Pin it

Museum Pays Tribute to Leading Western Directors


What makes a great western movie? Some might argue it’s about the characters. Others might maintain it’s the story. Still others might insist it’s the performances. However, most would include the visual sweep and impact of big skies, open plains and towering mountains. What ties all these elements together is a strong creative director; one who controls the film’s artistic and dramatic aspects and guides the cast and technical crew through an overall vision.

What ties all these elements together is a strong and creative director. A good director is like the captain of a ship and it is he (or she) who ultimately has the responsibility of controlling the film’s artistic and dramatic aspects.

The director has a key role in choosing the cast members, production design, and the creative aspects of filmmaking.

A director gives direction to the cast and technical crew; he visualizes the script and creates an overall vision through which a film eventually becomes realized and in its best form, brings the audience into the story. Realizing this vision includes overseeing the artistic and technical elements of film production, as well as directing the shooting timetable and meeting deadlines.

America has enjoyed a long list of Western directors that have earned them legendary status with audiences. We present below a list of 25 western directors, some with extensive filmographies, other’s with a few, but all who made significant contributions in style, story and photography in amplifying the silver screen experience.


John FordJohn SturgesWilliam WellmanSam PeckinpahHenry HathawayTarantino

Westerns have attracted many of America’s great film directors. Our list of top 25 includes: George Archainbaud, Budd Boetticher, John English, John Ford, Henry Hathaway, Burt Kennedy, Henry King, Sam Peckinpah, Lesley Selander, George Stevens, John Sturges, Quentin Tarantino William Wellman, William Witney and William Wyler to name a few. 

These 25 directors are featured in the Museum’s new Great Directors of American Western Films, exhibit that is being developed. Exhibit frames briefly highlight their career and easy to click on QR codes or links on our webpage provide more extensive background as to their biography and filmography. Clicking on the director’s name will also take you directly to their bio.

The listing is alphabetical. The review is not intended to rate the directors, but identify 25 of those directors whose films or film made a dramatic impact on the theater going community and American culture in the Western genre.

George Archainbaud

George Archainbaud (May 7, 1890 – February 20, 1959)

French-born (Paris) George Archainbaud (May 7, 1890 – February 20, 1959) got his start in show business as an actor and stage manager in France. Emigrating to the US in 1915, he got work as an assistant director to fellow French expatriate Emile Chautard at William A. Brady's World Film Co. in Fort Lee, NJ. His directorial debut came in 1917 with As Man Made Her (1917). Archainbaud turned into a prolific director in both films and television, turning out more than 100 features over the next 35 years and numerous TV series episodes.

While working at the RKO in the beginning of the 1930s, he showed some artistic and skillful eye with many of his films. The finest examples include Thirteen Women (1932) and The Lost Squadron (1932). Especially the latter is a memorable thriller about Hollywood stunt flyers is a gritty and dark tale of a group of former World War I aviators who find work as stunt fliers in war movies. It was a critical and financial success, earning accolades from critics for its exciting flying sequences who risk their lives under the direction of monstrous Erich von Stroheim.

Although Archainbaud directed films of all genres, he is nowadays mainly linked with westerns. In fact, it was not until the last decade of his directorial career until he specialized in them. In the 1940s he turned out some fast-paced, exciting westerns, such as The Kansan (1943) and with the producer Harry Sherman he made several Hopalong Cassidy oaters. Later, when cowboy star Gene Autry went to television to star in his own series he brought Archainbaud along with him and he became the principal director on the show and other Autry-produced series, such as Buffalo Bill, Jr. (1955), Annie Oakley (1954) and The Adventures of Champion (1955).

At the time of his death in 1959, Archainbaud had taken a position as director of the new Rory Calhoun western series, The Texan, a highly fictionalized account of the gunfighter Bill Longley, who was hanged in 1874. Calhoun's Longley, however, is a kindly person who travels through the Old West with a willingness to help the downtrodden in struggles with the lawless element. The Texan, a Desilu program which aired for two seasons on CBS, had more than a dozen directors, including Erle C. Kenton and Edward Ludwig.

Spencer Gordon Bennett

Spencer Gordon Bennet

Spencer Gordon Bennet (January 5, 1893 – October 8, 1987) was an American film producer and director. Known as the "King of Serial Directors", he directed more film serials than any other director. Primary years active 1921–1974.


Born in Brooklyn, New York, Bennet first entered show business as a stunt man, when he answered a newspaper ad to jump from the Palisades of the Hudson River while wearing a suit for the serial film Hurricane Hutch (1921). The gig at that time paid $1 per foot he had to fall.

He made his directorial debut in 1921's Behold the Man but made his serial directorial debut in 1925 with Sunken Silver. He would keep making serials, as well as B-Western features, until the very end of the genre, directing the very last two serials made in the United States, Blazing the Overland Trail (1956) and Perils of the Wilderness (1956). After the serials ended he directed a handful of features, his final directorial credit being 1965's The Bounty Killer, which was also the final film to feature pioneering cowboy star Broncho Billy Anderson. When he died in 1987, his tombstone was engraved "His Final Chapter".

Over his long career Bennet directed over 100 serials, including both Superman serials, The Adventures of Sir Galahad, Batman and Robin, The Tiger Woman, Captain Video, and numerous western serials. Among his western "B" features were his long-running Red Ryder series, featuring Red Barry.



Spencer Gordon Bennet was born on January 5, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA. He was a director and producer, known for Zorro's Black Whip (1944), Batman and Robin (1949) and The Atomic Submarine (1959). He died on October 8, 1987 in Santa Monica, California, USA.

Trivia (6)

One daughter: Harriet Bennet.

Uncle of special-effects specialist Linwood G. Dunn.

Sparred with Gene Tunney on the Mojave Desert site of The Fighting Marine (1926).

Entered the film business as a stuntman. He had answered a New York newspaper ad seeking a stuntman to jump from the Palisades of the Hudson River while dressed in a suit, which paid one dollar a foot of distance fallen.

Known as "The King of Serial Directors"; the inscription on his tombstone reads, "His Final Chapter".

A specialist in "B" westerns and serials, he had a well-deserved reputation for turning out films on time and under budget. His long career included stints at such studios as Edison, Pathe, RKO, Republic and Columbia. He finished at Embassy Pictures in 1965.

BoetticherBudd Boetticher:

Mr. Boetticher (pronounced BET-i-ker) was partial to the barren, rocky landscape around Lone Pine, Calif., between Sequoia National Park and Death Valley, as the bleak setting for his westerns. To play the villains opposite the stone-faced Scott, he chose outstanding actors, including Lee Marvin, Richard Boone and James Coburn.

All together, he directed 38 films, most of them low-budget and many of them westerns, under the assembly-line conditions of the studio system. They display an eye for vivid landscapes and were noted for a sharp contrast between heroes who were men of few words -- the strong, silent type -- and voluble villains. Mr. Boetticher summed up the

Boetticher Films in Lone Pine
1956   Seven Men from Now
1957   Tall T
1959   Ride Lonesome
1960   Comanche Station

formula as: ''A man has a job to do, or a couple of men. They try to do it against tremendous odds. They do it.''

In 1936 he went to Mexico to recover from a football injury and became fascinated with bullfighting. Apprenticing himself in 1938 to Carlos Arruza, a star matador, he learned enough to enter the ring as a matador and was once gored in the belly. Bullfighting informed his view of the westerns he would eventually direct, according to specialists in the genre. From it he drew elements like ritualized behavior, codes of machismo and ''the primal nature of its climactic showdown,'' one wrote.

From Mexico he went to Hollywood to visit Hal Roach Jr., a school chum, who got him a job as a horse wrangler in his father's 1939 film ''Of Mice and Men.''

His most productive period was the 1950's, when scores of westerns were released to movie theaters and shown on television. His movies from that period, adventure and war stories as well as westerns, included: ''Killer Shark,'' with Roddy McDowall (1950); ''The Cimarron Kid,'' with Audie Murphy (1951); ''Bronco Buster,'' with Scott (1952); ''Red Ball Express,'' with Sidney Poitier (1952); ''Horizons West,'' with Robert Ryan (1952); ''City Beneath the Sea,'' with Anthony Quinn (1953); ''The Man From the Alamo,'' with Glenn Ford (1953); ''Seminole,'' with Quinn and Rock Hudson (1953); ''Wings of the Hawk,'' with Van Heflin and Scott (1953); ''East of Sumatra'' with Jeff Chandler (1953); ''The Magnificent Matador,'' with Quinn (1955); ''Seven Men From Now,'' with Scott (1956); ''The Killer Is Loose,'' with Joseph Cotten (1956); ''The Tall T,'' with Scott and Maureen O'Sullivan (1957); ''Buchanan Rides Alone,'' with Scott (1958); ''Westbound,'' with Scott (1958); and ''Ride Lonesome,'' also with Scott (1959).

