The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Series: Screen Classics
American cinema’s original iconoclast, Raoul Walsh gave the movies some of their greatest action films as well as some of their most beautifully etched heroes and heroines caught either on their way up to a romance or on the downside of a doomed adventure. Walsh knew cinematic archetypes like the back of his hand: he had helped create them ...
Prologue: A Wild Ride
When Raoul Walsh was fifteen years old, he awoke one night from a dream that left him shaking. He trembled as much from dread as from a half-formed sense of excitement. In a sleep that seemed as much nightmare as fantasy, he saw that his beloved mother, Elizabeth, had suddenly died. He could make no sense of it and could no longer reach out to ...
1. Becoming Raoul Walsh
When Albert Edward Walsh was born on March 11, 1887, in New York City, the moving-picture business was little more than a flicker in the country’s collective consciousness. George Eastman would not produce or market celluloid film for another year, and the earliest known film on record, W. K. L. Dickson’s Fred Ott’s Sneeze, was still four years ...
2. Griffi th and Beyond: The Apprenticeship Years
“Notice,” Sam Clemens warned at the start of Huck Finn’s “stretcher” about his adventures with Tom Sawyer and the slave Jim in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”1 The ...
3. Leaning Forward at Fox
The one-picture deal at Fox turned out to be a three-picture contract at $400 a week—just the salary Walsh bargained for but never expected to see. Before Walsh left for New York, Sheehan called to tell him he had two scripts in mind for him but was giving first choice to an older director in the company, Oscar Apfel, who had recently come over from the ...
4. The Dagger, the Sword, and the Gun
The mishap with the Samuel Goldwyn contract, coupled with the failure of Evangeline, only helped feed a deepening sense of disillusionment with Fox. Walsh began to think seriously about going independent and forming his own production company. After writing and directing three more pictures for Fox—The Strongest, Should a Husband Forgive? and ...
5. Pre-Code Walsh: The Big Camera
Walsh became increasingly disenchanted with Fox after he directed What Price Glory? When he first arrived at Fox in 1915, the studio seemed a much better oiled machine. Back then, William Fox spent good money for good directors and the best material he could get so as to build up his enterprise. As a result, good scripts were much more likely ...
6. Salt of the Earth
Walsh’s film titles, whether consciously or not, are humorous and ironic comments on his life. His next film, aptly called The Man Who Came Back, again carried an odd meaning for a director who needed to find a way back to box-office grace after the financial failure of The Big Trail. Walsh was the first one to want to forget about this new picture. In his ...
7. Beshert: The Early Warner Bros. Years
Walsh’s quip describing how he put an end to John Ford’s bellyaching about his bad eye says everything about Walsh’s approach to making pictures at Warner Bros. When he finished one, which he usually did on time and on budget, it was like putting an end to the bellyaching around him: last-minute complaints from producers and actors, script changes that had ...
8. Out of the Night: At Home at Warner Bros.
Walsh now prepared to direct his next venture at Warner Bros., the Jerry Wald–Richard Macauley scripted They Drive by Night, another hard-knocks drama produced by Mark Hellinger and executive produced by the ever-vigilant Hal Wallis. With its dark and gritty palate, its broken-down characters who try to but cannot outdistance or overcome their ...
9. One Thousand and One Nights with Errol Flynn
Now happily ensconced at Warner Bros., Walsh kept on speaking broken Yiddish to Jack Warner and getting away with it. That way he stayed on Warner’s good side. He could borrow money from the Colonel when he had to pay off his horse-betting debts, and he could try to stay on top of the barrage of lawsuits Miriam Cooper still hurled at him. In turn ...
10. In Love and War
By now Walsh was living fully the scenario he’d concocted long ago: he’d hardly finish one picture, and the next morning the studio would throw a new script on his front lawn. He used to say this about working for Griffith, but now he could just as easily say it about Warner Bros., where the fictions he’d already directed came barreling out of the pen at ...
11. Oedipus Wrecked: The Late 1940s at Warner Bros.
Walsh was in good spirits. In January 1946, three months after he and Lorraine separated, she began divorce proceedings, seeking a property settlement involving the house on North Doheny. Claiming mental cruelty, Lorraine said that she wanted to end her eighteen-year marriage to Walsh because he no longer would talk to her. She knew who her rival ...
12. By Land and by Sea
If The Big Trail proved to be the great adventure of Walsh’s early career, then the biggest challenge later on came in spearheading the massive production of Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N., a picture that took four months to complete and severely tested the mettle of the now sixty-three- year-old Walsh. Confronting unpredictable weather conditions ...
Rouben Mamoulian once said, “No matter how you put it, a film for a director is always autobiographical. You see his outlook on life. You see how he looks at love, at honor, at life.”1 That is, the director and his characters share the same psychological space. Even before an actor comes along, the director wills to this character some part of himself, just ...
14. His Kind of Women
Although Walsh’s brother, George, left the movies in the early 1950s to take up horse training and ranching, he kept his heart in the film business. When he began working with horses, he did so for Walsh until he branched out working for other members of the Hollywood community. But the two brothers had collaborated on scripts several decades ...
15. The Adventure Is Larger Than the Man
In this early poem to his wife, Walsh enjoys catching Mary’s youthful, voluptuous body, her ripeness and joy; not only are they a pleasure to him, but they also reflect on him and the kind of virility a woman such as Mary would love ...
Epilogue: Walsh’s American Scene
Raoul Walsh was known as Hollywood’s adventurous, often impishly irreverent “one-eyed bandit.” He carved out a career that spanned over half a century and upward of two hundred movies—and helped transform the Hollywood studio yarn into a breathless art form. He belonged to that generation of filmmakers who learned to make movies on a dime ...