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Beggars of Life  /  Wild Boys of the Road

May 31, 2015 - 7:00 pm
William Wellman Jr. He will sign copies of his book, "Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel" beginning at 6 p.m.

Live musical accompaniment provided by Cliff Retallick.

Beggars of Life  (1928)

For a director who was also a decorated pilot in World War I, William A. Wellman’s films burn through a lot of shoe leather, from the Depression-driven tramping of the 1930s (Wild Boys of the Road, Heroes for Sale, Midnight Mary) to the weary marching of American soldiers in WWII, (G.I. Joe, Battleground).  Beggars of Life inaugurates Wellman’s fascination with and facility for the rough lives and environs of the trudging downtrodden.  After killing her foster father in self-defense, Nancy (the ever spellbinding Louise Brooks) flees to the open road with the help of Jim (Richard Arlen), a young hobo who happened on the scene.  Wallace Beery, whose singing on the Vitaphone soundtrack of the sounds version was billed as major attraction by Paramount, plays Oklahoma Red, a magnetic and menacing tramp who comes through for the couple in the end.

Paramount Famous Lasky Corp.  Director: William A. Wellman.  (Scenario): Benjamin Glazer, Jim Tully.  Cinematography: Henry Gerrard.  Editor: Alyson Shaffer.  Cast: Wallace Beery, Louise Brooks, Richard Arlen, Edgar Washington Blue, H.A. Morgan.  35mm, b/w, silent, 81 min.

Wild Boys of the Road  (1933)

William A. Wellman directed two topical films about the Depression for Warner Bros., both semi-documentary in tone.  This stark narrative follows boys from impoverished families (and a girl, played by dancer Dorothy Coonan, Wellman's fourth and final wife) on their hungry journey.  Wonderful photography and sincere acting make this film enjoyable despite the grim subject matter.  The optimistic ending resounds with hopeful New Deal rhetoric.

First National Pictures, Inc.  Director: William A. Wellman.  Screenwriter: Earl Baldwin.  Cinematography: Arthur L. Todd.  Editor: Thomas Pratt.  With: Frankie Darro, Edwin Phillips, Rochelle Hudson, Dorothy Coonan, Sterling Holloway, Arthur Hohl.  35mm, b/w, 69 min.