Joseph H. Lewis

Active - 1935 - 1992  |   Born - Apr 6, 1907   |   Died - Aug 30, 2000   |   Genres - Western, Action, Drama, Crime

Share on

Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

American low-budget filmmaker Joseph H. Lewis began his long screen career editing such Republic serials as The Miracle Rider (1935) and The Undersea Kingdom (1936). Lewis was elevated to director with Courage of the West a 1937 Universal oater that also marked the debut of crooner Bob Baker. As a director, Lewis would remain in the Western field well into the television era, earning the nickname of "Wagon Wheel Joe" because of a penchant for framing shots through the spokes of a wagon wheel. The moniker was bestowed upon him by fellow B-Western expert Oliver Drake, but unlike Drake, Lewis' oeuvre managed to stand out in a crowded field, mainly due to careful lighting and other atmospheric touches not often considered sine qua non in low-budget filmmaking. Turning increasingly to thrillers, Lewis later directed Bela Lugosi in one of the veteran screen ghoul's better later vehicles, Monogram's The Invisible Ghost (1941), and even more importantly, perfected the low-budget film noir with the ultra-stylish Gun Crazy (1950), perhaps the director's finest hour and a half. After languishing in television for years -- directing episodes of The Rifleman, Bonanza, and The Big Valley -- Lewis was rediscovered by a new generation of moviegoers in the 1980s, who flocked to midnight showings of Gun Crazy. He was the subject of a 1987 documentary As Simple As That: Joseph H. Lewis in Hollywood and was the recipient of a 1997 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography