2004
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
The Public Enemy (1931)
Recommended
Other Men's Women (1931), Midnight Mary (1933), Heroes for Sale (1933), A Star is Born (1937), Beau Geste (1939), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Magic Town (1947), Yellow Sky (1948), Battleground (1949), Track of the Cat (1954)
Worth a Look
Wings (1927), Beggars of Life (1928), Safe in Hell (1931), Night Nurse (1931), The Purchase Price (1932), Frisco Jenny (1932), Wild Boys of the Road (1933), Nothing Sacred (1937), Roxie Hart (1942), The Story of G.I. Joe (1945), Across the Wide Missouri (1951), Westward the Women (1951), Island in the Sky (1953), The High and the Mighty (1954)
Approach with Caution
Small Town Girl (1936), Buffalo Bill (1944), The Iron Curtain (1948), The Next Voice You Hear… (1950)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Wings
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