Raoul Walsh was an American film director, writer, and actor who had a career spanning over 50 years in the film industry.
He directed over 200 films and was known for his versatility and skill in a wide range of genres, from Westerns and war dramas to gangster films and musicals.
Here are some of the key reasons why Raoul Walsh is considered a significant figure in film history and why you should check out his films:
Pioneering work in early Hollywood: Walsh began his career in the silent era of Hollywood, where he made a name for himself as a director of action films and adventure stories.
He was known for his innovative use of camera techniques and his ability to create dynamic, exciting scenes that helped to shape the language of early cinema.
Versatility and range: Walsh was able to successfully navigate a wide range of genres throughout his career, demonstrating a versatility that was rare among Hollywood directors of his time.
He directed acclaimed Westerns like “The Big Trail” (1930), gritty crime dramas like “White Heat” (1949), and musicals like “The Strawberry Blonde” (1941), showcasing his range as a director.
Collaboration with major stars: Over the course of his career, Walsh worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, and Marilyn Monroe.
His ability to bring out the best in his actors helped to create some of the most iconic performances in film history.
Best Raoul Walsh Movies
Raoul Walsh’s legacy as a director is marked by his pioneering work in early Hollywood, his versatility and range as a filmmaker, and his collaborations with major stars of the era.
His films continue to be studied and celebrated by film enthusiasts around the world, making him a significant figure in film history that should not be overlooked.
1. The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
“The Thief of Bagdad” is a 1924 silent film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Douglas Fairbanks in the lead role.
The film tells the story of a roguish thief in ancient Baghdad who falls in love with a princess and must use his cunning and bravery to win her hand and save the kingdom.
The film is notable for its lavish production design, including elaborate sets and costumes, and groundbreaking special effects, including stop-motion animation and miniatures.
The film was also one of the first to feature a synchronized music score and sound effects, which were added in a later re-release.
In the film, Fairbanks plays the eponymous thief, who falls in love with the princess (played by Julanne Johnston) and must compete with other suitors for her hand.
Along the way, he encounters a magical genie (played by Charles Belcher) who helps him in his quest to win the princess and defeat the evil Mongol prince who threatens the kingdom.
“The Thief of Bagdad” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and is considered a classic of early Hollywood cinema.
The film’s groundbreaking special effects and imaginative storytelling have influenced countless filmmakers in the years since its release, and the film remains a beloved and enduring example of the swashbuckling adventure genre.
2. Sadie Thompson (1928)
“Sadie Thompson” is a 1928 American silent drama film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Gloria Swanson.
The film tells the story of a woman named Sadie Thompson, a prostitute who arrives on a remote South Seas island and becomes the object of desire for a number of men, including a zealous missionary named Davidson.
Here are a few key features of the film:
Character-driven storytelling: “Sadie Thompson” is primarily driven by its characters, who are all complex and well-drawn.
The film explores the inner lives and motivations of its characters in a way that is unusual for a film of its era, offering a nuanced and empathetic portrayal of its central figures.
Exploration of sexual themes: The film was considered highly controversial at the time of its release due to its frank exploration of sexual themes, including prostitution, promiscuity, and sexual desire.
The film is notable for its depiction of a strong, independent woman who is unapologetic about her sexuality and refuses to be shamed or cowed by the moralistic attitudes of the society around her.
Visual style: “Sadie Thompson” is known for its striking visual style, which makes use of bold contrasts and striking imagery to create a sense of heightened drama and emotion.
The film makes innovative use of lighting, camera angles, and other techniques to create a sense of depth and complexity in its storytelling, and has been noted for its influence on subsequent generations of filmmakers.
3. High Sierra (1941)
“High Sierra” is a 1941 crime film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino, and Arthur Kennedy.
The film follows Roy Earle (Bogart), a career criminal who is released from prison on parole and recruited to lead a robbery of a California resort. Along the way, he meets a young woman named Marie (Lupino) and becomes embroiled in a complicated web of relationships and motivations.
Here are some key points about the film:
Bogart’s breakthrough role: “High Sierra” is often cited as the film that cemented Humphrey Bogart’s status as a leading man in Hollywood.
