New DVDs: William Wellman

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After cunningly disguising a terrific Delmar Daves collection under the title “Warner Romance Classics,” those crafty folks at Warner Home Video have slipped out a highly cinephilic selection of early William Wellman films under the title “Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 3.” The highlight of the batch is the 1931 “Other Men’s Women,” a drama from 1931 that allows Wellman, an early master of the bromance, to recreate the love triangle of “Wings” against a railroading background; his two classic social realist studies of 1933, “Wild Boys of the Road” and “Heroes for Sale,” are not far behind. For me, the minor films in the bunch are the female centered ones, “The Purchase Price” with Barbara Stanwyck (1932), “Frisco Jenny” with Ruth Chatterton (1932) and “Midnight Mary” with Loretta Young (1933); Wellman usually got better results by feminizing his macho heroes (is there any other director who got John Wayne to cry on screen?) than by putting pants on his ladies (Louise Brooks in “Beggars of Life,” Dorothy Coonan in “Wild Boys”). Details here in the New York Times.

166 comments to New DVDs: William Wellman

  • JJ

    Kent,

    Sure, just replace him with all the cut John Savage and Ben Chaplin scenes! : )

    I actually like Farrell in The New World, although I really do wonder how it would have played with say, Ben Chaplin as Smith. Probably would have balanced out Bale in the second half a little more smoothly.

    Jumping back for a moment….I think the best option for an expanded Thin Red Line would be something like what Criterion did with the Last Emperor, when they released both the theatrical cut and the longer version in the same set, and the recent Close Encounters DVD set. A multi-disc collection with the theatrical cut and whatever longer version Malick saw fit to include. This would be, I think the ideal format for sort of the ultimate Apocalypse Now release as well: the theatrical cut, the Redux version, AND that much longer rough cut that’s been bootlegged for years.

  • Alex Hicks

    Junko.

    What do you think of “No Regrets for Our Youth”? The first half, which seemsed less Kurosawa film an odd Japanese variant of a Lillian Hellmen script diected by the like of some gifted ex-theater hack like Irving Rapper, was powerul melodrama, the second in the which the film becomes very expressionistic but Hisaita & Kurosawa’s script loses some coherence (what were Noke’s politics and what did he do?) is more cinematic and has some power dispite radical shift into a somewhat murky subjectivism. Or so it seemed to me? Like it?

  • skelly

    While you wait on Junko, I’ll chime in:

    I love “No Regrets for Our Youth” – the editing towards the end when Hara’s character works the fields brings to mind the rhythm and inspiration of Vidor’s OUR DAILY BREAD. Though I agree the narrative isn’t highly coherent and the thrust exactly consistent.

    Wish Hara worked more with Kurosawa, she displays attributes in “No Regrets” and THE IDIOT that she never could in playing the dutiful wives in various Naruse films and dutiful daughters in various Ozu films (notwithstanding the greatness of such films).

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘What do you think of “No Regrets for Our Youth”?’

    Story is combining two real incident. First is about Law Professor Takigawa of Kyoto University removed from position and later arrested but freed and under surviellance. Second is about Ozaki Hotsumi journalist and China specialist executed for treason. He was part of Dr.Sorge Red spy ring (last movie of Shinoda Masahiro is true story, SPY SORGE (2003).) From that period, Japanese audience could understand what Noge was doing, because Hotsumi was publicized as hero for democracy, same as Takigawa sensei. His prison letters to wife and daughter was published and best seller. So from one year Hotsumi changed from being worst traitor to Kokutai and Emporer to true citizen of Japan and patriot. Circumstance of production was supervision by CIE department of Occupation, so Kurosawa had to conform to expectation.

    Many people who became director later saw this movie and it made the big impression on them. It is not the great movie to me, but I like it. You have made the accurate description of WAGA SEISHUN NI KUI NASHI.

  • Alex Hicks

    I liked it too and also wouldn’t call it great or near great. But for a whgile I though It might turn out great and it was always very interesting.

    Would you agree that Noke seems a likely communist early on but that this seems confused latter on by the suggestion that Noke’s espionage is directed toward preventing Pearl Harbor rather than directly helping the Chinese (esp. Mao)?

    How strongly, if at all, do you recommend, SPY SORGE?

  • Michael Dempsey

    It’s a pleasure to find recognition here for the relatively neglected “No Regrets For Our Youth” (“Waga seishun ni kuinashi”).

    This movie’s chronicle of its heroine Yuki’s long transition from apolitical middle-class dutiful daughter to committed supporter of the peasantry, not through speechifying but by abandoning her privileges and merging her life with theirs, is one of Akira Kurosawa’s most elating movies.

