More Wellman on DVD

William Wellman and Dorothy Coonan on the set of 'Wild Boys of the Road '

It’s been a while since I did any full reviews of William A Wellman movies here, but I have been watching more of his work in the meantime and have updated my Wellman page with brief details of all the films of his I’ve seen so far (40-plus.) I do also have a couple more of his films which I haven’t got round to watching yet, and there are a few more available which I haven’t bought yet, so I will carry on updating, and hopefully review some more of them too.

Anyway, I’m delighted to say that my page is already getting out of date, because Warner Archive has just announced that it is releasing three more of his titles on DVD. I’m especially excited at the release of his great pre-Code Safe In Hell (1931), starring Dorothy Mackaill in a brilliant performance as an ex-prostitute who runs away to a Caribbean island after killing an ex-boyfriend.

The other two are later titles, which I haven’t seen as yet. One is My Man and I (1953), starring Shelley Winters as an alcoholic bar girl befriended by Mexican farmhand Ricardo Montalban. The other is Wellman’s very last film, Lafayette Escadrille (1958), starring Tab Hunter and David Janssen, and with a small part for Clint Eastwood. This returns to the theme of the director’s first big success, Wings, by focusing on First World War flyers. I have seen an interview with Wellman where he talks about this film and about how upset he was by the studio changing his ending and also imposing a title –  he had already had a lot of interference with many other films, but you get the impression this one broke his heart. (He himself  didn’t fly with the Lafayette Escadrille, as usually stated, but with the Lafayette Flying Corps.) Anyway, this film is already available on a French DVD from Warner, but this is said to be a remastered edition, so I’m not sure which would be the better buy. The French DVD is probably a pressed one rather than a DVR, but maybe this is a better print?

It’s also good to hear that classic screwball comedy Nothing Sacred (1937), starring Carole Lombard and Fredric March, is being released by Kino on both DVD and Blu-ray on December 20 in a new “authorised edition from the estate of David O Selznick and the collection of George Eastman House). Should be much better than all the faded public domain copies on the market!

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945)

Agnes Moorehead, Margaret O'Brien and Edward G Robinson in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes

I was looking for a different Christmas film to watch, and this gentle MGM family movie directed by Roy Rowland, set in a small Norwegian-American community in Wisconsin and released just after the end of the Second World War, fits the bill perfectly. It was recently released in Warner Archive and is also sometimes shown on TCM. (I suppose it isn’t a Christmas film strictly speaking, but a lot of the story takes place around the season.) I’m not going to write a long review but just thought I’d post a couple of pictures, a link to the amusing trailer for the film,  and a few brief thoughts – and wish everyone who visits my blog a happy and peaceful break.

Continue reading

Central Airport (1933)

Central Airport is yet another of William Wellman’s lesser-known pre-Codes – but the good news is that this one is available on DVD, released as one of a batch of Warner Archive features starring Richard Barthelmess. It’s not one of Wellman’s very greatest, but it is still highly enjoyable – and highly characteristic of this director,  packing in a lot of breathtaking aviation stunts and following people who travel from town to town as part of an air circus. In his pre-Codes, Wellman always has a feeling for wanderers, and for people who have to put on a performance to earn their livings.

It is also a characteristic role for Barthelmess, who plays an aviator in several of his greatest films – so, watching him as a death-defying pilot in this, I found myself often reminded of his roles in movies like The Dawn Patrol, The Last Flight and Only Angels Have Wings. The first time I watched this movie, I assumed his character was also a First World War veteran, as in the classic movie he made with Wellman a little later the same year, Heroes For Sale – but, watching a second time, I failed to spot anywhere where this is stated  outright, though I think it is suggested at one point.

Continue reading

‘College Coach’ now on Warner Archive

I’m pleased to see that another early 1930s William A Wellman title has just been announced as one of the latest batch of Warner Archive releases – this one is College Coach (1933), which I recently reviewed here, starring Pat O’Brien, Ann Dvorak, Lyle Talbot and Dick Powell and with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him  appearance by John Wayne. Here’s are links to the info at Warner and at the Classicflix blog.

College Coach (1933)

Pat O'Brien and Ann Dvorak

As a Brit who isn’t a great sport fan, I’ll admit I’m in difficulties when watching any movie about American football – since, as soon as the players head for the pitch, I can’t really work out what on earth is going on. Nevertheless, I was pleased to track down a copy of this William A Wellman pre-Code starring Pat O’Brien as a college football coach – and featuring a 23-second appearance by a very young and uncredited John Wayne! I’m just editing this posting  (on October 6) to say that this title is now out on Warner Archive. (This was actually his second football-themed film – the first, Eleven Men and a Girl (1930), a comedy starring Joe E Brown, was also issued on Warner Archive recently.)

Anyway, back to the rules of American football, and my failure to understand them. I know that a  touchdown is similar to a try in rugby, but that’s about as far as I’ve managed to get. I did try looking up the Wikipedia page about the rules but found it impenetrable. Therefore, I’m afraid my review of this satirical comedy-drama will be lacking – but, even though I found the action on the pitch bewildering, there was plenty to enjoy regarding the politics and corruption behind the scenes, much of which seems all too relevant to modern-day sport too. There is also some enjoyably sharp hard-boiled dialogue – as well as some startlingly amoral pre-Code plot twists.

Continue reading

The Conquerors (1932) now out on DVD!

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.

The Boob (1926)

The main thing I have to say about this silent movie directed by William A Wellman is that, while it’s no great classic, it isn’t nearly as bad as Wellman himself made out. It’s also very interesting to watch for fans of his great silent movie Wings, as, even though this is a slapstick comedy, several elements of this film show the way forward to his First World War masterpiece, made the  following year. The Boob has been released on DVD as part of the Warner Archive series (although it was made by MGM) and I’ve been lucky enough to see it, thanks to a kind friend.

Continue reading