Action! The Films of Raoul Walsh, Part 1
February 7-April 16
"Cinema is movement.
And I made it move."
THE BIG TRAIL
Along with John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks and William Wellman, director Raoul Walsh (1887–1980) enjoyed one of the most remarkable Golden Age careers in cinema history, having achieved greatness during the silent era (THE THIEF OF BAGDAD and WHAT PRICE GLORY being just two of his masterpieces—he acted in and/or directed nearly 100 other silent shorts and features in addition to these, most of which are now sadly lost) before successfully transitioning to sound, where he directed nearly 80 more features (he retired from acting for good after losing an eye in a freak car accident caused by a bounding jackrabbit during preparation for IN OLD ARIZONA).
Among his peers, there are those whose silent success dwarfs their work in sound (Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Erich von Stroheim), and vice versa (Frank Capra). A more expansive list might include Josef von Sternberg, Allan Dwan, Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch, Yasujirô Ozu, Julien Duvivier and Jean Grémillon. But none can claim careers with the length, breadth or diversity of Walsh—possibly Dwan, but in a career with few of the highs and many more lows than Walsh; and not even Ford, who debuted as a bit-part actor in 1913, the same year as Walsh. By the time of Ford's directorial debut in 1917, actor/writer/director/producer Walsh had directed dozens of films, including 1915's REGENERATION—arguably the first gangster picture.
Though often thought of as an "action" director—he directed numerous Westerns, swashbucklers and gangster films—Walsh's multi-faceted career also included efforts in genres as diverse as musicals and dance films, historical epics and romantic melodramas. He made both flag-waving WWII films and the WWI-set WHAT PRICE GLORY, one of the key antiwar films. He directed James Cagney in both his final gangster picture (THE ROARING TWENTIES) and his comeback a decade later (WHITE HEAT). He hired a young stuntman named Marion Morrison for the lead in the 1930 epic of westward expansion, THE BIG TRAIL, and renamed him John Wayne (with another decade of seasoning, the actor eventually caught on in the genre). In PURSUED, he introduced typically urban film noir stylings—including a surfeit of psychological hokum—to a Western frontier blood feud, creating a deliriously fun "Western noir" in an impressively clever act of genre hybridization. In fact, "Depression comedy," "radio musical" and "map movie" can all be included among his many niche specialties—a career resume that is both echt Hollywood and, with the passage of time, one that seems to be located in a very intriguing parallel universe.
A career like this defies easy summarization, and thus AFI Silver is proud to present the first of a multi-part retrospective of Raoul Walsh's greatly entertaining films.
Generous support for AFI Silver's presentation of silent films with live musical accompaniment is provided in part by the George Frederick Jewett Foundation East.
AFI Member passes accepted at all screenings in the Raoul Walsh series.
This lost masterpiece—an early experiment in 70mm—has been restored to its wide-screen grandeur thanks to The Museum of Modern Art. In his first leading role, John Wayne plays the scout for a wagon train headed for the Oregon territory. The startlingly young Wayne impresses, physically and because this part of a soulful nature boy is so different from his later tough-guy roles.
DIR/PROD Raoul Walsh; SCR Jack Peabody, Marie Boyle, Florence Postal. US, 1930, b&w, 122 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Film Foundation. THE BIG TRAIL will be screened on a 35mm Cinemascope print, printed from the original 70mm photography, and the only existing version of same.
Live musical accompaniment by Andrew Simpson
Fri, Feb 7, 5:15; Sun, Feb 9, 5:15
Although the majority of Walsh's early silent work has been lost, his first feature-length film now survives, having been rediscovered in 1976. Growing up in turn-of-the-20th-century Lower East Side Manhattan, tenement kid Rockliffe Fellowes had it tough. In this dog-eat-dog environment, he's grown up to become a local gang leader, and believes he's accomplished something, until he meets beautiful social reformer Anna Q. Nilsson, who teaches him to read and change his ways, making his "regeneration" seem possible. But the criminal element that surrounds Fellowes won't let him go. Shot on location in 1915 New York and featuring many authentic Bowery and waterfront types as extras, REGENERATION represents a remarkable window into the lost world of (nearly) 100 years ago.
