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William Wellman DIRECTOR


William Wellman, or “Wild Bill”, was an American film director, writer, producer, and actor, most recognized for his directing, particularly in the first movie to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture, “Wings” (1927). Throughout his eighty plus movie career filled with crime, action, adventure, and comedy alike, Wellman managed to excite audiences everywhere. His personality proved to also be as big as his movies, as he has been described as dynamic and larger than life – so much so that he has been given the nickname “Wild Bill.”

Wellman was born February 29, 1896 in Brookline, Massachusetts. Upon expulsion from his high school, he tried to become a professional hockey player but failed to make it. He went between jobs before becoming fascinated with aviation and signing up for the US Air Force. However, since he was not a college graduate, Wellman was denied acceptance, and instead became employed as an ambulance driver in the Norton-Harjes Volunteers association. While in Paris, he signed up to be a part of the French Foreign Legion and was assigned to be a fighter pilot in the Lafayette Flying Corps. This is where he earned the nickname “Wild Bill”, for he was a dare-devil in the sky. In 1918, he was recruited by the US Army Air Corps and stationed in San Diego, California to teach combat techniques to the new pilots.

During weekends, Wellman would fly to Hollywood, where he used Douglas Fairbanks’ polo field as a landing strip. Fairbanks was intrigued by his war stories, and became determined to find the pilot a job in the motion picture industry. For that reason, Wellman was cast in the film “Knickerbocker Kangaroo” (1919). Soon after, he appeared in “Evangeline” (1919). He discovered he did not particularly like acting, but wanted to become a director, so slowly he worked his way up the movie business ladder. In 1920 he landed his first directorial position in “The Twins of Suffering Creek”, although his name was not credited. After working on a few films, he moved to Fox in 1922. Wellman’s first directorial jobs there were for “The Man Who Won” (1923) and “Second Hand Love” (1923), both of which were released on the same exact day. He went on to direct a number of films starring Buck Jones, as well as a handful of low-budget ‘horse-opera’ pictures, before getting hired by Paramount in 1927 to direct “Wings”.

Wings” was the perfect type of movie for the director, as it was a major war drama that dealt with World War I pilots. Wellman lost himself in the film, working as hard as he could to produce the best feature he possibly could, complete with realistic air combat and climatic battle scenes. In the process, he crashed a couple of Air Force fighter jets, but ended up getting the film the very first Best Picture Oscar. As well, he went way over budget, but still the movie came out financially on top. “Wings”, as well as his next fighter pilot picture, “The Legion of the Condemned” (1928), which also served as his producer debut, launched the new World War I aviation genre at the movies.

After filming “Young Eagles” (1930), the director’s third World War I film, he went to Warner Brothers. Following a couple of films there, he fell in love with the script of “Public Enemy” (1931), begging to be put as director. The studio obliged, and the film turned out to be one of Wellman’s biggest. He also made a string of films for Paramount, and then left Warner Brothers after directing the failed “Wild Boys of the Road” (1933). Next he joined the newly formed 20th Century Fox, although throughout his career he found it hard to stick to one studio and quite often switched around to many of the major Hollywood studios.

He also tried on a lot of different positions involved in the movie making process. In 1936 he directed and helped write the screenplay for “Robin Hood of El Dorado”. The consequent picture he helped write and direct was “A Star is Born” (1937), which was so successful it won Wellman a Best Director Oscar nomination and Best Writing Oscar win, as well as was remade twice. He went on to only be involved in the writing of a few more features. However, he did also begin to produce more, his grand total being ten productions. Films like “Men with Wings” (1938), “Reaching For the Sun” (1941), and “Gallant Journey” (1946) showed what he could help create as producer. As well, even though he declared to not enjoy being in front of the camera, even once stating “I couldn’t stand being an actor”, he had a total of seven acting positions in pictures such as “Wings” (1927), “Frisco Jenny” (1932), and “Lafayette Escadrille” (1958). Still, though, Wellman’s main job was as a director.

He persisted in coming out with a great number of enjoyable and critically acclaimed pictures, including the romantic comedy “Nothing Sacred” (1937), thoughtful western “The Ox-Bow Incident” (1943), musical comedy “Lady of Burlesque” (1943), WWI infantry films “The Story of G.I. Joe” (1945) and “Battleground” (1949), and John Wayne vehicles “Island in the Sky” (1953) and “The High and the Mighty” (1954). In Wellman’s final film, “Lafayette Escadrille” (1958), which was not surprisingly about American aces flying for France in World War I, he served as director, producer, writer, and narrator. Unfortunately, it was a flop, and the director retired. He passed away from leukemia on December 9, 1975. For his contributions to the motion picture industry, the Director’s Guild of America bestowed upon him a Lifetime Achievement Award. As well, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