His portrayal of Roy Earle, a tough guy with a soft heart, helped establish his reputation as an icon of film noir.
Exploration of the criminal underworld: The film is notable for its exploration of the criminal underworld and the psychology of its characters.
Roy Earle is portrayed as a complex figure who is torn between his loyalty to his criminal associates and his growing feelings for Marie, while the supporting characters are similarly nuanced and multi-dimensional.
Tragic ending: “High Sierra” is marked by its tragic ending, which is emblematic of the film noir genre. The climax is tense and emotionally charged, and it leaves a lasting impression on audiences.
Overall, “High Sierra” is a classic of the film noir genre and a standout entry in Raoul Walsh’s filmography. Its powerful performances, exploration of the criminal underworld, and tragic ending make it a memorable and enduring film.
4. What Price Glory (1926)
“What Price Glory” is a 1926 American silent film directed by Raoul Walsh. The film is based on a play of the same name by Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings.
Here are three characteristics of “What Price Glory”:
War Drama: The film is set during World War I and focuses on the experiences of American soldiers fighting in France.
The film features intense battle scenes and explores the harsh realities of war, including the toll it takes on soldiers both physically and emotionally.
Romantic Subplot: While the film is primarily a war drama, it also features a romantic subplot between two soldiers and a French woman.
The romantic storyline provides a counterpoint to the film’s more violent and dramatic moments, and helps to humanize the soldiers and provide a sense of emotional depth to the story.
Sense of Humor: Despite its serious subject matter, “What Price Glory” also has a sense of humor, particularly in its portrayal of the relationship between the two lead characters, Captain Flagg and Sergeant Quirt.
The film features a number of comedic moments and witty one-liners that provide a sense of levity and entertainment in the midst of the more serious themes.
Overall, “What Price Glory” is a powerful and engaging war drama that explores the experiences of American soldiers fighting in France during World War I.
The film is notable for its intense battle scenes, romantic subplot, and sense of humor, and it remains a classic of early American cinema.
5. The Roaring Twenties (1939)
“The Roaring Twenties” is a 1939 crime drama directed by Raoul Walsh, starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.
The film is set during the Prohibition era in the United States and follows the story of two World War I veterans, Eddie Bartlett (Cagney) and George Hally (Bogart), who become involved in the bootlegging and gangster underworld of the time.
The film explores themes of ambition, loyalty, and the corrupting influence of power.
Here are some key points about the film:
Dynamic performances: “The Roaring Twenties” features powerful performances from both James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, who were both at the height of their careers at the time.
Cagney’s portrayal of Eddie Bartlett is particularly notable for its combination of tough guy bravado and vulnerability, while Bogart’s turn as the villainous George Hally is chilling and menacing.
Exploration of Prohibition-era America: The film provides a window into the cultural, social, and political climate of the United States during the 1920s.
It explores the allure of the bootlegging business, the rise of organized crime, and the corruption of law enforcement and government officials.
Tragic ending: “The Roaring Twenties” is a tragic tale that explores the consequences of pursuing power and success at any cost.
The film’s explosive climax and bleak ending leave a lasting impression on audiences, highlighting the film’s themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the harsh realities of the criminal underworld.
Overall, “The Roaring Twenties” is a powerful and engaging crime drama that is marked by its strong performances, exploration of Prohibition-era America, and tragic ending.
The film’s combination of action, drama, and social commentary make it a classic of the gangster genre and a standout entry in Raoul Walsh’s filmography.
6. Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951)
“Captain Horatio Hornblower” is a 1951 adventure film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Gregory Peck in the title role.
The film is based on a series of novels by C. S. Forester and follows the adventures of Hornblower, a British naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars.
Here are some key points about the film:
Gregory Peck’s performance: Peck’s performance as Horatio Hornblower is widely regarded as one of his finest.
He brings a sense of stoicism, intelligence, and nobility to the role that perfectly captures the character’s heroic qualities.
Spectacular action scenes: The film features several spectacular action scenes, including a battle with a Spanish ship and a daring raid on a French fortress.
The set pieces are expertly staged and thrilling to watch, and they contribute to the film’s sense of adventure and excitement.