André Bazin, the French film critic, called ''Seven Men From Now'' one of the best movies he had ever seen. (The film was shown in 2000 as a tribute to Mr. Boetticher at the New York Film Festival.) Italian moviemakers also praised his work. Martin Scorsese, the American director, remarked of Mr. Boetticher, ''His style was as simple as his impassive heroes -- deceptively simple.'' Another critic compared his westerns to ''psychological chess games.''


Robert N. Bradbury

Robert N. Bradbury

Robert N. Bradbury (March 23, 1886 – November 24, 1949) born on March 23, 1886 in Walla Walla, Washington, was an American film director and screenwriter who directed 125 movies between 1918 and 1941. He is most famous for directing early Western films starring John Wayne in the 1930s, including Riders of Destiny (1933; an early singing-cowboy movie), The Lucky Texan (1934), West of the Divide (1934), Blue Steel (1934), The Man From Utah (1934), The Star Packer (1934), The Trail Beyond (1934; co-starring Noah Beery, Sr. and Noah Beery, Jr.), The Lawless Frontier (1934), Texas Terror (1935), Rainbow Valley (1935), The Dawn Rider (1935), Westward Ho (1935), and Lawless Range (1935). These were inexpensively shot "Poverty Row" movies; many were also written by Bradbury and almost all of them featured character actor George "Gabby" Hayes. Bradbury also shot numerous similar films during this period that starred his son Bob Steele or Johnny Mack Brown. Bradbury occasionally billed himself as "Robert North Bradbury", "R.N. Bradbury", or "Robert Bradbury". He made the majority of his films under the banner of Paul Malvern's Lone Star Productions, which released through Monogram Pictures, and later for Monogram Pictures itself. His other son, Bill Bradbury


Boetticher Films in Lone Pine
1956   Seven Men from Now
1957   Tall T
1959   Ride Lonesome
1960   Comanche Station

Thomas Carr


Andre De Toth

Andre DeToth

Endre Antal Miksa De Toth, better known as Andre DeToth or Andre de Toth (May 15, 1913 - October 27, 2002). A Hungarian-American film director, born and raised in Makó, Csanád, Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire DeToth carried the nobility titles of Sasvári Farkasfalvi Tóthfalusi. In his early years, he garnered acclaim for plays written as a college student, acquiring the mentorship of Ferenc Molnár and becoming part of the theater scene in Budapest.

Although he obtained a law degree in the early 1930s from the Royal Hungarian University, Andre De Toth decided to become an actor, and spent several years on the stage. He then entered the Hungarian film industry, obtaining work as a writer, editor, second unit director and actor before finally becoming a director. In 1939 he directed five films just before war began in Europe. Several of these films received significant release in the Hungarian communities in the United States. He went to England, spent several years as an assistant to fellow Hungarian émigré Alexander Korda, and eventually moved to Los Angeles in 1942 where Korda had gotten him a job as a second unit director on Jungle Book (1942). De Toth made his debut as a director in American films in 1944. He was known for his tough, hard-edged pictures, whether westerns or urban crime dramas, and showed no compunction about depicting violence in as realistic a manner as possible, an unusual and somewhat controversial attitude for the time.

Based on his Hungarian films, the production work for Korda and writing he had done on American projects during earlier stints in Los Angeles, he received an oral contract as a director at Columbia from which he ultimately extricated himself by litigation. DeToth preferred working as an independent and had no “A” budgets early in his career. Thus, he had to supplement his directing income with writing assignments, often uncredited. Introduced to Westerns by John Ford, he worked mostly in that genre throughout the 1950s, often bringing elements of noir style into those films.

Perhaps better known to film buffs than the public at large, he was one of the last of the European-trained filmmakers who came to the United States during World War II and made American genres his own. In recent years, he had enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco and was greatly admired by contemporary directors, including Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese.

