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Raoul Walsh (March 11, 1887, New York Citymarker – December 31, 1980, Simi Valley, CAmarker) was an Americanmarker film director, actor, founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and the brother of silent screen actor George Walsh. As a young man he was a close friend of Virginia O'Hanlon of "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" fame.

Film career

Walsh began as a stage actor in New York Citymarker, quickly progressing into film acting. Walsh was educated at Seton Hall Collegemarker and began acting in 1909. In 1914, he became an assistant to D.W. Griffith and made his first full-length feature film The Life of General Villa, followed by the critically-acclaimed Regeneration in 1915, possibly the earliest gangster film. Walsh played John Wilkes Booth in Griffith's epic The Birth of a Nation (1915) for which he was also Assistant Director. Walsh later directed The Thief of Bagdad (1924), starring Douglas Fairbanks and Anna May Wong.

In Sadie Thompson (1928) starring Gloria Swanson as a prostitute seeking a new life in Samoa, Walsh starred as Swanson's boyfriend in his first acting role since 1915; he also directed the film. Walsh was then hired to direct and star in In Old Arizona, a film about The Cisco Kid. While on location for that film Walsh suffered a car accident in which he lost his right eye. He gave up the part (but not the directing job), and never acted again. Walsh would wear an eyepatch for the rest of his life.

In the early days of sound with Fox, Walsh directed the first widescreen spectacle, The Big Trail (1930), a wagon train western shot on location across the West. It starred then unknown John Wayne, whom Walsh discovered as prop boy Marion Morrison and renamed after Revolutionary War general Mad Anthony Wayne (Walsh happened to be reading a book about General Wayne at the time). Walsh directed The Bowery (1933), featuring Wallace Beery, George Raft, Fay Wray and Pert Kelton; the movie recounts the story of Steve Brodie, the first man to supposedly jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and live to brag about it.

An undistinguished period followed with Paramount Pictures from 1935 to 1939, but Walsh's career rose to new heights soon after moving to Warner Brothers, with The Roaring Twenties (1939) featuring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart; Dark Command (1940) with John Wayne and Roy Rogers; They Drive By Night (1940) with George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino, and Bogart; High Sierra (1941) with Lupino and Bogart again; They Died with Their Boots On (1941) with Errol Flynn as Custer; Manpower (1941) with Edward G. Robinson, Marlene Dietrich, and George Raft; and White Heat (1949) with Cagney. Walsh's contract at Warners expired in 1953.

He directed several films afterwards, including two with Clark Gable, The Tall Men (1955) and The King and Four Queens (1956). Walsh retired in 1964.

Selected filmography

Walsh unofficially co-directed The Enforcer, with Humphrey Bogart and Zero Mostel, when director Bretaigne Windust fell ill at the beginning of shooting in 1951. Walsh refused to take a screen credit.


  • After losing his eye, his doctor reportedly asked if he'd like an artificial (glass) one. "Hell, no," Walsh snapped. "Everytime I'd get in a fight, I'd have to put it in my pocket." He wore an eyepatch for the rest of his life.

  • There are echoes in Walsh's films of events in his own life and that of his family: as a child his parents entertained famous Broadway actor of the day Edwin Thomas Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth whom Walsh was later to play in The Birth of a Nation (1915); in They Died with Their Boots On (1941) there is an actor playing a bit part as a tailor to the US cavalry officers that might have been a reference to Walsh's father who made uniforms for General Custer and other high-ranking officers before becoming chief designer for Brooks Brothers in New York.

  • Like his contemporary Howard Hawks, Walsh was known for never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. According to Walsh, in 1942, a few days after John Barrymore had died, Walsh, as a practical joke, picked up Barrymore's body from the mortuary and managed to sit the body, clad in a business suit, in a chair in Errol Flynn's house just before Flynn was due to arrive home. This story—recounted by both Flynn and Walsh in their autobiographies—was disputed by the artist Gene Fowler, a friend to both Barrymore and Flynn. Fowler states in his autobiography that he spent much of the night during which the joke was supposed to have occurred sitting with Barrymore's body in a Hollywood funeral home.

  • Many years earlier, Barrymore had inscribed a photograph of himself to Walsh, with a nod to As You Like It: 'Each man in his time plays many different parts. You have played them all.' Walsh used part of the inscription as the title for his autobiography, Each Man in his Time published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux in 1974. Leonard Maltin has described the book as "entertaining fiction with an occasional nod at the truth".


  1. Directors 2
  2. Raoul Walsh - Films as director:, Other films:

External links

  • Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database
  • Paolo Bachmann, Raoul Walsh, Torino, Quaderni del Movie Club di Torino, 1977.
  • Jean-Louis Comolli, L'esprit d'aventure, "Cahiers du cinéma", n. 154, avril 1964.
  • Toni D'Angela, Raoul Walsh o dell'avventura singolare, Roma, Bulzoni, 2008.
  • Raoul Walsh by Tag Gallagher @ Senses of Cinema
  • "Trafic", n. 28, hiver 1998.
  • "La furia umana", n. 1. 2009,

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