Faithful adaptation: Fans of C. S. Forester’s novels have praised the film for its faithful adaptation of the source material. The film captures the spirit and tone of the books, and it remains a beloved adaptation of the Hornblower saga.
Overall, “Captain Horatio Hornblower” is a classic adventure film that features a memorable performance by Gregory Peck, spectacular action scenes, and a faithful adaptation of C. S. Forester’s beloved novels. It is a standout entry in Raoul Walsh’s filmography and a must-see for fans of the genre.
7. They Drive by Night (1940)
“They Drive by Night” is a 1940 film noir directed by Raoul Walsh and starring George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino, and Humphrey Bogart.
The film tells the story of two truck-driving brothers, Joe and Paul Fabrini, who struggle to make a living while dealing with the dangers of long-haul trucking, cut-throat competition, and a femme fatale who comes between them.
The Fabrini brothers are played by George Raft and Humphrey Bogart, with Ann Sheridan playing Cassie Hartley, a woman who comes between them. Ida Lupino plays Lana Carlsen, a femme fatale who seduces and betrays the brothers.
The film was based on the novel “Long Haul” by A.I. Bezzerides, who also wrote the screenplay. “They Drive by Night” is notable for its gritty portrayal of the trucking industry, as well as for its strong performances by the cast.
It is also significant for being one of the first films to feature Humphrey Bogart in a leading role, prior to his breakout performance in “The Maltese Falcon” the following year.
Overall, “They Drive by Night” is considered a classic film noir and a quintessential example of the genre, with its portrayal of a world of danger and deception, where characters are driven to desperate measures in pursuit of wealth and success.
8. Objective, Burma! (1945)
“Objective, Burma!” is a 1945 war film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Errol Flynn. The film tells the story of a group of American paratroopers who are dropped into Japanese-occupied Burma during World War II on a mission to destroy a key enemy radar station.
The operation is successful, but the paratroopers must then fight their way through the jungle to reach a rendezvous point for extraction.
The film was praised for its realistic depiction of combat and the hardships faced by soldiers fighting in the Burmese jungle. However, it also drew criticism for its portrayal of the Burmese people as passive and subservient to the Americans.
“Objective, Burma!” was released at the height of World War II and was intended to boost morale and support for the war effort.
It was well-received by audiences and became a box office success. Today, it is regarded as a classic war film and an important piece of American propaganda from the World War II era.
9. The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
“The Strawberry Blonde” is a classic romantic comedy film released in 1941, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, and Rita Hayworth.
The movie is set in turn-of-the-century New York City and follows the story of Biff Grimes (played by James Cagney), a charming and cocky young man who falls in love with a beautiful and intelligent young woman named Virginia Brush (played by Olivia de Havilland).
However, Biff’s hopes of marrying Virginia are dashed when he is tricked into marrying her best friend, the flirtatious and gold-digging Amy Lind (played by Rita Hayworth).
The film is filled with witty dialogue and amusing situations, as Biff tries to extricate himself from his unhappy marriage and win Virginia’s heart. Along the way, he is aided by his loyal friend and confidante, Hugo Barnstead (played by Jack Carson).
“The Strawberry Blonde” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and it has since become a beloved classic of the romantic comedy genre.
Its talented cast and delightful humor make it a charming and entertaining film that is sure to delight audiences of all ages.
10. The Tall Men (1955)
“The Tall Men” is a Western film from 1955, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Clark Gable, Jane Russell, and Robert Ryan.
The film follows two brothers, Ben and Clint Allison (Gable and Ryan), who are cattle drovers hired by a wealthy Texas rancher named Nathan Stark (Cameron Mitchell) to drive a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana.
Along the way, they encounter an attractive and feisty widow named Nella Turner (Russell), who is traveling with her young son. Ben and Nella are immediately drawn to each other, despite the fact that she initially dislikes him because of his profession.
Meanwhile, Clint becomes increasingly disillusioned with their dangerous and difficult work, and begins to question the morality of their actions.
As the group journeys across the rugged terrain, they face a number of challenges, including hostile Native Americans, treacherous river crossings, and internal conflicts among the group.
Eventually, they arrive in Montana, but find that their troubles are far from over, as they must confront a group of ruthless outlaws who are attempting to steal the cattle.