    The film’s blending of blunt outrage in the Kurowawa manner (which has drawn some rebukes for his work generally as being unsubtle) with both tough-minded optimism and lyrical charm (all profoundly embodied by Setsuko Hara as Yuki) make it no mere apprentice work but one of his top-tier achievements, a fully believable testament to what the English subtitles on the Criterion/Eclipse DVD repeatedly render in motif-style as “no regrets for my life.”

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘Would you agree that Noke seems a likely communist early on but that this seems confused latter on by the suggestion that Noke’s espionage is directed toward preventing Pearl Harbor rather than directly helping the Chinese (esp. Mao)?’

    I’m not sure about that. Noge wanted to keep Japan from bigger war in China and with Western nations. China war is the cause of war with Britain and America.

    Even though Noge is based on real person of Ozaki, it is the ficticious story. Michael Dempsey is more right about importance of Yukie character transformation, because at that time 1946 Japanese people was transforming from fascism and militarism to democracy (until Cold War change course reversing the trend.)

    ‘How strongly, if at all, do you recommend, SPY SORGE?’

    I recommend to see it, because it is the final movie of great director. But it is not the great movie. It is interesting movie. It can be compared to Warren Beatty movie REDS.

  • alex hicks

    Thanks, Micahel and Junko. “Top tier” or merely “interesting,” I liked ”Waga seishun ni kuinashi” a lot. Hadn’t recently though of China as “the cause of war with Britain and America,” but that makes compelling sense.

  • Barry Putterman

    Of course, I understand that there was a minor incident at Pearl Harbor, but who can really say.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘Of course, I understand that there was a minor incident at Pearl Harbor, but who can really say.’

    Superficial sarcasm is not good response.

    Confrontation with West came from Japanese agression against China. History of Japanese agression is complex, not simple. Japan attacked all Western powers in Asia, not just America.

  • Barry Putterman

    Junko, lighten up my friend.

    Tens of thousands of pages have been written about the complex causes and effects of World War II and will continue to be written long after we are gone.

    Maybe a few lines on a web site devoted to DVDs is not the best place to settle these issues.

  • Alex Hicks

    Just saw another pre-1950 Japanese film, “Osaka Legacy,” which impressed and entthralled me even more than “No Regrets.” For those, who ahven’t dippled into the eclipse releases on early Kurosawa and Mizoguchi (which I’ve dipped into) and Ozu (which I’ve sampled four or five times), they’re great!

    Junko,

    “Superficial sarcasm,” like the rest
    of your response to Barry Putterman’s odd interjection,strikes me as perfectly phrased.

  • James L. Neibaur

    As far as pre-1950 Kurosawa is concerned, I always loved “Nora inu,” which I saw some years ago (right around the time “Ran’ was released). After being so acquainted with the more popular Kurosawa titles like “Rashomon,” “Yojimbo” and “Schichinin no samurai,” I was pleased to find something that I, at that time, had not known. From that point I would try to catch up with earlier titles like “Yodore tenshi” and the afore mentioned “Waga seishun ni kuinashi” and have discovered that I find his earlier work much more interesting than his noted classics. Is this because they are less discussed? Perhaps.

    On the sole basis of Tokyo Story, and the Spring-Summer-Autumn series, I have not warmed up to Ozu. I can appreciate it objectively, but have not responded subjectively. Perhaps I need to see his less discussed work as well?

  • Alex Hicks

    James L. Neibaur, The early 1930s Ozu silents I’ve seen, all with Tatsuo Saito and the kid actor Tomio Aoli are films of great realism, immediacy and charm, which I instantly “warmed up to” in a way I’d never done myself to latter Ozu. (I enjoyed the 1934 “Floating Weeds” more than the 1959 one.) I suspect all the Eclipse releases of early Ozu are treats.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘Just saw another pre-1950 Japanese film, “Osaka Legacy,” which impressed and entthralled me even more than “No Regrets.”’

    Alex, what is Japanese title of OSAKA LEGACY? Who is director?

    Seeing early Kurosawa movies, they is all worth seeing. Also, he was apprentice to Yamamoto Kajiro and was allowed to direct much second unit for UMA (1941), maybe 40-50% is directed by Kurosawa. If that movie can be seen too it would be good.

    To me, seeing all existing Ozu movies is important. Early Ozu movies is showing different stories, genres, study of Hollywood movies especially comedies, so maybe is more interesting than 1948-1961 period for some people. To me all periods Ozu was making great movies.

    From Japanese cinephiles, early Mizoguchi is few 1920s fragments and movies to 1936. From then is mature complete Mizoguchi sensibility added to by post WWII democracy and last period of Buddhist conversion from 1950. We would like to see those 1920s movies, maybe he made 30 movies from that period. But they don’t exist.

  • Alex Hicks

    Junko,

    That should have been “Osaka Elegy” (dir: Kenji Mizoguchi), a splendid film with a great “look” from DP Minoru Miki to boot.