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February 16, 2021
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v2.1 Reference

Wild Bill Wellman

Hollywood Rebel

The renowned director William "Wild Bill" Wellman (1896–1975) has never gotten his proper due. Among his most iconic films are the pioneering World War I epic Wings (1927, winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture), Public Enemy (1931), the original A Star Is Born (1937), The Call of the Wild (1935), Beau Geste (1939), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Yellow Sky (1948), and The High and the Mighty (1954). David O. Selznick called him "one of the motion pictures' greatest craftsmen," and Robert Redford described him as "feisty, independent, self-taught, and self-made. He stood his ground and fought his battles for artistic integrity, never wavering, always clear in his film sense."

Drawing on his father's unpublished letters, diaries, and unfinished memoir, William Wellman, Jr. presents a boisterous portrait of the handsome, tough-talking, hard-drinking, uncompromising maverick. Wellman emerges as a juvenile delinquent, a professional ice-hockey player, and a World War I flying ace in the Lafayette Escadrille. As a highly decorated pilot, he fought the enemy. As an in-demand director, he fought producers and the great studio moguls—some with his fists—for the right to make his films his way. His passionate and roguish personality comes vividly to life in his son's hands.

Wild Bill Wellman
offers an unprecedented look at a man who directed "like a general trying to break out of a beachhead" and explores his years working with stars including Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, and Clint Eastwood. Full of humorous anecdotes and behind-the-scenes insights from the Golden Age, this riveting biography sheds new light on the life and legacy of a true Hollywood legend.

About the Author

William Wellman, Jr. is the author of The Man and His Wings. His articles have appeared in Film Comment, Films in Review, and DGA News. He is an actor and screenwriter and was executive producer of Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick.


"A star-studded homage to a prolific director. . . . Wellman worked with megastars and studio moguls, all portrayed here in lively detail. . . . A rich, exuberant life, well-captured in this exuberant biography."—Kirkus Reviews

"One of Hollywood's most colorful and talented directors punches above his weight in this rollicking biography. Wellman Jr. (author of The Man and His Wings), an actor, screenwriter, and son of director William Wellman, recounts the latter's picaresque life as a juvenile delinquent in Boston, WWI fighter pilot, and groundbreaking auteur of Hollywood classics including the aviation epic Wings, the gangster melodrama The Public Enemy, the Tinseltown weepie A Star is Born, and the social Western The Ox-Bow Incident. It's a two-fisted saga of a man who never flinched from any foe, be they German aces, barroom brawlers, or Hollywood big shots."—Publishers Weekly

"A film buff's delight . . . gloriously detailed . . . filled with juicy on-set stories . . . An affectionate, candid and extremely well-researched biography of film director William Wellman."—Kevin Howell, Shelf Awareness

"A thorough account of a remarkable career."—Wendy Smith, Boston Globe

"Movies are meant to move, and William Wellman's work demonstrates this in an exemplary fashion. This welcome new biography, Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel, briskly and objectively told by his son, does nothing to tame the reputation of the prodigious filmmaker who battled studio head Darryl Zanuck not only verbally in the front office but also with his fists in the field. A Boston Brahmin by birth but a brawler by practice, Wellman remains one of the few Golden Age Hollywood figures still richly deserving of the title (so overused these days but applicable here): Iconic. A terrific read."—Stephen M. Silverman, author of David Lean

"A thoroughgoing biography."—Library Journal

"It is hoped this biography will reintroduce (or introduce) film fans to the impressive oeuvre of Wellman, as well as his accomplishments as a heroic aviator in the Great War."—In Flight USA

9780813180939 : wild-bill-wellman-wellman
Paperback / softback
658 Pages
$29.95 USD

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