Film critic Kenneth Turan highlights the retrospective in the Los Angeles Times.
William A. Wellman, the juvenile delinquent-turned-World War I-flying-ace-turned-pioneering-film-director, lived a life as storied as many of the characters that populate his films and he told just about every kind of story there is to tell in Hollywood: war films, screwball comedies, domestic dramas, westerns, social problem films, crime films et al. The evidence of such a ranging personal and professional experience led critic Manny Farber, who counted Wellman among “the true masters of the male action film,” to note that “in any Bill Wellman operation, there at least for four directors—a sentimentalist, deep thinker, hooey vaudevillian and an expedient short-cut artist.” The vying impulses and contradictions of Wellman’s art give all of his films their particular, idiosyncratic energies, fuel for the filmmaker as he burrows into his material, carving out, in Farber’s phrasing, “private runways to the truth.” Wellman sought that truth most often in the lives and spaces of the cast off, marginalized and damaged, approaching them with a principled realism and a restless pursuit of visual invention. Along the way, the battling and embattled director crafted more than his share of cinematic landmarks, including Wings (1927), The Public Enemy (1931), A Star is Born (1937), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) and Track of the Cat (1954).
This series presents a selection of Wellman’s personal favorites from his long career, as identified by his son William Wellman Jr., author of the new biography, Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel. Mr. Wellman will appear in person to introduce many of the films in this series and will sign copies of his book before the screenings.
Special thanks to: Gretchen Wayne—Batjac Productions; William Wellman Jr.