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The Raoul Walsh File – Part 2

The Raoul Walsh File - Part 2

We continue going through all the Raoul Walsh films I saw between 1952-1970—72 in all—as noted in my movie card file.

THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940; d: Raoul Walsh).

1961: Very good (An exciting, vigorous melodrama mixing truck driving, murder, and insanity — directed in sharp, tough and economical fashion by Walsh, one of the best of the action directors, with a superb performance by Ida Lupino, good support from George Raft, Humphrey Bogart (miscast in a minor role). Memorable and highly charged and effective.)

COME SEPTEMBER (1961; d: Robert Mulligan; exec. p: Raoul Walsh).

1961: Poor (Old-fashioned, dated and pretty insipid romantic comedy… Typically colorful scenery, stupidly predictable situations, boringly “risque” dialogue, tepid direction.)

THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941; d: Raoul Walsh).

1961: Excellent (Superbly directed, eloquently acted romantic tragi-comedy set in the “Gay Nineties”,  centering on a couple of friends (one a tough, sensitive kid, the other a loud opportunist) and their love of the same girl. Marvelous performances by James Cagney, Olivia De Havilland, Jack Carson, Rita Hayworth; vivid, evocative photography (by James Wong Howe) and nostalgic, effective music under Walsh’s vital, strong direction make this a memorable and moving achievement.)

Added 1962: (A remarkable movie, and, along with High Sierra, The Roaring Twenties, White Heat, one of Walsh’s finest works.)

THE ENFORCER (1951; d: Bretaigne Windust, and uncredited: Raoul Walsh).

1961: Very good (Humphrey Bogart is brilliant as always, and is very well supported by Zero Mostel, Everett Sloane, and others, in this expertly done, exciting police picture about a D.A. trying to find the right evidence to convict the head of an infamous murder-for-profit organization; directed with flair for atmosphere and action — Walsh? — tightly written, often starkly realistic, suspenseful, a minor-key masterpiece.)

UNCERTAIN GLORY (1944; d: Raoul Walsh).

1961: Very good- (Fascinating, expertly directed, written, acted war story about a French killer who escapes the guillotine, is recaptured, then gives up his life for the cause against the Germans. Very well played by Errol Flynn, and Paul Lukas as his captor; Walsh’s sure direction carries conviction and his grasp of action and atmosphere is sharp and taut and keen. A fine, minor piece of work by an exciting, vigorous talent.)


1961: Good* (Expertly directed and photographed period swashbuckler based on the [C.S.] Forester novels — suavely handled action sequences in typical Walsh fashion, good acting (even from Gregory Peck), fine production shot in England. Thoroughly entertaining and delightful.)

EVERY NIGHT AT EIGHT (1935; d: Raoul Walsh).

1962: Fair* (Amusing, fast paced, very likable little comedy-romance about radio and a girl trio and the clever band-leader who promotes them to stardom; nicely played, vigorously directed. A potboiler, but nonetheless charming and unpretentious.)

CHEYENNE (1947; d: Raoul Walsh).

1962: Very good- (Tight, exciting, very well paced western about a stage-robber, his girl-friend, mistaken identities — nicely written, effectively acted, directed with a flair that is uniquely Walsh’s, and photographed with a sure knowledge of the western-locale. Really an excellent minor Walsh, delightful and exciting.)

GUN FURY (1953; d: Raoul Walsh).

1962: Fair* (Vigorous, if typical, western: in Walsh’s usual style: unmannered, simple, tough, and effective. Good photography, fair acting, O.K. story. Walsh makes it all seem a good deal better than it is.)

OBJECTIVE, BURMA! (1945; d: Raoul Walsh).

1962: Good* (Expertly directed, rousingly acted and written World War II story set during the Burma campaign; Walsh, as always, is exciting and vigorous — though not among his masterpieces — like High Sierra or White Heat — this is certainly an engrossing, exciting, adventure. Errol Flynn effectively leads the all-male cast.)

Added 1966: (Walsh is not a realist, like [Samuel] Fuller, so there is not the authenticity of the latter’s work; but there is the adventuresome personality of Walsh — and he is the author.)

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Blake Lucas

I doubt Walsh had anything to do with COME SEPTEMBER other than his name being on it–it is my conjecture that Rock Hudson owed him something because Walsh had had him under personal contract at the beginning of his career and that's why he has that credit. I feel the work of Robert Mulligan has, mostly, held up especially well over the years–I like at least half of his movies tremendously, and most of the others have something going with for them, but I must say this impersonal comedy is pretty weak and he didn't do anything for it; really, it's hard to see him in it unlike most of the others. Of the real Raoul Walsh movies you discussed I don't have much argument with what you say about them except that with the best of these I'd generally rate them higher than you do–OBJECTIVE BURMA is a beautiful film, a work of art, and I just saw it again recently so it's fresh in my mind; it's not less than, say, Hawks' AIR FORCE, and I wonder if it's one you might want to get back to sometime. GENTLEMAN JIM is my favorite Flynn film but I like all the the Flynn movies Walsh directed; Walsh was his best director and Flynn is just great in his movies. I used to rate THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT as great and argued that the two halves (the tough truck driving first half from A. I. Bezzerides and the Ida Lupino melodrama taken from BORDERTOWN) were knitted together through Walsh's contrast of Ann Sheridan and Ida Lupino as two different types of women, but now I'm back to thinking it doesn't fully work as one movie and as much as I admire Lupino, I like the truck driving part much better and do think it at least is great. Finally, if there is one masterpiece in this group it is surely THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE. Peter, do you really believe this does not rate an "exceptional"? It's such a beautiful movie with its vitality and graceful shift of moods. In one of his interviews, Walsh said this might be his personal favorite, at least of his sound movies.

M.T. Fisher

You need to give COME SEPTEMBER another chance. It's brilliant.

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