“The Tall Men” received mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising the performances of the cast and the sweeping vistas of the Western landscape, while others criticized the film’s script and direction.
Despite this, the film has remained a popular entry in the Western genre, thanks in large part to the charismatic performances of Gable and Russell, as well as its exciting action sequences.
11. The Big Trail (1930)
“The Big Trail” is a Western movie that was directed by Raoul Walsh and released in 1930. The film starred John Wayne in his first leading role, and it was also released in a widescreen format that was considered revolutionary for its time.
The movie follows a group of settlers as they journey westward along the Oregon Trail in the 1850s.
The main character is a guide named Breck Coleman (played by John Wayne) who is hired to lead the settlers to their destination. Along the way, they face many challenges, including rough terrain, dangerous river crossings, and hostile Native American tribes.
The film was notable for its use of on-location filming and its large-scale action sequences. It was also praised for its realistic portrayal of life on the trail, as well as its treatment of Native American characters, which was considered more sympathetic than many other films of the time.
Despite its technical and artistic achievements, “The Big Trail” was a commercial failure at the time of its release. However, it has since been recognized as a pioneering work in the history of cinema, and it helped to establish John Wayne as a major star.
12. Along the Great Divide (1951)
“Along the Great Divide” is a Western film released in 1951, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Kirk Douglas, Virginia Mayo, and John Agar.
The movie tells the story of United States Marshal Len Merrick (played by Kirk Douglas), who is tasked with escorting a dangerous criminal named Crip (played by Walter Brennan) through a treacherous mountain pass known as the “Great Divide.”
Along the way, they encounter a group of travelers who are stranded in the wilderness after their stagecoach breaks down.
As they journey through the rugged terrain, Merrick must not only contend with Crip’s attempts to escape but also with the other travelers, each of whom has their own secrets and motives.
Among the travelers are a doctor (played by John Agar), a wealthy couple, and a beautiful and mysterious woman named Ann (played by Virginia Mayo).
The film is notable for its stunning location photography and its tense and suspenseful plot. It also features strong performances from its cast, particularly Kirk Douglas, who brings a gritty intensity to the role of Len Merrick.
“Along the Great Divide” is a classic Western that is sure to please fans of the genre. Its rugged landscapes, thrilling action sequences, and strong performances make it a compelling and entertaining film that is well worth watching.
13. Dark Command (1940)
“Dark Command” is a 1940 western film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, and Walter Pidgeon. The film is loosely based on the real-life exploits of William Quantrill and his Confederate guerrillas during the American Civil War.
In the film, John Wayne plays a local hero and town marshal who becomes embroiled in a feud with an unscrupulous landowner (played by Walter Pidgeon) who has Confederate sympathies.
The conflict becomes more intense as the two men vie for the affections of a local woman (played by Claire Trevor).
The situation is further complicated when the landowner joins Quantrill’s Raiders and begins to lead a band of guerrilla fighters in attacks against Union soldiers and sympathizers.
“Dark Command” was well-received by audiences and critics at the time of its release, praised for its action-packed story and strong performances by the lead actors.
The film’s themes of loyalty, honor, and the clash of ideologies resonated with audiences during the early years of World War II. Today, the film is considered a classic of the western genre and a notable example of Hollywood’s portrayal of the American Civil War.
14. The King and Four Queens (1956)
“The King and Four Queens” is a 1956 western film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Clark Gable and Eleanor Parker.
The film tells the story of Dan Kehoe, a professional gambler who stumbles upon a secluded ranch where four widows live with their mother-in-law.
The women are waiting for the return of their husbands, who had stolen a large amount of money and disappeared. Kehoe is immediately drawn to the women, but soon finds himself caught up in their dangerous web of lies and deceit.
Clark Gable plays Dan Kehoe, a charming but roguish gambler who is pursued by both the law and a group of angry cowboys.
Eleanor Parker plays Sabina McDade, the eldest of the four queens and the one who is most resistant to Kehoe’s charms.
The other three queens are played by Jean Willes, Barbara Nichols, and Sara Shane. The film also features Jo Van Fleet as the mother-in-law and Jay C. Flippen as a grizzled cowboy who helps Kehoe.