In 1951 he received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing (with co-writer William Bowers for writing the original story for The Gunfighter starring Gregory Peck. DeToth made about three dozen Hollywood movies. Among them were cult favorites, including 1944's None Shall Escape, which predicted the winner of World War II and the Nuremberg trials for Nazis to come.

While largely remembered as the director of the earliest and most successful 3-D film, House of Wax, he also was responsible for two of the noir cycle's most unusual examples directing such films noir as 1948's Pitfall, which he co-wrote, starring Dick Powell, Jane Wyatt, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, and Crime Wave with Sterling Hayden, Gene Nelson and Phyllis Kirk.

Interestingly, best known for the Vincent Price 1953 film, House of Wax a horror film shot in 3-D. De Toth only had one eye, that put him in the somewhat odd position of shooting a film in a process in which he would never be able to see the result. That didn't seem to matter, though; the film was a critical and financial success, and is generally considered to be the best 3-D film ever made.

During his seven marriages DeToth became father and stepfather of 19 children, including editor Nicolas DeToth. His wives included: Veronica Lake, to whom he was married from 1944 until 1952. They had a son, Andre Anthony Michael DeToth (October 25, 1945 – February 24, 1991 Olympia, Washington) and a daughter, Diana DeToth (born October 16, 1948). They divorced in 1952.

Marie Louise Stratton, to whom he was married from 1953 until 1982, when they divorced. This marriage also produced two children, Michelle and Nicolas.

He was married to Ann Green at the time of his death; they had no children together.

In 1996, he published his memoir, Fragments – Portraits from the Inside (London: Faber and Faber, 1994).

On October 27, 2002, DeToth, an adventurer throughout his colorful life, died from an aneurysm, aged 89. He was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Hollywood Hills.


Boetticher Films in Lone Pine
1956   Seven Men from Now
1957   Tall T
1959   Ride Lonesome
1960   Comanche Station


B. Reeves Eason

B. Reeves Eason

B. Reeves Eason (October 2, 1886 – June 9, 1956) was an American film director, actor and screenwriter. Born in New York, Eason started his career as an actor in the 1910s. It didn't take long for him to switch to the other side of the camera, where he became known as one of the best second-unit directors in the business and an action specialist.

Born William Reeves Eason in New York City, he directed 150 films and starred in almost 100 films over his career. Eason's career transcended into sound and he directed film serials such as The Miracle Rider starring Tom Mix in 1935.

He used 42 cameras to film the stupendous chariot-race sequence as a second-unit director on the Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman version of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925). (The chariot race was filmed at what is now the intersection of LaCienega and Venice Boulevards in Los Angeles.) This 1925 version was the most expensive silent film ever made, costing $3.9 million, and in 1921, the sum of $600,000 was paid for the rights to film the classic Lew Wallace novel. (The highest price ever paid for rights during the silent era.)

Other Eason action scenes include the climactic British charge of the Russian positions in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), the famous burning of Atlanta sequence in the classic, Gone with the Wind (1939) the furious battle at the Little Big Horn in the finale of They Died with Their Boots On (1941).  Unlike many second-unit directors, however, Eason also directed a slew of features and shorts--more than 150 altogether--although most were of the low-grade action (Truck Busters (1943), western (Trigger Tricks (1930) or exploitation Dance Hall Hostess (1933) variety. He acquired his nickname "Breezy" because of his somewhat "breezy" attitude toward filming--he was notorious for shooting just one take of a scene, regardless of what flubs, mistakes or malfunctions happened in it. He also had a reputation for having a, shall we say, "cavalier" attitude towards safety when shooting action scenes. During The Charge of the Light Brigade, star Errol Flynn and director Michael Curtiz almost came to blows because Flynn was outraged at the number of horses killed, or injured so badly they had to be euthanized, because of the way Eason shot the action scenes and Curtiz's refusal to do anything about it (Flynn wasn't the only one outraged; it was the carnage among the horses on this picture that resulted in the industry agreeing to have the American Humane Society on the set of any picture with animals in it to ensure their safety). Eason was also behind the megaphone for The Phantom Empire (1935), a sci-fi serial for low-budget Mascot Pictures that was the first starring vehicle for Gene Autry and that's now considered a camp classic.

