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Directed by Raoul Walsh
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Raoul Walsh Profile
* Films in Bold Type Will Air on TCM

Raoul Walsh was of Spanish descent and the son of a clothes designer. Born in New York City in 1887, Walsh was one of the screen's great adventurers; even before he got into the movies he had knocked around the world as a sailor and a cowhand. Only John Ford and Howard Hawks could rival Walsh at directing strong action films with even stronger performances. And often Walsh went farther than both of them in exploring the vulnerabilities of anti-heroes like Mad Dog Earle in High Sierra (1941) and Cody Jarrett in White Heat (1949).

After riding the wide open spaces of New Jersey in early silent Westerns, he helped D.W. Griffith move out West, working for him as both an assistant director and actor. His most notable role for Griffith was as John Wilkes Booth in The Birth of a Nation (1915). On his own, he directed hundreds of silent films which were among the best of their day; unfortunately, most are now lost. He had was scheduled to direct himself as the Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona (1929), the first talking film shot outdoors. Then a freak auto accident cost him an eye. He had to give up the film to another director, while Warner Baxter won an Oscar for Best Actor in what should have been Walsh's role. He bounced back quickly, though, with the epic Western The Big Trail (1930), shot in an early wide-screen process and with John Wayne in his first starring role.

Walsh reached his peak in talking films when he signed with Warner Bros. Unlike many directors, he thrived under the restrictions of the studio system and managed to ring impressive variations on the studio's typical genres. After White Heat, Walsh left Warner Bros. to free-lance and continued to do impressive work with actors, particularly beginning talents like Anne Francis in A Lion Is in the Streets (1953), Aldo Ray in The Naked and the Dead (1958) and Sidney Poitier in Band of Angels (1957). Failing vision in his remaining eye forced Walsh to retire in 1964, at about the time his career was being favorably re-evaluated in France and England.

by Frank Miller

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