Saturday, July 18, 2009

there's a wild thing on the set

a have long harbored the dream of making tee shirts with an image of william holden upon a horse with 'wild bill holden' written across the top. i just always thought that was funny. i never did that. now along comes another bill who actually was known as 'wild.' his friends called him 'wild bill wellman.' even though he possessed great looks he chose to go behind the camera and became one of the most respected directors ever. here is a composite i have concluded from hearing co-workers reminiscing about william wellman:

he was an exacting and tough realist who everyone found to be both simpatico and adorable even though he played tricks on them while underneath it all he was not only an aristocrat but one of the best looking men they'd ever seen.

whew. so, i have immersed myself in the set of six films directed by this tall and respected gent who survived WW1 and ended up on a studio lot making the best films ever about men who go through hell and come back into an ever changing world.

wellman's son's documentary that accompanies the release is flipping incredible. prepare to fall in love with a man who made films that grounded hollywood in truth. some facts:

his 1931 film 'wings' won best film at the first ever academy awards.

those he is considered to have made into stars:
gary cooper in 'wings'
james cagney in 'public enemy'
susan hayward
ida lupino
robert mitchum
richard widmark

careers he is credited with advancing:
bette davis
clark gable
sidney poitier
barbara stanwyck
jean harlow

what the heck is not to love? wellman was known to curse a blue streak. when learning about his life my amazement often stumbled on a few expletives. he was one of those people who go through their lives with a vision that uplifts many along the way. i shall end this tribute with a quote from actor dana andrews:

'bill was beautifully crazy with a silver plate in his head from WW1.'

photos: when you've been a pilot in the war chances are you gain the sort of experience which keeps hollywood studio squabbles in perspective.

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