Eason's son B. Reeves Eason Jr. was also an actor, who unfortunately died at age 6 when he was hit by a runaway truck on the set of The Fox (1921).

B. Reeves Eason retired from the business in 1952. On June 9, 1956, Eason died of a heart attack at the age of 69. He is buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Married to, Jimsy Maye, they had one son, B. Reeves Eason, Jr. As a child actor appeared Jr. appeared in  12 films, including Nine-Tenths of the Law, which Eason, Sr. directed. Born in 1914, he died in 1921 after being hit by a runaway truck outside of his parents' home shortly after the filming of the Harry Carey silent western The Fox was completed, just before his seventh birthday.


Boetticher Films in Lone Pine
1956   Seven Men from Now
1957   Tall T
1959   Ride Lonesome
1960   Comanche Station

John English

John English (25 June 1903 – 11 October 1969)

True to his name, director John Wilkinson English was English, born in Cumberland in 1903. English was raised in Canada, where he received his schooling. In films in various technical capacities since the dawn of the talkie era, he was known to have a vast supply of imagination and a fierce attention to detail. English was given a chance to direct by the newly formed Republic Pictures in 1935.

The bulk of his films were westerns, starring the likes of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. John English is best known for his many Republic serials, many of these directed in collaboration with William Witney: His Fighting Blood (1935), Zorro Rides Again (1937) with John Carroll and Arizona Days (1937) and Dick Tracy Returns (1937). He also appeared in Dick Tracy Returns"(1938) and the Lee Powell action movie The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938). Other include The Lone Ranger (1938), Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939), Drums of Fu Manchu (1939),

He continued to work in film in the forties, directing motion pictures like the Tom Tyler adventure Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941), Dick Tracy Vs. Crime, Inc. (1941) and the adventure Jungle Girl (1941) with Frances Gifford. He also appeared in the western King of the Texas Rangers (1941) with "Slingin Sammy" Baugh. In the latter half of his career, English directed the musical Riders of the Whistling Pines (1949) with Gene Autry, Loaded Pistols (1949) and the Gene Autry western The Cowboy and the Indians (1949). He also appeared in the Gene Autry western Sons of New Mexico (1950) and the western Blazing Sun (1950) with Gene Autry.

For a period in the 1930s and 1940s, starting with Zorro Rides Again (1937), he directed Movie Serials in partnership with William Witney. Together, they directed seventeen serials as a partnership. It was customary at the time for two directors to work on each serial, each working on alternate days. Witney customarily worked on the action scenes while English concentrated on character and story elements. Together they are regarded as having produced the best examples of the serial medium: "most notable of all were the directing talents of William Witney and John English. Together they directed seventeen consecutive serials, honing an approach that allowed Republic serials to far outdistance the competition. They adopted a no-nonsense approach that treated the serial material with respect and rarely gave any clues that we shouldn't consider the stories seriously. Other directors would allow an element of goofiness to gradually seep into the serial.

Frank Coghlan Jr., who starred in the Republic serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1940), has recalled that while Witney handled most of the action sequences, English devoted his time to the dialogue and dramatic scenes. He also proved equal to the challenge of juggling a murder mystery, several musical numbers, and an elaborate ice-skating finale in the 1946 Vera Hruba Ralston vehicle Murder in the Music Hall.

Following disagreement with management changes at Republic's serial team, he moved to directing features films, mostly the B-Western films for which Republic was known. In the 1952-1953 television season, English directed several episodes of Alan Hale, Jr.'s Biff Baker, U.S.A. espionage series on CBS. He thereafter directed twelve episodes of the CBS western series My Friend Flicka (1956–1957), and 18 episodes of Lassie (1954 TV series) (1964–1965).[3]

Even after Republic ceased production in 1959, John English remained on the studio lot, directing TV episodes produced by such organizations as Four Star Productions and Revue.

John English passed away in October 1969 at the age of 66.

Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks

Born -May 30, 1896, Goshen, Indiana, USA – Died December 26, 1977, Palm Springs, California, USA  (arteriosclerotic vascular disease with stroke)

What do the classic films Scarface (1932), Twentieth Century (1934), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), Sergeant York (1941), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Red River (1948) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and Rio Bravo (1959) have in common? Aside from their displays of great craftsmanship, the answer is director Howard Hawks, one of the most celebrated of American filmmakers, who ironically, was little celebrated by his peers in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences during his career.

