The man pictured above was one of the most famous, and most prolific directors of Hollywood’s Golden Age — William (Wild Bill) Wellman.
If any classic Hollywood personality comes close to matching the macho image of he-man Ernest Hemingway, it is this guy.
Last week, we ran a blog (‘A Walk In The Sun’ — Best of WWII?, April 23) providing our view that Lewis Milestone’s 1945 combat drama may well be the best ever World War II movie to come out of Hollywood. We received a rapid, one-line response from reader Armando: Wellman’s ‘Battleground’ is a much better film.
1949’s Battleground costarring Van Johnson, John Hodiak and Ricardo Montalban remains one of Wellman’s most notable titles, among the more than 80 of his credits in an amazingly diverse screen career covering nearly four decades.
We are inspired here by the current Wellman retrospective at UCLA’s Film & Television Archive that features screenings of the director-writer’s rarely seen films as well as critic lectures and an appearances by William Wellman Jr., the director’s son and author of Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel.
So how much do you know about Wellman? On to our quiz (as usual, answers tomorrow).
1) Question: Wellman is perhaps best remembered for directing a version of A Star Is Born. Who plays the female lead in the picture? a) Barbara Stanwyck; b) Judy Garland; c) Janet Gaynor; or d) Barbra Streisand.
2) Question: Wellman’s 1935 adventure outing, The Call of the Wild, resulted in one of Hollywood most long-lasting controversies. What happened? a) An offscreen affair between costars Clark Gable and Loretta Young produced an illegitimate daughter; b) The movie’s budget overruns caused the collapse of a major studio; c) The picture turned out to be more violent than anticipated; d) The picture was a huge box office bomb.
3) Question: Which one of the following was Wellman’s first professional mentor? a) Darryl Zanuck; b) Douglas Fairbanks; c) Bernard Durning; or d) Charles Brabin.
4) Question: Why did Wellman get the ‘Wild Bill’ nickname? Because of a) his daring as a World War I aviator; b) his early years as a boxer; c) his hard drinking early in his career; or d) his rebellious youth as a juvenile delinquent.
5) Question: Wellman’s 1942 romantic comedy, Roxie Hart, was the basis of a famous Broadway musical, which was in turn made into a famous movie. Which one? a) Gypsy; b) Annie Get Your Gun; c) Chicago; or d) Brigadoon.
6) Question: The first choice to play Roxie Hart in the above-mentioned movie was: a) Ginger Rogers; b) Alice Faye; c) Bette Grable; or d) Marilyn Monroe?
7) Question: Wellman began his career as an actor, but quit acting because he could earn more money as a director. a) True; or b) False.
8) Question: During his early acting days, Wellman was fired by a famous producer-director because he slapped the impresario’s wife. This producer-director was a) Alfred Hitchcock ; b) Raoul Walsh; c) Cecil B. DeMille; or d) D.W. Griffith.
9) Question: Although he was considered tough on actors, Wellman drew Oscar-nominated performances from which of the following? a) Brian Donlevy; b) Robert Mitchum; c) John Wayne; or d) James Whitmore.
10) Question: Although he was nominated for a best-director Oscar three times, Wellman won only one Academy Award during his long career. What was it for?