Friday, May 29, 2015

Beggars of Life with Louise Brooks screens at UCLA on May 31

Two early films directed by William Wellman - each about the down and out and life on the road and both featuring a "cross-dressing" female lead - will be shown at the Billy Wilder Theater on the campus of UCLA.

The special double bill with Beggars of Life - starring Louise Brooks, and Wild Boys of the Road, is set to take place on May 31 at 7 p.m. More information HERE.

This special event, part of an ongoing Wellman series, features an in-person appearance by William Wellman Jr., son of the legendary, Academy Award winning director. Wellman Jr. will sign copies of his excellent new book, Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel (Pantheon) beginning at 6 p.m. (Wild Boys of the Road is depicted on the cover of the book.)

Live musical accompaniment will be provided by the one and only Cliff Retallick, who has accompanied other Louise Brooks' films on earlier occasions.

Beggars of Life  (1928)

For a director who was also a decorated pilot in World War I, William A. Wellman’s films burn through a lot of shoe leather, from the Depression-driven tramping of the 1930s (Wild Boys of the Road, Heroes for Sale, Midnight Mary) to the weary marching of American soldiers in WWII, (G.I. Joe, Battleground). Beggars of Life inaugurates Wellman’s fascination with and facility for the rough lives and environs of the trudging downtrodden. After killing her foster father in self-defense, Nancy (the ever spellbinding Louise Brooks) flees to the open road with the help of Jim (Richard Arlen), a young hobo who happened on the scene. Wallace Beery, whose singing on the now lost Vitaphone soundtrack of the sound version was billed as major attraction by Paramount, plays Oklahoma Red, a magnetic and menacing tramp who comes through for the couple in the end.

Paramount Famous Lasky Corp.  Director: William A. Wellman.  (Scenario): Benjamin Glazer, Jim Tully.  Cinematography: Henry Gerrard.  Editor: Alyson Shaffer.  Cast: Wallace Beery, Louise Brooks, Richard Arlen, Edgar Washington Blue, H.A. Morgan.  35mm, b/w, silent, 81 min.

Wild Boys of the Road  (1933)

William A. Wellman directed two topical films about the Depression for Warner Bros., both semi-documentary in tone.  This stark narrative follows boys from impoverished families (and a girl, played by dancer Dorothy Coonan, Wellman's fourth and final wife) on their hungry journey.  Wonderful photography and sincere acting make this film enjoyable despite the grim subject matter.  The optimistic ending resounds with hopeful New Deal rhetoric.

First National Pictures, Inc.  Director: William A. Wellman.  Screenwriter: Earl Baldwin.  Cinematography: Arthur L. Todd.  Editor: Thomas Pratt.  With: Frankie Darro, Edwin Phillips, Rochelle Hudson, Dorothy Coonan, Sterling Holloway, Arthur Hohl.  35mm, b/w, 69 min.

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