Although John Ford--his friend, contemporary and the director arguably closest to him in terms of his talent and output--told him that it was he, and not Ford, who should have won the 1941 Best Director Academy Award (for Sergeant York (1941)), the great Hawks never won an Oscar in competition and was nominated for Best Director only that one time, despite making some of the best films in the Hollywood canon. The Academy eventually made up for the oversight in 1974 by voting him an honorary Academy Award, in the midst of a two-decade-long critical revival that has gone on for yet another two decades. To many cineastes, Hawks is one of the faces of American film and would be carved on any film pantheon's Mt. Rushmore honoring America's greatest directors, beside his friend Ford and Orson Welles (the other great director who Ford beat out for the 1941 Oscar). It took the French "Cahiers du Cinema" critics to teach America to appreciate one of its own masters, and it was to the Academy's credit that it recognized the great Hawks in his lifetime.

Hawks' career spanned the freewheeling days of the original independents in the 1910s, through the studio system in Hollywood from the silent era through the talkies, lasting into the early 1970s with the death of the studios and the emergence of the director as auteur, the latter a phenomenon that Hawks himself directly influenced. He was the most versatile of American directors, and before his late career critical revival he earned himself a reputation as a first-rate craftsman and consummate Hollywood professional who just happened, in a medium that is an industrial process, to have made some great movies. Recognition as an influential artist would come later, but it would come to him before his death.

He was born Howard Winchester Hawks in Goshen, Indiana, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1896, the first child of Frank Winchester Hawks and his wife, the former Helen Howard. The day of his birth the local sheriff killed a brawler at the town saloon; the young Hawks was not born on the wild side of town, though, but with the proverbial silver spoon firmly clenched in his young mouth. His wealthy father was a member of Goshen's most prominent family, owners of the Goshen Milling Co. and many other businesses, and his maternal grandfather was one of Wisconsin's leading industrialists. His father's family had arrived in America in 1630, while his mother's father, C.W. Howard, who was born in Maine in 1845 to parents who emigrated to the U.S. from the Isle of Man, made his fortune in the paper industry with his Howard Paper Co.

Ironically, almost a half-year after Howard's birth, the first motion picture was shown in Goshen, just before Christmas on December 10, 1896. Billed as "the scientific wonder of the world," the movie played to a sold-out crowd at the Irwin Theater.

However, it disappointed the audience, and attendance fell off at subsequent showings. The interest of the boy raised a Presbyterian would not be piqued again until his family moved to southern California.

Before that move came to pass, though, the Hawks family relocated from Goshen to Neenah, Wisconsin, when Howard's father was appointed secretary/treasurer of the Howard Paper Co. in 1898. Howard grew up a coddled and spoiled child in Goshen, but in Neenah he was treated like a young prince. His grandfather C.W. lavished his grandson with expensive toys. C.W. had been an indulgent father, encouraging the independence and adventurousness of his two daughters, Helen and Bernice, who were the first girls in Neenah to drive automobiles. Bernice even went for an airplane ride (the two sisters, Hawks' mother and aunt, likely were the first models for what became known as "the Hawksian women" when he became a director). Brother Kenneth Hawks was born in 1898, and was looked after by young Howard. However, Howard resented the birth of the family's next son, William B. Hawks, in 1902, and offered to sell him to a family friend for ten cents. A sister, Grace, followed William. Childbirth took a heavy toll on Howard's mother, and she never quite recovered after delivering her fifth child, Helen, in 1906. In order to aid her recovery, the family moved to the more salubrious climate of Pasadena, California, northeast of Los Angeles, for the winter of 1906-07. The family returned to Wisconsin for the summers, but by 1910 they permanently resettled in California, as grandfather C.W. himself took to wintering in Pasadena. He eventually sold his paper company and retired. He continued to indulge his grandson Howard, though, buying him whatever he fancied, including a race car when the lad was barely old enough to drive legally. C.W. also arranged for Howard to take flying lessons so he could qualify for a pilot's license, an example followed by Kenneth.