DIR/SCR Raoul Walsh; SCR Carl Harbaugh, from the memoir by Owen Frawley Kildare; PROD William Fox. US, 1915, b&w, 72 min, 35mm. Silent. NOT RATED
Recorded orchestral score by Joseph Turrin
San Francisco prostitute Sadie Thompson (Gloria Swanson, Oscar-nominated in the award's inaugural year) leaves the City by the Bay to start a new life on an island in the South Pacific. Independent and high-spirited, Sadie unapologetically enjoys the company of men, including "entertaining" a Marine detachment stationed nearby, eventually falling in love with Sgt. Tim O'Hara (Raoul Walsh, in his final acting performance). But sanctimonious missionary worker Alfred Davidson (Lionel Barrymore) can't abide Sadie's unrepentant hedonism, and under the threat of exposure to the law, coerces her conversion. But Davidson's no saint himself. Adapted from W. Somerset Maugham's short story "Miss Sadie Thompson," scandalously and successfully adapted on Broadway as "Rain," also the title of the 1932 sound version starring Joan Crawford.
DIR/SCR/PROD Raoul Walsh; SCR C. Gardner Sullivan, based on "Rain" by John Colton and Clemence Randolph, from a story by W. Somerset Maugham; PROD Gloria Swanson. US, 1928, b&w, 97 min, 35mm. Silent. NOT RATED
Joan Bennett is tomboy Salomy Jane, a nature-loving wild child living in an idyllic redwood forest-set village. But the arrival in town of handsome stranger Charles Farrell awakens strange new feelings in Jane. Madcap, uproarious and sexy, this wonderfully weird Western also features Ralph Bellamy as a shady gambler and foghorn-voiced Eugene Pallette as blowhard stagecoach driver Yuba Bill. "Filming among the giant redwoods and vertiginous perspectives of the Sequoia National Park in central California, Walsh constructs a West very unlike the familiar desert landscapes—a lush, fertile country, as seemingly crowded with people as the New York City of ME AND MY GAL."—Dave Kehr.
DIR/PROD Raoul Walsh; SCR Doris Anderson, Edwin Justus Mayer, from the story "Salomy Jane's Kiss" by Bret Harte and the play by Paul Armstrong Jr. US, 1932, b&w, 78 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
ME AND MY GAL
Sun, Feb 16, 7:15; Mon, Feb 17, 7:00
Waterfront cop Spencer Tracy and hash house waitress Joan Bennett crack wise and pitch woo in this winning romantic comedy, crackling with energy, invention and New York City grit. "It is only fleetingly a gangster film, not quite outrightly comic: it is really a portrait of a neighborhood, the feeling of human bonds in a guileless community, a lyrical approximation of the Lower East Side and its uneducated, spirited stevedore-clerk-shopkeeper cast. Walsh, in this lunatically original, festive dance, is nothing less than a poet of the American immigrant."—Manny Farber.
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR Arthur Kober; PROD William Fox. US, 1932, b&w, 79 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Mon, Feb 17, 5:15; Wed, Feb 19, 7:15
In Depression-era Los Angeles, Sally Eilers' slim figure gets her a job as a public pool lifeguard, nevermind that she can't swim. And for sailor-on-shore-leave James Dunn, it's love at first sight. Sexy, anarchic, hilarious and bizarre, this bawdy pre-Code classic delights in sexual innuendo and comic ethnic stereotyping (not to mention a flamboyantly gay character), which no doubt has contributed to its lamentable obscurity nowadays, but it's all in the spirit of a knockabout inclusiveness and melting pot populism.
DIR/PROD Raoul Walsh; SCR Marguerite Roberts, Charlotte Miller; PROD William Fox. US, 1933, b&w, 64 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Sat, Feb 22, 11:15 a.m.; Thu, Feb 27, 7:05
In the Gay '90s on New York's most infamous street, home to chancers, drunks and stumblebums—the lowest of the Lower East Side—a friendly rivalry between saloon keeper Wallace Beery and neighborhood daredevil George Raft intensifies into an all-out feud after the two begin vying for the affections of local beauty Fay Wray. Eager to make a name for himself, Raft cooks up a publicity stunt to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge—a boast that Beery intends to see him live up to or die trying.
