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The Men Who Made the Movies: William A. Wellman (1973)

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December 2007 (USA)  »

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An energetic interview with a great Hollywood director
20 December 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This documentary on William Wellman, from "The Men Who Made the Movies" series done by Richard Shickel, benefits greatly from the fact that there is so much interview footage of Wellman. This is true of the fantastic Raoul Walsh documentary as well. Wellman here is full of vinegar, a rugged, handsome individual, though early photos show that he was more than just handsome. He has lots of stories and speaks bluntly of the producers with whom he worked - Zanuck and Selznick in particular.

Though the narrative by Robert Wagner speaks of Wellman's remarkable star-making and star-spotting abilities, Wellman himself doesn't make a big deal of it, other than to say the director knows what the actor is doing better than the actor does. He was responsible for helping a few actors win Oscars - Frederic March, Janet Gaynor, Brian Donlevy, Robert Mitchum, James Whitmore, Jan Sterling and Claire Trevor. And he discovered James Cagney and Gary Cooper, as well as Clint Eastwood if for only wanting to cast him in a role instead of Tab Hunter.

Wellman shows what makes a great director or a great anything - passion, which he had not for only directing but flying. He was glad to be a studio director because it gave him a chance to do a whole variety of films. He was proudest of The Story of G.I. Joe and had the most fun making a Tarzan movie - so much fun, in fact, that he begged to make another one.

As captivating as many of his films, this look at William Wellman is a wonderful entry in Richard Shickel's remarkable "The Men Who Made the Movies" series.


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