skip navigation
William A. Wellman

William A. Wellman

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (6)

Also Known As: William Augustus Wellman, Wild Bill, William Wellman Died: December 9, 1975
Born: February 29, 1896 Cause of Death: leukemia
Birth Place: Brookline, Massachusetts, USA Profession: director, producer, screenwriter, actor, hockey player, stunt pilot, property man, assistant director, messenger boy, salesman

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Having directed nearly 80 motion pictures throughout his career, William Wellman was an extraordinarily prolific director whose output contained a number of cinematic gems amidst a rather unexceptional canon. Wellman started his career during the silent era and had the prestige of directing the World War I actioner, "Wings" (1927), which was the first motion picture to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture. He spent the next 10 years directing a string of forgettable movies until reaching new heights with the scathing screwball comedy "Nothing Sacred" (1937) and the original version of "A Star Is Born" (1937), which earned him the only Academy Award of his career. Wellman went on to direct the dark and gritty Western "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), the tone of which ran counter to America's thirst for escape from the war, therefore sealing its fate as a commercial failure, though it lived on as one of Wellman's masterpieces. From there, he helmed a number of great Westerns and war-themed movies like "The Story of G.I. Joe" (1945), "Yellow Sky" (1948) and "Battleground" (1949). Late in his career, Wellman teamed with John Wayne on the terror-in-the-skies thriller "The High and the Mighty" (1954), but rode...

Having directed nearly 80 motion pictures throughout his career, William Wellman was an extraordinarily prolific director whose output contained a number of cinematic gems amidst a rather unexceptional canon. Wellman started his career during the silent era and had the prestige of directing the World War I actioner, "Wings" (1927), which was the first motion picture to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture. He spent the next 10 years directing a string of forgettable movies until reaching new heights with the scathing screwball comedy "Nothing Sacred" (1937) and the original version of "A Star Is Born" (1937), which earned him the only Academy Award of his career. Wellman went on to direct the dark and gritty Western "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), the tone of which ran counter to America's thirst for escape from the war, therefore sealing its fate as a commercial failure, though it lived on as one of Wellman's masterpieces. From there, he helmed a number of great Westerns and war-themed movies like "The Story of G.I. Joe" (1945), "Yellow Sky" (1948) and "Battleground" (1949). Late in his career, Wellman teamed with John Wayne on the terror-in-the-skies thriller "The High and the Mighty" (1954), but rode off into the sunset on the back of several mediocre films until his retirement in 1958. Though his career was uneven, Wellman directed enough film classics to be considered one of the premier directors of Hollywood's Golden Age.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Lafayette Escadrille (1958) Director
2.
  Darby's Rangers (1958) Director
3.
  Good-Bye, My Lady (1956) Director
4.
  Blood Alley (1955) Director
5.
  Track of the Cat (1954) Director
6.
  The High and the Mighty (1954) Director
7.
  Ring of Fear (1954) Dir of addl scenes
8.
  Island in the Sky (1953) Director
9.
  My Man and I (1952) Director
10.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Island in the Sky (1953) Narrator
2.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Joined a pro minor-league hockey team
1917:
Joined Foreign Legion, then Lafayette Flying Corps; plane shot down during WWI; sustained lasting back injuries; awarded Croix de Guerre and other honors
1918:
Returned to Boston as war hero; authored (with a ghost writer) his story, "Go, Get 'Em"
1918:
While a flight instructor at Rockwell Field, San Diego, became friendly with Hollywood figures
1919:
On invitation from Douglas Fairbanks, made film acting debut in "Knickerbocker Buckaroo"
:
Unhappy with acting, decided to become a director; worked at Goldwyn as messenger boy (including delivering fan mail to his estranged wife), propman, and then assistant director
1921:
Moved to Fox as assistant director
1923:
Took over direction of "The Eleventh Hour" from mentor Bernard J Durning
1923:
Solo directing debut, "The Man Who Won"
:
After succession of successful low-rent films, asked for raise and was fired
1925:
Joined MGM as assistant director
1925:
Resumed full-fledged directing chores at MGM with "The Boob" (released after his Columbia effort, "When Husbands Flirt")
1927:
Directed first major success (winner of the first Academy Award for best picture), "Wings"
1936:
First film as co-screenwriter (also director), "The Robin Hood of El Dorado"
1938:
First film as producer (also director), "Men with ings"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Always the aviator, Wellman's body was cremated and strewn over the US by plane.

He was awarded Croix de Guerre in 1918.

Received five US citations.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Helene Chadwick. Actor. First wife; married 1918; separated after a month; later divorced.
wife:
Margery Chapin. Singer, dancer. Married in 1925; together for a short time.
wife:
Marjorie Crawford. Married in 1931; divorced.
wife:
Dorothy Coonan. Actor. Fourth wife; starred in Wellman's 1933 film "Wild Boys of The Road"; married in March 1934.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Arthur Gouverneur Wellman. Insurance broker.
mother:
Celia Guinness Wellman.
son:
William Wellman Jr. Actor, filmmaker. Mother, Dorothy Coonan.
daughter:
Kathleen Kent Wellman. Mother, Dorothy Coonan married actor James Francicus.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Short Time for Insanity"
"Growing Old Gracefully"
"William A. Wellman" Scarecrow Press

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute