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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
- White Heat
- The Roaring Twenties
- They Drive By Night
- The Thief of Bagdad
- Gentleman Jim
- High Sierra
- They Died With Their Boots On
- 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|
|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
My ranking of Walsh`s films that I`ve seen:
1. White Heat MP
2. The Roaring Twenties MS
3. The Thief of Bagdad HR
4. Pursued HR
5. They Drive by Night HR
6. Gentleman Jim HR
7. High Sierra R/HR
8. Dark Command R
5 Best Performances
1. Cagney- White Heat
2. Cagney- The Roaring Twenties
3. Flynn- Gentleman Jim
4. Bogart- High Sierra
5. Lupino- High Sierra