Friday, 20 February 2015

Wild Bill Wellman and his resume of Precode Oscar ‘should-have-beens’

This is my entry to the 31 Days of Oscar blogathon hosted by Kellee, Aurora and Paula from Paula's Cinema Club. To check out the other posts from the blogathon as well as other great cinema related content click here  
Classic film fans – like flavours of ice-cream – are not all the same. They have different main tastes, like sweet or citrus. Prefer diverse additions, as conflicting as chocolate topping and nuts and some even have movie length preferences akin to the cone versus cup ice cream debate. Still comparing sweet treats and the film industry, if director William Wellman aka Wild Bill’s career was condensed into an ice-cream flavour it would be lemon gelato mixed with dark chocolate covered in sprinkles and dried apricots. Wild Bill, as his son William Wellman Jr later dubbed him, made films in pretty much every conceivable mainstream genre and all – except arguably his brief turn into musicals – proficiently. Looking for a great drama – think ‘Public Enemy’ (1931) or ‘A Star is Born’ (1937). An entertaining and fast-paced war film – ‘Wings’ (1927). A screwball comedy with the great Carole Lombard herself – ‘Nothing Sacred’ (1937). A western for a Sunday afternoon – ‘The Ox-Bow Incident’ (1943). And even if you has a craving for a weird musical/ mystery film starring a barely clothed Barbara Stanwyck, Wellman offers ‘Lady of Burlesque’ aka ‘The G-String Murders’ (1943).
 Wellman said in a 1978 interview:
“I've only had one real desire in this business: to make every kind of picture that was ever made. And I did. I made musicals, I made kid pictures, I made romantic comedies, the whole list. I'm very proud of that. Now, how many directors have done that?”
I first noticed Wellman in the old fashioned credits of some of my all time favourite Precode films, like ‘Midnight Mary’ (1933), ‘Safe in Hell’ (1931) and ‘Night Nurse’ (1931). To me he seems a genius at creating fast-paced, hard-hitting Depression-era ‘social issue’ pictures. His ability at shooting action scenes and clear love and experience with planes came to my attention in ‘Wings’ (1927) which, despite its lack of sound, I simply loved. I wasn’t surprised to read, therefore, that ‘Wings’ (1927) received the Academy Award for Best Picture in the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929.