Raoul Walsh bio tells tale of filmmaker whose life was as big as his movies
He was one of early Hollywood’s so-called “He-man” directors (along with Howard Hawks, John Ford and John Huston). He sported an eye patch and a dashing panache that earned him the affectionate nickname “the one-eyed bandit.” And he lived a life off-screen that was every bit as rugged, momentous and adventurous as the classic film stories he told on screen.
But compared to his more celebrated colleagues in that rough-and-tumble director’s fraternity, Raoul Walsh is today an odd man out. Despite a resume that includes such bona-fide classics as “High Sierra,” “White Heat,” “The Naked and the Dead” and despite having tracked down bandit Pancho Villa, discovered John Wayne and faced down gangster Bugsy Siegel, Walsh’s exploits have been largely forgotten.
That should be remedied somewhat with the publication of “Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood’s Legendary Director” (University Press of Kentucky, $40), the first full-length biography of the flamboyant director by film historian Marilyn Ann Moss.
In his time, Walsh (1887-1980) was regarded as one of the fledgling film industry’s most creative, daring and iconoclastic directors. His career behind the camera spanned a half century and ran from the one- and two-reel silents to the rebellious, cutting-edge 1960s and through many genres (gangster films such as “White Heat” and “The Roaring Twenties,” action movies like “They Died With Their Boots On,” war pictures such as “Objective Burma!” on through Westerns and even romances).
Moss covers the critical aspects of Walsh’s filmmaking with a thorough, thoughtful precision. But the most compelling and surprising aspects of her book focus on Walsh’s amazing life off screen.
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