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR Howard Estabrook, James Gleason, from the novel by Michael L. Simmons and Bessie Roth Solomon; PROD Joseph M. Schenck, Darryl F. Zanuck. US, 1933, b&w, 92 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924)
Recorded orchestral score by Carl Davis
Fri, Mar 7, 12:30; Tue, Mar 11, 5:15; Wed, Mar 12, 6:30 (Montgomery College Show)
"Literally a magic carpet ride of effects and stunts. It's so imaginative and extraordinary."—Kevin Brownlow
"On the one hand, THIEF is the movie you want to see as a kid, when its wonderful special effects can work their best magic. On the other hand, its magnificent design, its sophisticated sense of Arabian Nights fantasies, and its tongue-in-cheek star may be best appreciated by adults. In other words, it's a film for all ages and for all decades."—Jeanine Basinger
Douglas Fairbanks' magnum opus! As a wily thief in the bazaar, Fairbanks contents himself with taking what he wants, but after infiltrating the palace and meeting the Princess, he's inspired to earn her hand and his happiness, and compete with her other princely suitors in a fantastic scavenger hunt. The extravagant art nouveau sets were designed and built by William Cameron Menzies, making a legendary screen debut. The special effects still amaze, memorable set pieces include the magic rope, flying carpet, caverns of fire, a menagerie of monsters and a flying horse. Anna May Wong steals her scenes as a slave girl sent to spy by Mongol prince Sojin Kamiyama.
DIR/SCR/PROD Raoul Walsh; SCR Achmed Abdullah, Lotta Woods, adapted from "One Thousand and One Nights". US, 1924, tinted b&w, 155 min, DCP. Silent. NOT RATED
Up-and-coming crooner Bing Crosby makes it big in Hollywood, but French teacher and ardent fan Marion Davies would prefer he find a love interest other than snooty Fifi D'Orsay. Traveling west on a whim, she tries out for the pictures and becomes a rising star herself. Fans of classic Hollywood musicals will delight to this film's big, dream-infused production numbers, Der Bingle's songs and Davies' charm; plus Patsy Kelly (in her screen debut) as Davies' wisecracking best pal and the Three Radio Rogues singing spoofs of '30s radio stars.
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR Donald Ogden Stewart; PROD Walter Wanger. US, 1933, b&w, 78 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
WHAT PRICE GLORY
Live musical accompaniment by Michael Britt
Fri, Mar 14, 3:00; Sat, Mar 15, 11:10 a.m.
Leathernecks Capt. Flagg (Victor McLaglen) and Sgt. Quirt (Edmund Lowe) go where the action is across the world, "from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli," culminating in their deployment in France in 1918 for the Great War. The pair's boozing, brawling and amorous exploits take center stage, with their occasional skirmishes and deployments to the front only briefly interrupting their own romantic rivalries and nonstop carousing. But the action in France is no laughing matter. A teenage Dolores del Rio is the French innkeeper's daughter both men woo in Walsh's tragicomic combat classic. Perhaps the most foul-mouthed silent film in history, as even a novice lip-reader can attest, with the two Marines' salty language amusingly paraphrased in the much more polite intertitles.
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR James T. O'Donohoe, Malcolm Stuart Boylan, from the play by Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings; PROD William Fox. US, 1926, b&w, 116 min, 35mm. Silent. NOT RATED
Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Film Foundation.
EVERY NIGHT AT EIGHT
Out-of-work telephone operators Alice Faye, Frances Langford and Patsy Kelly enter a radio amateur-hour contest as a singing trio, hoping to win the prize money. They lose out to George Raft and his band, but soon get hired by him as a featured act, "The Three Swanee Sisters," appearing on the radio—you guessed it—every night at 8:00. But Raft's a workaholic taskmaster—is there room for love between him and shy Frances Langford? Fans of old-time radio will delight to this musical crowd-pleaser, featuring a score and songs by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, including "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "I Feel a Song Coming On."
