Back to IndieWire

The Raoul Walsh File – Part 6

The Raoul Walsh File - Part 6

And, finally, we conclude our look at the 72 Raoul Walsh entries from my 1952-1970 movie card-file. Raoul made many other pictures—most of his silent work gone forever—but certainly these will have given a good overview of this pioneer director’s remarkable, varied, and distinctive career. Unfortunately, I have not seen many of these films after the initial viewing, and all of my comments were written while I was between the ages of 12 and 31, so obviously the opinions may very well be different now, some more enthusiastic, some less. But the best of Walsh is as good as anyone has made, top-notch, unpretentious filmmaking by a master of the medium.

MARINES, LET’S GO (1961; d: Raoul Walsh).

1967: Fair* (Not one of Walsh’s best pictures, but still a damned engrossing war film, typically vigorous, unpretentious and fast-moving.)

THE NAKED AND THE DEAD (1958; d: Raoul Walsh).

1967: Excellent (Mailer’s story [based on Norman Mailer’s best-seller] but Walsh’s movie — and among his finest films of the fifties: a reckless, unselfconscious and fascinating World War II film about an unnecessary patrol led by a psychopath and an intellectual — excellently acted by Aldo Ray, Cliff Robertson, Raymond Massey and a large supporting cast. Along with Band of Angels, this is one of Walsh’s finest recent pictures — effortlessly made, his technique is so second-nature it is impossible to analyze; a beautiful movie.)

IN OLD ARIZONA (1929; d: Irving Cummings, Raoul Walsh).

1968: Fair- (Creakingly dated western made in the first year of sound; the film on which Walsh lost his eye and had to be replaced. As a result, the picture has gusto in spots and an overall bawdy conception, but Cummings carries out most of the scenes poorly. Warner Baxter [who replaced Walsh in the lead] gives an amateurish performance — for which he won the Oscar [as Best Actor] — and Edmund Lowe is only O.K. There are a few nice shots and seconds — J. Farrell McDonald, other bits — but it is uneven and only mildly diverting.)

WHAT PRICE GLORY (1926; d: Raoul Walsh).

1969: Good* (Among Walsh’s best silent films, a rousing, bawdy, typically vigorous World War I story about Quirt and Flagg, based on the famous pacifist play: The first in a series of three Walsh pictures with the same characters and actors, and by far the best. Excellent battle sequences, good atmosphere, likeable performances, fine narrative style. Very much in keeping with his talkies, but they got a lot better.)

THE BIG TRAIL (1930; d: Raoul Walsh).

1969: Fair* (John Wayne’s first starring part — and he’s quite all right, especially compared to most performances in the first two years of sound — in a pretty dismal story about a man’s search to avenge the murder of a friend against the overwhelming background of a wagon-train’s journey across the country; the atmosphere and the vigorously handled action is entirely Walshian, and there are considerable beauties along the way — in the land, the weather, the size of the production; but it has no serious impact because of the trivial nature of the script and the unconvincing way it is handled. It is nonetheless diverting and not without interest all the way through, even at its worst.)

THE MONKEY TALKS (1927; d: Raoul Walsh).

1969: Poor* (Unpretentiously directed and not really unlikeable, sometimes bizarre story of some down-and-out circus people and their idea to dress up a short pal as a monkey and pass him off as a talking one — which pays off to make them the hits of Paris — until love complicates things and ends up killing the little guy. Some pretty ridiculous plot twists — like a real monkey trying to rape the heroine — but all handled with a straight face, and generally fast pace. Decidedly one of Walsh’s least personal projects.)

THE RED DANCE (1928; d: Raoul Walsh).

1969: Fair (Briskly, professionally directed melodrama, set during the Russian Revolution — improbable situations, not the most enlightened casting — but elaborately produced, with convincing decor and effective camerawork. Competent and engrossing in its day, the film is dated now, but Walsh’s vigor keeps it from nodding, and it remains likeable despite everything.)

ESTHER AND THE KING (1960; d: Raoul Walsh).

1969: Fair (Likeable Biblical spectacle, done with the usual Walsh conviction and economy. One of those hopeless projects but pulled off to better effect than anyone had a right to expect. At its’ best when it’s ogling the girls — also a Walsh characteristic.)

A LION IS IN THE STREETS (1953; d: Raoul Walsh).

1969: Good- (Awkwardly edited and sometimes peculiarly staged southern political drama, influenced no doubt by the rise of Huey Long. Strangely out of sync with Walsh’s personality, the film is never less than engrossing but it also never achieves the potential power of the story, and Cagney gives far from his best performance.)

SASKATCHEWAN (1954; d: Raoul Walsh).

1969: Fair (The usual Walsh vigor and the marvelous locations compensate quite a bit for a lackluster cast headed by Alan Ladd and Shelley Winters, and a Canadian Mounties-western script that could mercifully be described as familiar.)

BABY FACE HARRINGTON (1935; d: Raoul Walsh).

1969: Fair* (Silly small-town comedy about a meek clerk who accidentally gets involved with a gang of hoods, enlivened by Walsh’s fast pacing and a remarkably believable comic performance by Charlie Butterworth. A programmer done with verve.)

GOING HOLLYWOOD (1933; d: Raoul Walsh).

1969: Fair (Marion Davies and Bing Crosby get the glamour treatment in this pretty standard Hollywood-desired-and-achieved comedy-musical. Ned Sparks as a director leads the cast of lively supporting players who, together with Walsh’s brisk treatment, give the piece more than just historical interest.)

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged