No sooner have I put up a review of William Wellman’s pre-Code Western epic The Conquerors (1932), starring Richard Dix and Ann Harding, than Warner announces that it is one of their latest batch of Warner Archive DVD releases, in fact issued on almost the day that I put up my posting! How’s that for a coincidence? Here is a link to info at the Classicflix site and the Warner shop. I’ve just started building up a page at my blog with details of all the Wellman movies I’ve seen and those which are available on DVD, and said I’d keep updating as more became available – but I hadn’t expected any more updates quite this quickly. As usual the DVD is only available in the US – sadly Warner doesn’t seem to realise that there are classic movie fans in the rest of the world too – but will doubtless be available for export via Amazon and many other websites before too long.
I’m still hot on the trail of William A Wellman’s pre-Code movies, and have been lucky enough to get hold of another couple – starting off with this Western epic. This wasn’t on DVD when I wrote this posting but I’m just editing to say that it is now out on Warner Archive. I don’t think this is one of Wellman’s very best, but I do like it and wish it was more widely-known – and it is definitely a Depression movie, despite largely being set in earlier eras. The film covers everything from the coming of the railways to the early days of silent cinema, and even has a prediction of what is to come for the future near the end, where a character says: “We will have television – and we’ll be able to fly across the whole continent in a couple of hours!” It also includes quite a lot of autobiographical material, with a character who joins the Lafayette Escadrille and becomes a celebrated First World War pilot, just as Wellman himself did.
Ann Harding and Richard Dix star as a young couple who travel out to Nebraska and build a banking dynasty. Both stars have demanding roles, taking them from youth to old age, and Dix even plays his character’s own grandson for good measure! I like Dix in this (for me he is more convincing as a young banker than as a swashbuckling Australian outlaw in Wellman’s Stingaree) but find Harding a bit insipid compared to other heroines in Wellman pre-Codes, such as Barbara Stanwyck or Ruth Chatterton.