Walsh.  I’m worlds apart from the critics’ consensus on Raoul Walsh who brought us some of the best Bogart and Cagney movies. He’s a style-minus auteur but the filmography is strong (he has 6 films that rank in the top 100 of their decade).  If you look closely he really brought us some of the best Hollywood action films over the period of several decades. I think White Heat  is a major masterpiece and has some of the most indelible images in the history of the gangster genre (that Cagney scene and the factory set piece are indelible). I think his kinetic style is easier to note and trace than a few other “Hollywood” directors (Curtiz, Fleming) who might have had slightly stronger filmographies. Despite that it is a strong filmography- I mean if a film as good as High Sierra is your 7thbest film—that’s very good.

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Having a film the quality of High Sierra as Walsh’s 7th best film is a sign of a deep and high-quality filmography

Best film: White Heat. It’s brilliantly Freudian and features Cagney’s strongest career performance. Cagney is a tour-de-force here. The finale and those images (the will stick in your head for weeks/months/years after viewing.

a dazzling finale- virtuoso acting by Cagney and all the right set-piece details provided by Walsh in White Heat

total archiveable films: 9

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  2 (White Heat, The Roaring Twenties)

top 100 films of the decade:  6 (White Heat, The Roaring Twenties, They Drive By Night, Thief of Bagdad, Gentleman Jim, Pursued)

directed with Walsh’s trademark kinetic touch

most overrated:  The Big Trail. This early John Wayne discovery flick (and then he was rediscovered and featured by Ford nearly a decade later). I still owe this another viewing soon but at first glance I didn’t have it in my archives and I know some cinephiles revere it.

most underrated:  Take your pick here for me. White Heat is #638 on the TSPDT consensus and that is ridiculous—I have it at #135. That’s the only Walsh film in the TSPDT top 1000. That’s a travesty- so well well-made films.

a standout film for the decade (40’s), genre (gangster)– Walsh’s crowning achievement

gem I want to spotlight:    The Roaring Twenties– a dueling Bogart and Cagney film—directed and editing with such energy—this is certainly one of Warner’s best films of the 1930’s.

stylistic innovations/traits:    Walsh is known for being unpretentious with a “let’s get to it” utilitarian and workman like approach, style and pace. They are smooth and very entertaining and refreshingly unstuffy. But Walsh is way more than a point and shoot director (hello Clint Eastwood)- but he’s dynamic and instinctive and despite working over many decades his films bear a striking resemblance to each other because of that pace and he was certainly one of the forefathers of the “action” genre.

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action genre roots dating back to 1924’s The Thief of Bagdad with Douglas Fairbanks

top 10

  1. White Heat
  2. The Roaring Twenties
  3. They Drive By Night
  4. The Thief of Bagdad
  5. Gentleman Jim
  6. Pursued
  7. High Sierra
  8. They Died With Their Boots On
  9. Dark Command

By year and grades

1924- The Thief of Bagdad HR
1939- The Roaring Twenties MS
1940- Dark Command
1940- They Drive By Night HR
1941- High Sierra R
1941- They Died With Their Boots On R
1942- Gentleman Jim HR
1947- Pursued HR
1949- White Heat MP

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives