William Howard

Active - 1921 - 1994  |   Born - Jun 16, 1899   |   Died - Feb 21, 1954   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Crime, Mystery, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Irish/American filmmaker William K. Howard studied engineering and law at Ohio State University then went into the film industry on the business end as a cinema manager and movie salesman. His first directorial effort was 1921's Get Your Man, for which he shared screen credit with George W. Hill. His best films were distinguished by a vivid visual sense, notably his silent masterpiece White Gold (1927), which successfully conveys an aura of claustrophobia in the wide-open-spaces milieu of a sheep ranch. Frequently working in collaboration with cinematographer James Wong Howe, Howard continued his stylistic innovations into the talkie era. His Transatlantic (1931) predated Orson Welles' ceilinged sets in Citizen Kane by some 10 years, while his The Power and the Glory (1933) anticipated the multi-flashback "narratage" technique popularized in Kane. Even in such workaday projects as Sherlock Holmes (1932) and The Princess Comes Across (1936), Howard enhanced the proceedings with his own special touches. He spent the 1936-37 season in Britain, where he directed the lavish Laurence Olivier costume drama Fire Over England. Upon returning to the U.S., he found it difficult to negotiate worthwhile projects. His chance at climbing back to the top as director of Knute Rockne--All American (1940) was scuttled when Warner Bros. decided that Howard worked too slowly for their tastes and replaced him. In his autobiography, Rockne-star Pat O'Brien painted a pathos-drenched portrait of a weeping Howard declaring that this setback was the end of his career. In fact, William K. Howard continued directing "B" films until his retirement in 1946; at the time of his death, Howard was formulating plans for a remake of his silent classic White Gold.

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