The young Howard Hawks grew accustomed to getting what he wanted and believed his grandfather when C.W. told him he was the best and that he could do anything. Howard also likely inherited C.W.'s propensity for telling whopping lies with a straight face, a trait that has bedeviled many film historians ever since. C.W. also was involved in amateur theatrics and Howard's mother Helen was interested in music, though no one in the Hawks-Howard family ever was involved in the arts until Howard went to work in the film industry.

Hawks was sent to Philips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, for his education, and upon graduation attended Cornell University, where he majored in mechanical engineering. In both his personal and professional lives Hawks was a risk-taker and enjoyed racing airplanes and automobiles, two sports that he first indulged in his teens with his grandfather's blessing.

The Los Angeles area quickly evolved into the center of the American film industry when studios began relocating their production facilities from the New York City area to southern California in the middle of the 1910s. During one summer vacation while Howard was matriculating at Cornell, a friend got him a job as a prop man at Famous Players-Lasky (later to become Paramount Pictures), and he quickly rose through the ranks. Hawks recalled, "It all started with Douglas Fairbanks, who was off on location for some picture and phoned in to say they wanted a modern set. There was only one art director . . . and he was away on another location. I said, 'Well, I can build a modern set.' I'd had a few years of architectural training at school. So I did, and Fairbanks was pleased with it. We became friends, and that was really the start."

During other summer vacations from Cornell, Hawks continued to work in the movies. One story Hawks tells is that the director of a Mary Pickford film Hawks was working on, The Little Princess (1917), became too inebriated to continue working, so Hawks volunteered to direct a few scenes himself. However, it's not known whether his offer was taken up, or whether this was just one more of his tall tales.

During World War I Hawks served as a lieutenant in the Signal Corps and later joined the Army Air Corps, serving in France. After the Armistice he indulged in his love of risk, working as an aviator and a professional racing car driver. Drawing on his engineering experience, Hawks designed racing cars, and one of his cars won the Indianapolis 500. These early war and work experiences proved invaluable to the future filmmaker.

He eventually decided on a career in Hollywood and was employed in a variety of production jobs, including assistant director, casting director, script supervisor, editor and producer. He and his brother Kenneth shot aerial footage for motion pictures, but Kenneth tragically was killed during a crash while filming. Howard was hired as a screenwriter by Paramount in 1922 and was tasked with writing 40 story lines for new films in 60 days. He bought the rights for works by such established authors as Joseph Conrad and worked, mostly uncredited, on the scripts for approximately 60 films. Hawks wanted to direct, but Paramount refused to indulge his ambition. A Fox executive did, however, and Hawks directed his first film, The Road to Glory (1926) in 1926, also doubling as the screenwriter.

Hawks made a name for himself by directing eight silent films in the 1920s, His facility for language helped him to thrive with the dawn of talking pictures, and he really established himself with his first talkie in 1930, the classic World War I aviation drama The Dawn Patrol (1930). His arrival as a major director, however, was marked by 1932's controversial and highly popular gangster picture Scarface (1932), a thinly disguised bio of Chicago gangster Al Capone, which was made for producer Howard Hughes. His first great movie, it catapulted him into the front rank of directors and remained Hawks' favorite film. Under the aegis of the eccentric multi-millionaire Hughes, it was the only movie he ever made in which he did not have to deal with studio meddling. It leavened its ultra-violence with comedy in a potent brew that has often been imitated by other directors.

Though always involved in the development of the scripts of his films, Hawks was lucky to have worked with some of the best writers in the business, including his friend and fellow aviator William Faulkner. Screenwriters he collaborated with on his films included Leigh Brackett, Ben Hecht, John Huston and Billy Wilder. Hawks often recycled story lines from previous films, such as when he jettisoned the shooting script on El Dorado (1967) during production and reworked the film-in-progress into a remake of Rio Bravo (1959).

The success of his films was partly rooted in his using first-rate writers. Hawks viewed a good writer as a sort of insurance policy, saying, "I'm such a coward that unless I get a good writer, I don't want to make a picture." Though he won himself a reputation as one of Hollywood's supreme storytellers, he came to the conclusion that the story was not what made a good film. After making and then remaking the confusing The Big Sleep (1946) (1945 and 1946) from a Raymond Chandler detective novel, Hawks came to believe that a good film consisted of at least three good scenes and no bad ones--at least not a scene that could irritate and alienate the audience. He said, "As long as you make good scenes you have a good picture--it doesn't matter if it isn't much of a story."

