Raoul Walsh

Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director

Marilyn Ann Moss
Series: Screen Classics
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 528
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    Raoul Walsh
    Book Description:

    Raoul Walsh (1887--1980) was known as one of Hollywood's most adventurous, iconoclastic, and creative directors. He carved out an illustrious career and made films that transformed the Hollywood studio yarn into a thrilling art form. Walsh belonged to that early generation of directors -- along with John Ford and Howard Hawks -- who worked in the fledgling film industry of the early twentieth century, learning to make movies with shoestring budgets. Walsh's generation invented a Hollywood that made movies seem bigger than life itself.

    In the first ever full-length biography of Raoul Walsh, author Marilyn Ann Moss recounts Walsh's life and achievements in a career that spanned more than half a century and produced upwards of two hundred films, many of them cinema classics. Walsh originally entered the movie business as an actor, playing the role of John Wilkes Booth in D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915). In the same year, under Griffith's tutelage, Walsh began to direct on his own. Soon he left Griffith's company for Fox Pictures, where he stayed for more than twenty years. It was later, at Warner Bros., that he began his golden period of filmmaking.

    Walsh was known for his romantic flair and playful persona. Involved in a freak auto accident in 1928, Walsh lost his right eye and began wearing an eye patch, which earned him the suitably dashing moniker "the one-eyed bandit." During his long and illustrious career, he directed such heavyweights as Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, and Marlene Dietrich, and in 1930 he discovered future star John Wayne.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3394-2
    Subjects: History, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Prologue: A Wild Ride
    (pp. 1-5)

    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 touch her. An overwhelming sadness took over. But at the same time he had a sense of something startling: he now stood on the brink of a fabulous journey, a great adventure that offered escape...

  5. 1 Becoming Raoul Walsh
    (pp. 6-24)

    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’sFred Ott’s Sneeze,was still four years away. So was Thomas Edison’s move to file patents for the Kinetograph and Kinetoscope, neither of which would be displayed until the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. By the time the first nickelodeon opened in Pittsburgh in 1905, Walsh would be eighteen...

  6. 2 Griffith and Beyond: The Apprenticeship Years
    (pp. 25-45)

    “Notice,” Sam Clemens warned at the start of Huck Finn’s “stretcher” about his adventures with Tom Sawyer and the slave Jim inAdventures 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 same may be said about Raoul Walsh’s account of how he came to sail to Cuba with his uncle, how the two men got shipwrecked, and the route Walsh took to find his way to Mexico and the United...

  7. 3 Leaning Forward at Fox
    (pp. 46-73)

    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 Jesse Lasky Feature Play Company. Apfel made what Walsh thought was the poorer choice, and Walsh was handed a project calledRegeneration. He was in New York by before mid-1915, ready to direct...

  8. 4 The Dagger, the Sword, and the Gun
    (pp. 74-97)

    The mishap with the Samuel Goldwyn contract, coupled with the failure ofEvangeline,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?andFrom Now On,none of them very distinguished in his eyes—he moved away from the studio for a short time and formed Walsh Productions, signing a three-year contract with the Mayflower Corporation (and, by extension, the Realart Company) on October 24, 1919, to distribute his films....

  9. 5 Pre-Code Walsh: The Big Camera
    (pp. 98-130)

    Walsh became increasingly disenchanted with Fox after he directedWhat 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 to come down the pike. Now, Walsh thought those days were waning. The year before, Sheehan had boughtWhat Price Glory?for him; this year, he boughtSeventh Heavenfor Frank Borzage. “[These were] two good silent stories,” Walsh...

  10. 6 Salt of the Earth
    (pp. 131-159)

    Walsh’s film titles, whether consciously or not, are humorous and ironic comments on his life. His next film, aptly calledThe 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 ofThe Big Trail.Walsh was the first one to want to forget about this new picture. In his autobiography, much like the two wives he ousts from his life, he omits any mention ofThe Man Who Came Back;and, with the exception ofWomen of All Nations,the second and woefully...

  11. 7 Beshert: The Early Warner Bros. Years
    (pp. 160-179)

    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 to be made on the spot, or last-minute maneuvering because therewasno script. For Walsh, the idea was to get the picture done. Always waiting on the other end was Jack Warner, bandit, businessman, and friend. For thirty...

  12. 8 Out of the Night: At Home at Warner Bros.
    (pp. 180-209)

    Walsh now prepared to direct his next venture at Warner Bros., the Jerry Wald–Richard Macauley scriptedThey 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 milieu of psychological and economic hard times,They Drive by Nightis quintessential Warner Bros. of the 1940s, a picture in the tradition of what the critic Manny Farber later called the “broken field journey,” his descriptive way of talking about films in which characters break...

  13. 9 One Thousand and One Nights with Errol Flynn
    (pp. 210-235)

    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, Jack Warner was indebted to Walsh; he could get him onto a picture in no time when another director walked off or was fired. Walsh was gold to him—and it was all working, as...

  14. 10 In Love and War
    (pp. 236-262)

    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 a quick pace. It seemed as though there was no space of time between them. And, when he wasn’t on the set, he was at the races, not much with Lorraine, but instead with...

  15. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  16. 11 Oedipus Wrecked: The Late 1940s at Warner Bros.
    (pp. 263-294)

    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 was, even if she never said so directly. Walsh was glad to give up the Doheny house; he was already living with Mary in the Valley—for the rest of his life he would remain on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where he...

  17. 12 By Land and by Sea
    (pp. 295-326)

    IfThe Big Trailproved to be the great adventure of Walsh’s early career, then the biggest challenge later on came in spearheading the massive production ofCaptain 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, soaring production costs that had to be held in check, and the staging of naval equipment both huge and small, he would call it the most difficult film he had ever directed. The production that began January 24, 1950, practically turned Walsh and Mary, who accompanied him,...

  18. 13 Reverie
    (pp. 327-350)

    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 as he authors and designs the world on the screen that they inhabit. He initiates their movements and contemplates their reactions to the world as if, in some fundamental way, they speak for him. As Walsh,...

  19. 14 His Kind of Women
    (pp. 351-369)

    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 earlier, and George never stopped suggesting project ideas to Walsh. He sent them along in a letter no matter where his brother happened to be. From 1955 to 1963, Walsh received countless letters from George, each with a new movie project,...

  20. 15 The Adventure Is Larger Than the Man
    (pp. 370-399)

    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:

    I called to the house “Hello”:

    And at the door there did appear

    A lass who set my world aglow,

    What e’er she said I did not hear;

    For suddenly the lightning flashed

    As my heart thundered in my chest;

    Her lips, her cheeks, her eyes, her hair

    Were rainbow colors at their best,

    Her body...

  21. Epilogue: Walsh’s American Scene
    (pp. 400-404)

    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 in a fledgling industry at the start of the twentieth century and invented a Hollywood that made movies bigger than life itself. In a generation that stretched from the likes of D. W. Griffith, F. W. Murnau, and Cecil B. DeMille to John Ford,...

  22. Filmography
    (pp. 405-446)
  23. Notes
    (pp. 447-464)
  24. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 465-470)
  25. Index
    (pp. 471-482)