1976       A Star Is Born 

1958       Lafayette Escadrille

1958       Darby's Rangers

1956       Good-bye, My Lady

1955       Blood Alley

1954       Track of the Cat

1954       Light's Diamond Jubilee  

1954       Ring of Fear  

1954       The High and the Mighty 

1954       A Star Is Born 

1953       Island in the Sky

1952       My Man and I

1951       Westward the Women

1951       It's a Big Country

1951       Across the Wide Missouri

1950       The Happy Years

1950       The Next Voice You Hear...

1949       Battleground

1948       Yellow Sky

1948       The Iron Curtain

1947       Magic Town 

1946       Gallant Journey

1945       Story of G.I. Joe

1945       This Man's Navy

1944       Buffalo Bill

1943       The Ox-Bow Incident

1943       Lady of Burlesque

1942       Thunder Birds

1942       Roxie Hart

1942       The Great Man's Lady 

1941       Reaching for the Sun 

1939       The Light That Failed 

1939       Beau Geste

1938       The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

1938       Men with Wings 

1937       Nothing Sacred  

1937       The Last Gangster 

1937       A Star Is Born

1936       Tarzan Escapes  

1936       Small Town Girl

1936       Robin Hood of El Dorado

1935       The Call of the Wild  

1934       The President Vanishes

1934       Stingaree 

1934       Viva Villa! 

1934       Looking for Trouble 

1933       Female 

1933       College Coach

1933       Wild Boys of the Road

1933       Midnight Mary 

1933       Heroes for Sale

1933       Lilly Turner

1933       Central Airport

1932       The Conquerors

1932       The Purchase Price

1932       Love Is a Racket

1932       So Big!

1932       The Hatchet Man 

1935       China Seas 

1932       Frisco Jenny  

1931       The Star Witness

1931       Safe in Hell 

1931       Night Nurse

1931       The Public Enemy

1931       Other Men's Women

1930       Maybe It's Love

1930       Young Eagles

1930       Dangerous Paradise

1929       Woman Trap 

1929       The Man I Love 

1929       Chinatown Nights 

1928       Beggars of Life

1928       Ladies of the Mob 

1928       The Legion of the Condemned

1927       Wings 

1926       The Cat's Pajamas

1926       You Never Know Women

1926       The Boob

1925       When Husbands Flirt 

1924       The Circus Cowboy 

1924       The Vagabond Trail

1924       Not a Drum Was Heard

1923       Cupid's Fireman

1923       Big Dan

1923       Second Hand Love 

1923       The Man Who Won

1920       The Twins of Suffering Creek  

1919       Evangeline 

1919       The Knickerbocker Buckaroo 

Matinee Classics - Island in the Sky starring John Wayne, Lloyd Nolan, James Arness, Andy Devine, Harry Carey Jr., Walter Abel, Paul Fix, Louis Jean Heydt, Fess Parker, Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, Darryl Hickman, Mike Connors and William Wellman
Matinee Classics - The High and the Mighty starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Robert Stack, Laraine Day, Gonzalez-Gonzalez, Jan Sterling, Phil Harris, Robert Newton, David Brian, Paul Kelly, Sidney Blackmer, Julie Bishop, Paul Fix, John Howard, Wally Brown, William Campbell, John Qualen, George Chandler, Joy Kim, Michael Wellman, Regis Toomey, Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, Robert Keys, William Dewolf, William Schallert, Julie Mitchum, Doe Avedon, Karen Sharpe, John Smith, Robert Eastman and Douglas F
Matinee Classics - A Star is Born starring Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou, May Robson, Andy Devine, Lionel Stander, Owen Moore, Peggy Wood, Elizabeth Jenns, Edgar Kennedy, J.C. Nugent, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, A.W. Sweatt, Clara Blandick and Irving Bacon
Matinee Classics - Across the Wide Missouri starring Clark Gable, Ricardo Montalban, John Hodiak, Adolphe Menjou, J. Carrol Naish, Jack Holt, Alan Napier, George Chandler, Richard Anderson, Maria Elena Marques, Howard Keel, James Whitmore, Chief Tahachee, Nipo T. Strongheart, Evelyn Finley, Bobby Barber and Timothy Carey
Matinee Classics - John Wayne and Director William A. Wellman
Matinee Classics - The Public Enemy starring James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Joan Blondell, Beryl Mercer, Donald Cook, Mae Clarke, Leslie Fenton, Robert Emmett O'Connor, Murray Kinnell, Frank Coghlan Jr., Frankie Darro, Snitx Edwards, Douglas Gerrard, Robert Homans, Eddie Kane, Mia Marvin, Sam McDaniel, Helen Parrish, Lee Phelps, Russ Powell, Purnell Pratt, Lucille Ward, Nanci Price, Landers Stevens, Charles Sullivan, William H. Strauss, Adele Watson, Clark Burroughs, George Daly, Rita
Matinee Classics - Magic Town starring James Stewart, Jane Wyman, Kent Smith, Ned Sparks, Wallace Ford, Regis Toomey, Ann Doran, Donald Meek, E.J. Ballantine, Ann Shoemaker, Mickey Kuhn, Howard Freeman, Harry Holman, Mary Currier and Mickey Roth
Matinee Classics - Gallant Journey starring Glenn Ford, Janet Blair, Charlie Ruggles, Henry Travers, Jimmy Lloyd, Charles Kemper, Arthur Shields, Willard Robertson, Selena Royle and Robert DeHaven
Matinee Classics - Nothing Sacred starring Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Walter Connolly, Charles Winninger, Sig Ruman, Frank Fay, Troy Brown Sr., Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom and Margaret Hamilton
Matinee Classics - The Hatchet Man starring Loretta Young, Edward G. Robinson, J. Carroll Naish, Leslie Fenton, Tully Marshall, Edmund Breese, Anna Chang, Dudley Digges, Blanche Frederici, Willie Fung, Ralph Ince, Charles Middleton, Edward Peil, James B. Leong, Gladys Lloyd, Otto Yamaoka, Noel Madison and Toshia Mori

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