Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel

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ISBN: 9780307377708
Autor: Jr., William Wellman|Wellman, William A.
Editorial: Pantheon
Idioma: English

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The extraordinary life—the first—of the legendary, undercelebrated Hollywood director known in his day as “Wild Bill” (and he was!) Wellman, whose eighty-two movies (six of them uncredited), many of them iconic; many of them sharp, cold, brutal; others poetic, moving; all of them a lesson in close-up art, ranged from adventure and gangster pictures to comedies, aviation, romances, westerns, and searing social dramas.
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Among his iconic pictures: the pioneering World War I epic Wings (winner of the first Academy Award for best picture), Public Enemy (the toughest gangster picture of them all), Nothing Sacred, the original A Star Is Born, Beggars of Life, The Call of the Wild, The Ox-Bow Incident, Battleground, The High and the Mighty…
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David O. Selznick called him “one of the motion pictures’ greatest craftsmen.”
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Robert Redford described him as “feisty, independent, self-taught, and self-made. He stood his ground and fought his battles for artistic integrity, never wavering, always clear in his film sense.”
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Wellman directed Hollywood’s biggest stars for three decades, including Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, and Clint Eastwood. It was said he directed “like a general trying to break out of a beachhead.” He made pictures with such noted producers as Darryl F. Zanuck, Nunnally Johnson, Jesse Lasky, and David O. Selznick.
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Here is a revealing, boisterous portrait of the handsome, tough-talking, hard-drinking, uncompromising maverick (he called himself a “crazy bastard”)—juvenile delinquent; professional ice-hockey player as a kid; World War I flying ace at twenty-one in the Lafayette Flying Corps (the Lafayette Escadrille), crashing more than six planes (“We only had four instruments, none of which worked. And no parachutes . . . Greatest goddamn acrobatics you ever saw in your life”)—whose own life story was more adventurous and more unpredictable than anything in the movies. Wellman was a wing-walking stunt pilot in barnstorming air shows, recipient of the Croix de Guerre with two Gold Palm Leaves and five United States citations; a bad actor but good studio messenger at Goldwyn Pictures who worked his way up from assistant cutter; married to five women, among them Marjorie Crawford, aviatrix and polo player; silent picture star Helene Chadwick; and Dorothy Coonan, Busby Berkeley dancer, actress, and mother of his seven children.
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Irene Mayer Selznick, daughter of Louis B. Mayer, called Wellman “a terror, a shoot-up-the-town fellow, trying to be a great big masculine I-don’t-know-what. David had a real weakness for him. I didn’t share it.” Yet she believed enough in Wellman’s vision and cowritten script about Hollywood to persuade her husband to produce A Star Is Born, which Wellman directed.
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After he took over directing Tarzan Escapes at MGM, Wellman went to Louis B. Mayer and asked to make another Tarzan picture on his own.
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“What are you talking about? It’s beneath your dignity,” said Mayer.
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“To hell with that,” said Wellman, “I haven’t got any dignity.”
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Now William Wellman, Jr., drawing on his father’s unpublished letters, diaries, and unfinished memoir, gives us the first full portrait of the man—boy, flyer, husband, father, director, artist. Here is a portrait of a profoundly American spirit and visionary, a man’s man who was able to put into cinematic storytelling the most subtle and fulsome of feeling, a man feared, respected, and loved.

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