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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
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.
Included on the Turner Classic "Forbidden Hollywood Vol III" films by William Wellman, this documentary from 1973 describes the life and films of Wellman. Filmed shortly prior to his 1975 death, this one includes live interviews from the actor/writer/director himself. They spend quite a bit of time on James Cagney's performances, as they had made three films together. Several stories of his battles with the producers and studio heads of the early days. This documentary also spends some time on his pre-code films of the early 1930s, and even one of the slightly steamy "Tarzan" movies. Feisty character! Interesting to watch, and even more-so because so much is told by the man himself, with some narration by Robert Wagner. Wellman tells us much of his material was pulled right from his own life. Directed by historian Richard Schickel, who had written, directed and produced the TV series which chronicled the lives of the early Hollywood directors.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
" . . . and that fairy walk," HIGH AND MIGHTY director William A. Wellman informed John Wayne that he--Wellman--would look just as ridiculous masquerading as "Duke Wayne" than the never-even-served actor would appear trying to replace Wellman or any of the other actually decorated, Real-Life war hero directors--such as himself--as the maker of a war movie in which Wayne was pretending to be a soldier. This end credits "Bonus" comment (one of several homophobic things HEROES FOR SALE director Wellman says during his eponymous episode of Turner Classic Movie's THE MEN WHO MADE THE MOVIES series--a sexist phrase if there ever was one, since it excludes Ida Lupino, Leni Riefenstahl, and many other top directors of the 1900s) is at sharp odds with WILD BILL: H0LLYWOOD MAVERICK (on the same disc #4 of TCM's FORBIDDEN H0LLYWOOD Vol. 3 set). To hear WILD BILL tell it, Wellman and Wayne were bosom buddies as they collaborated on five flicks, two starring the Duke. That's because one of Wayne's kids is a blustering talking head on the later, longer Hollywood documentary. The briefer Turner offering is 100% pure Wellman unplugged. Though it is terrible to hear someone ridicule famous dead Gay Americans such as Rock Hudson, Duke Wayne, or Liberace for their sexual orientation, it's likely that Wellman hated John W. more because John was a fat-cat Super-Rich One Per Center movie producer by the time that they worked together than because of John's bedroom habits.
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