William A Wellman, revisited

Just a brief round-up as I take a break from obsessing over William A Wellman’s early work to catch up with writing about some other movies. I thought I’d recap on the films I’ve written about so far, and share news of a forthcoming  Wellman biography. Many thanks to all those who have read along and commented – much appreciated.

Film historian Frank Thompson, who did the commentary on the DVD of Wild Boys of the Road, kindly left a message on my first posting about Wellman, where he said: “You may be interested to know that John Andrew Gallagher (a fine director in his own right) and I have just completed a book on Wellman that we intend as the final word on the subject. It’s almost insanely thorough. The book is currently being shopped around to publishers, so no word as to when it will actually be published. But when it is, you’ll probably need a friend to help you lift it.”

I’m definitely looking forward to more news on this and will post on my blog when I know more! Continue reading

Wild Boys of the Road (1933)

Frankie Darro and Dorothy Coonan in 'Wild Boys of the Road'

All six of the William A Wellman pre-Codes included in the Forbidden Hollywood Collection volume three are great to watch, and am sure I’ll go back to them all in the future. But the last one in the package, Wild Boys of the Road, may just be the best of all – and it’s also the one which addresses the Great Depression most full-on.

One of Warner Brothers’ stories “ripped from the headlines”, this is a powerful, fast-moving melodrama, with a script by Earl Baldwin from a story by Daniel Ahern, turning the spotlight on the vast army of teenagers who really were living on the streets of America at that time. The second time I watched the film I was struck by how many shots there are suggesting that these children are being regarded as society’s rubbish – from a car scrapyard scene early on to the section with a large group  living in a “sewer pipe city” and another scene where they are living on New York’s municipal garbage dump. There is also a brief sequence where Frankie Darro, playing young runaway Eddie, eludes a policeman by jumping into a rubbish bin, and peeps up over the edge after he has run past.  I’ve seen plenty of chase scenes where people hide in bins in comedies and cartoons – but in this one the image of Darro peeping out of the bin is heartbreaking as well as funny.

Continue reading