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR Gene Towne, C. Graham Baker, from the story "Three on a Mike" by Stanley Garvey; PROD Walter Wanger. US, 1935, b&w, 80 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
THE ROARING TWENTIES
Sat, Mar 29, 3:45; Mon, Mar 31, 5:15; Wed, Apr 2, 5:15
"He used to be a big shot." Former WWI army buddies James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart cross paths years later while employed in New York's bootlegging business, first as friendly rivals, then as uneasy associates and finally as sworn enemies. This milestone gangster movie, punctuated with march-of-time newsreel montages from WWI through the Jazz Age to the 1929 stock market crash and the election of FDR, suggests "the world has changed" as a riposte to SCARFACE's "the world is yours" from the decade's dawning. Walsh's dynamic direction finds its apotheosis in the energetic Cagney, further intensified by Ernest Haller's fluid, sweeping camerawork. Gladys George gives a moving and memorable performance as a nightclub hostess who pines for Cagney, while he only has eyes for singer Priscilla Lane.
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay, Robert Rossen; PROD Hal B. Wallis. US, 1939, b&w, 106 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Print courtesy of the Library of Congress.
THE RED DANCE
Live musical accompaniment by Andrew Simpson
Fri, Apr 4, 5:15; Sun, Apr 6, 2:00—just added!; Mon, Apr 7, 5:00;
Tue, Apr 8, 5:00; Thu, Apr 10, 5:00, 9:15
This epic tale of the Russian Revolution, and its attendant social, political and romantic upheavals, is lavishly realized in the classic Fox Film Corporation style of ingeniously designed sets, dynamic camerawork and dazzling atmosphere. Dolores del Rio is a revolution-minded peasant girl, Tasia, who dreams of becoming a dancer; Charles Farrell is the open-minded Grand Duke Eugene, who loves her; and the ursine Ivan Linow is peasant leader Ivan Petroff, who rises to the rank of general in the Red Army.
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR Pierre Collings, Philip Klein, Malcolm Stuart Boylan, from the novel by Henry Leyford Gates; PROD William Fox. US, 1928, b&w, 90 min, 35mm. Silent. NOT RATED
KINDRED OF THE DUST
Live musical accompaniment by Andrew Simpson
Miriam Cooper returns to her Puget Sound hometown after a failed marriage, infant son in tow, and is roundly shunned by the townsfolk, save one: her childhood sweetheart Ralph Graves. Walsh's final film with first wife Cooper, whom he met when both worked for D. W. Griffith and who retired from films altogether in 1923. The thoughtful art direction by William Cameron Menzies illustrates both the sense of place in the Pacific northwest and the social ambitions of the logging town's nascent bourgeoisie, barely a generation removed from their frontier origins.
DIR/PROD Raoul Walsh; SCR James T. O'Donohoe, from the novel by Peter B. Kyne. US, 1922, b&w, 80 min, 35mm. Silent. NOT RATED
ARTISTS & MODELS
Jack Benny stars as slick-but-struggling Madison Avenue adman Mac Brewster, desperately trying to please his big client, silver magnate Alan Townsend (Richard Arlen). Mac's new gimmick is to sponsor the glamorous Artists and Models Ball, and name the debutante who wins as the new Townsend Silver Girl, eventually pitting Mac's spunky office mate Paula Sewell (Ida Lupino) against society snob Cynthia Wentworth (Gail Patrick). Riotous art deco sets lend glamor and glitz to this lively musical, with the big production number, "Public Melody Number One," choreographed by a young Vincente Minnelli. The supporting cast includes Louis Armstrong, Martha Raye, Judy Canova and Ben Blue.
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR Walter DeLeon, Francis Martin; SCR/PROD Lewis E. Gensler; PROD Adolph Zukor. US, 1937, b&w, 97 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Fri, Apr 11, 12 noon; Sat, Apr 12, 11:05 a.m.; Wed, Apr 16, 3:00
Co-ed Gracie Allen, daughter of an old money family, inherits stuffy old Alden College after passing her finals, thanks to wily tutor Bob Hope and much to the consternation of chauvinistic professor Edward Everett Horton. Allen's modern improvements include doing away with entrance exams, hiring fun professors and instituting jitterbug contests for the student body, paced by the hippest swing bands and broadcast live by radio. George Burns, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Jackie Coogan, John Payne, Robert Cummings and Ben Blue all add to the fun.
DIR Raoul Walsh; SCR Walter DeLeon, Francis Martin; PROD Lewis E. Gensler. US, 1938, b&w, 86 min, 35mm. NOT RATED
Sat, Apr 12, 1:00; Sun, Apr 13, 11:05 a.m.; Mon, Apr 14, 3:00