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Forbidden Wellman

By , 26 March, 2009, No Comment
Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three

Those of us utterly engaged by Pre-Code movies are excited this week by Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video’s latest release: the third volume in Forbidden Hollywood Collection series.

The four-disc set contains six films, all by William Wellman — who is vastly becoming one of my favorite directors. The films are: Other Men’s Women (1931), The Purchase Price (1932), Frisco Jenny (1932), Heroes for Sale (1933), Midnight Mary (1933) and Wild Boys of the Road (1933). (Of the films, I’ve only seen The Purchase Price, Frisco Jenny, Heroes for Sale and part of Midnight Mary when it was on TCM the other night. I’ll discuss them more in depth later; for now, I’m just excited to have them all available on DVD.)

Also included in the DVD box set are two documentaries on Wellman (Todd Robinson’s Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick and Richard Schickel’s The Men Who Made the Movies: William Wellman) which are much appreciated because Wellman has been vastly under-appreciated as far as Hollywood goes, because the director was not known for playing Hollywood politics properly. But that’s largely why Wellman’s work is so fantastic.

Unafraid of telling stories that were relevant to the times, he focused social issues such as prostitution, adultery and drug addiction, and the real moral questions (as opposed to “morality plays”) surrounding poverty, service and good will — issues that largely are still with us today. So it’s easy to see why Wellman made his great films before the Hay’s code (The Motion Picture Production Code), when movie making was nearly restricted to concise, predictable, rather unimaginative and predictable stories. (This is not to say that all films made after the code was instituted in 1934 are bad; but too often it is easy to see where stories were bent to the will of The Code.)

William Wellman Jr., instrumental in the release of his father’s films for this collection, was interviewed at The London Free Press where he had this to say about his father’s reaction to :

“He didn’t like the fact the the Code came in because he thought that the pictures — at least the ones he was making, even though they were risque in some sense — were still quality pictures,” Wellman Jr. says. “He felt that they were real. He didn’t like the Code coming in and then they started having to make all these changes. Of course, the filmmakers were always trying to work around it and get something through that maybe they weren’t supposed to.

“But he loved that era (the Pre-Code days). That was his favourite era.”

That era is my favorite too; and that’s largely due to Wellman’s films.

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