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The Call of the Wild  /  Good-bye, My Lady

May 9, 2015 - 3:00 pm
William Wellman Jr. He will sign copies of his book, "Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel" beginning at 2 p.m.

The Call of the Wild  (1935)

The first big screen sound adaptation of Jack London’s stirring adventure shifts Buck, the powerful St. Bernard sled dog of the novel from central character to supporting player, behind Clark Gable’s charismatic prospector and the combative woman (Loretta Young) he rescues while racing across the frozen wilds of Alaska to claim the rights to a goldmine.  Variety, at the time, noted that screenwriters Gene Fowler and Leonard Praskins took a “sledgehammer” to London’s story but then “sewed it back together with a literary surgeon’s needle.”  William A. Wellman takes it from there.  His dramatic framing of the rugged scenery around Mount Baker, Washington—where the cast and crew fought blizzards and bitter cold—and the raucous, violent energy, here works into the stage-bound frontier towns, carrying London’s themes of instinct and survival intact. 

20th Century Pictures, Inc.  Director: William Wellman.  Screenwriter: Gene Fowler, Leonard Praskins.  Based on the novel by Jack London.  Cinematography: Charles Rosher.  Editor: Hanson Fritch.  Cast: Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Jack Oakie, Reginald Owen, Frank Conroy.  35mm, b/w, 95 min.

Good-bye, My Lady  (1956)

As gentle and tender as The Call of the Wild (1935) can be savage, Good-Bye, My Lady (1956) stands out in William A. Wellman’s decidedly rough and tumble career as his only children’s film, and as such has been sorely overlooked.  Brandon de Wilde stars as Claude, a young boy being raised by his uncle (Walter Brennan) in Mississippi, who discovers a peculiar kind of dog roaming the swamplands around their shack.  After capturing the “swamp stranger,” Claude trains him to hunt birds with such skill that the dog becomes a local legend.  The notoriety, however, brings the dog’s owner calling and Claude faces a hard choice.  Wellman avoids sentiment in this nevertheless heartfelt ode to boyhood by downplaying plot in favor of small moments—a fireside chat, a playful chase through a cornfield–wrapped in a felt sense of place.

Batjac Productions, Inc.  (Production): Robert Fellows.  Director: William A. Wellman.  Screenwriter: Sid Fleischman.  Based on the novel by James H. Street.  Cinematography: William H. Clothier.  Editor: Fred MacDowell.  Cast: Walter Brennan, Phil Harris, Brandon de Wilde, Sidney Poitier, William Hopper.  35mm, b/w, 95 min.