Overall, “The King and Four Queens” is a fun and engaging western with a clever premise and a talented cast. While it may not be as well-known as some of Clark Gable’s other films, it remains a charming and entertaining piece of Hollywood history.
3 Characteristics of Raoul Walsh Films
Raoul Walsh was a prolific American film director, writer, and actor who made a significant contribution to the film industry in the first half of the 20th century. Here are three characteristics of his films:
Strong and Complex Characters: Raoul Walsh’s films were known for their strong and complex characters, often featuring anti-heroes who were flawed but sympathetic.
He explored the human psyche and relationships in his films, giving depth and dimension to his characters.
Dynamic Action and Visual Style: Walsh was also known for his dynamic action sequences and visual style, which helped to establish him as one of the leading directors of his time.
He often used innovative camera techniques and staging to create memorable and thrilling action scenes.
Varied Genres: Walsh worked across a wide range of film genres, from westerns to war films to melodramas, and demonstrated a great versatility in his direction.
He was able to infuse his own unique style and sensibility into each film, while also working within the conventions of each genre.
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Raoul Walsh Films
Raoul Walsh was a prolific director in Hollywood, having directed over 100 films throughout his career. Here are three reasons why you should consider watching his films:
He was a pioneer in American cinema: Raoul Walsh was active in Hollywood from the early silent film era to the 1960s, and was one of the key figures in the development of American cinema.
He worked with many of the great actors of the time, including Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Errol Flynn, and was known for his dynamic and innovative filmmaking style.
His films often featured fast-paced action, dramatic tension, and vivid characterizations, and he was considered a master of genre filmmaking, particularly in the Western and gangster genres.
His films feature strong and complex characters: One of the hallmarks of Raoul Walsh’s films is the strong and complex characters that populate his stories.
Whether it’s the heroic outlaws of “High Sierra” or the conflicted soldiers in “The Big Trail,” Walsh’s characters are often multi-dimensional, with their own flaws, motivations, and internal conflicts.
This makes his films more than just surface-level entertainments, but rather complex studies of human nature and society.
His films are visually stunning: Raoul Walsh was known for his visual flair, and his films often featured striking compositions, bold camera angles, and vivid use of color.
He was particularly skilled at capturing the rugged beauty of the American West, and his films often showcased sweeping vistas of mountains, deserts, and plains. Even his more urban films, like “White Heat” and “The Roaring Twenties,” feature striking and memorable visuals that have become iconic in American cinema.
Best Raoul Walsh Films – Wrapping Up
Joseph L. Mankiewicz was an American film director, producer, and screenwriter who worked during the golden age of Hollywood.
He is best known for his complex, intelligent, and witty films, which often explored themes of human relationships, power dynamics, and social commentary. Here are some of Mankiewicz’s best films:
“All About Eve” (1950) – This film is a classic Hollywood drama that follows the life of a ruthless and manipulative Broadway actress named Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and her ambitious young protege, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter).
The film was a critical and commercial success and won six Academy Awards.
“The Barefoot Contessa” (1954) – This drama stars Ava Gardner as Maria Vargas, a beautiful Spanish dancer who rises to fame in Hollywood but struggles to find happiness and love in the cutthroat world of show business. The film is notable for its gorgeous cinematography and strong performances.
“A Letter to Three Wives” (1949) – This drama follows three women who receive a letter from a mutual friend informing them that she has run off with one of their husbands.
The film explores the complex dynamics of marriage, friendship, and jealousy, and features strong performances from its talented cast.
“Julius Caesar” (1953) – This historical drama is based on the famous Shakespeare play and features an all-star cast including Marlon Brando, James Mason, and John Gielgud.
The film was a critical and commercial success and is considered one of the best film adaptations of Shakespeare’s work.
“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1947) – This romantic fantasy film tells the story of a young widow (Gene Tierney) who moves into a seaside cottage that is haunted by the ghost of a sea captain (Rex Harrison).
The film is notable for its charming and whimsical tone, and its strong performances from its lead actors.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz was a master of his craft, and his films continue to be admired and studied by film enthusiasts and scholars alike.
His intelligent and complex narratives, his sharp dialogue, and his skillful direction make his films some of the most beloved and influential in the history of American cinema.
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