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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Walsh Leaps to Silent Era Forefront


Regeneration Defines Big Picture-Making For 1915

Dashing Raoul Walsh (seen pictures from this period? --- no wonder he was also in demand as leading man) directs, co-writes for a first time to establish a half-century career. Critics were wowed and RW became a made man at features in infancy. What to weep over is follow-ups of his that don't survive, dozens of which sound fascinating, especially those with Walsh-wife Miriam Cooper, who put Raoul in a briar patch once they split (hell hath no fury, etc.), but made with him a series of ace-high dramas like The Honor System, a prison meller that would probably be a hailed a masterpiece if only we could locate it. Director primacy is won by those whose work has longest survival list, that helping Griffith, for one, stay atop. Walsh meanwhile, who may have been best of all, must sustain on tiny sampling of a prolific silent career gone largely to dust. Regeneration turned up by chance to uptick his standing and prove Walsh began at a gallop. Of course, more could resurface tomorrow, and elevate him further. Regeneration is called the first feature-length gangster movie --- quite a distinction --- and I don't see anything challenging it. There's good pace, subtle effects, a camera pulling in or away for emphasis when needed. Walsh was a quick study at Griffith's elbow when he played J. Wilkes Booth in The Birth Of A Nation. To think this man kept making movies all the way to 1964 is some kind of amazing. 

5 Comments:

Blogger Mark Mayerson said...

John Ford listed Walsh's The Honor System as one of his favorite films. What a shame that it's lost.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

I DVR'd this off TCM a few years ago, and still haven't gotten to it. Maybe this weekend. It kind of strikes home with me since it's based on the explosion of a passenger ferry in the East River, right down the block where I live. I think -- and I could be wrong -- that it was the biggest US boat disaster before the sinking of the Titanic.

9:44 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Walsh silents seem to be impressive, at least those that have survived and I was able to watch. Despite some weak films here and there, it is really impressive how he manage to keep a high quality standard as a filmmaker for fifty years.

11:23 AM  
Blogger rnigma said...

I had a copy of Walsh's autobiography, "Each Man In His Time," an entertaining read. He recalled that when he viewed the rushes of the scene where the passengers were jumping off the boat, several of the women, shall we say, went commando. In something of a panic (release date drawing nigh and no money for retakes), Walsh contacted a man whose specialty was retouching film - and he laboriously painted "panties" on the women lacking them.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlRj8OHCDHU

8:58 AM  

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