Raoul Walsh

Active - 1914 - 2017  |   Born - Mar 11, 1887   |   Died - Dec 31, 1980   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Adventure

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Biography by AllMovie

One of Hollywood's most prolific and respected action directors, Raoul Walsh was also one of the longest-lived figures in film, with a career that spanned almost a half-century. After running away from home as a boy and working in a variety of capacities, including as a cowboy in the West, Walsh drifted into stage acting in New York and later into motion pictures as an actor. He became an assistant director to D.W. Griffith and, in 1914, made his first movie. By the mid 1920s, Walsh had a reputation for direct, straightforward, no frills narrative, and his style was particularly suited to action films and outdoor dramas, although his biggest film of that decade was the fantasy epic The Thief of Bagdad, produced by and starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., which continues to be shown seven decades later. His work in the 1930s, mostly for 20th Century-Fox, embraced comedy and drama in equal measure, but it was with Warner Bros., beginning at the end of the 1930s, that Walsh came into his own, directing such classics as The Roaring Twenties (1939), They Drive By Night (1940), High Sierra (1941), Desperate Journey (1942), and Northern Pursuit (1943), starring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Errol Flynn. Despite his reputation as an action director, Walsh's movies were usually much more sophisticated than was typical for the genre -- he revelled in psychological themes, and he loved offbeat characterizations and unusual narrative structures, attributes best reflected in the dark Western drama Pursued (1947), starring Robert Mitchum, and the crime film White Heat (1949), with James Cagney. He also served as unofficial co-director on one of Humphrey Bogart's most interesting later movies, The Enforcer (1951). His later movies showed a slackening of style, and he never did seem as effective working in color as he did in black-and-white. Walsh lost an eye while working on In Old Arizona in 1929, and his deteriorating sight in the other eye led to his retirement in 1964.

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