It was Hawks' directorial skills, his ability to ensure that the audience was not aware of the twice-told nature of his films, through his engendering of a high-octane, heady energy that made his films move and made them classics at best and extremely enjoyable entertainments at their "worst." Hawks' genius as a director also manifested itself in his direction of his actors, his molding of their line-readings going a long way toward making his films outstanding. The dialog in his films often was delivered at a staccato pace, and characters' lines frequently overlapped, a Hawks trademark. The spontaneous feeling of his films and the naturalness of the interrelationships between characters were enhanced by his habit of encouraging his actors to improvise. Unlike Alfred Hitchcock, Hawks saw his lead actors as collaborators and encouraged them to be part of the creative process. He had an excellent eye for talent, and was responsible for giving the first major breaks to a roster of stars, including Paul Muni, Carole Lombard (his cousin), Lauren Bacall, Montgomery Clift and James Caan. It was Hawks, and not John Ford, who turned John Wayne into a superstar, with Red River (1948) (shot in 1946, but not released until 1948). He proceeded to give Wayne some of his best roles in the cavalry trilogy of Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950), in which Wayne played a broad range of diverse characters.

During the 1930s Hawks moved from hit to hit, becoming one of the most respected directors in the business. As his fame waxed, Hawks' image replaced the older, jodhpurs-and-megaphone image of the Hollywood director epitomized by Cecil B. DeMille. The new paradigm of the Hollywood director in the public eye was, like Hawks himself, tall and silver-haired, a Hemingwayesque man of action who was a thorough professional and did not fail his muse or falter in his mastery of the medium while on the job. The image of Hawks as the ultimate Hollywood professional persists to this day in Hollywood, and he continues to be a major influence on many of today's filmmakers. Among the directors influenced by Hawks are Robert Altman, who used Hawksian overlapping dialog and improvisation in MASH (1970) and other films. Peter Bogdanovich, who wrote a book about Hawks, essentially remade Bringing Up Baby (1938) as What's Up, Doc? (1972). Brian De Palma remade Scarface (1983). Other directors directly indebted to Hawks are John Carpenter and Walter Hill.

Hawks was unique and uniquely modern in that, despite experiencing his career peak in an era dominated by studios and the producer system in which most directors were simply hired hands brought in to shoot a picture, he also served as a producer and developed the scripts for his films. He was determined to remain independent and refused to attach himself to a studio, or to a particular genre, for an extended period of time. His work ethic allowed him to fit in with the production paradigms of the studio system, and he eventually worked for all eight of the major studios. He proved himself to be, in effect, an independent filmmaker, and thus was a model for other director-writer-producers who would arise with the breakdown of the studio system in the 1950s and 1960s and the rise of the director as auteur in the early 1970s. Hawks did it first, though, in an environment that ruined or compromised many another filmmaker.

Hawks was not interested in creating a didactic cinema but simply wanted to tell, give the public, a good story in a well-crafted, entertaining picture. Like Ernest Hemingway, Hawks did have a philosophy of life, but the characters in his films were never intended to be role models. Hawks' protagonists are not necessarily moral people but tend to play fair, according to a personal or professional code. A Hawks film typically focuses on a tightly bound group of professionals, often isolated from society at large, who must work together as a team if they are to survive, let alone triumph.

His movies emphasize such traits as loyalty and self-respect. Air Force (1943), one of the finest propaganda films to emerge from World War II, is such a picture, in which a unit bonds aboard a B-17 bomber and the group is more than the sum of the individuals.

Aside from his interest in elucidating human relationships, Hawks' main theme is Hemingwayesque: the execution of one's job or duty to the best of one's ability in the face of overwhelming odds that would make an average person balk. The main characters in a Hawks film typically are people who take their jobs with the utmost seriousness, as their self-respect is rooted in their work. Though often outsiders or loners, Hawksian characters work within a system, albeit a relatively closed system, in which they can ultimately triumph by being loyal to their personal and professional codes. That thematic paradigm has been seen by some critics and cinema historians as being a metaphor for the film industry itself, and of Hawks' place within it.

In a sense, Hawks' oeuvre can be boiled down to two categories: the action-adventure films and the comedies. In his action-adventure movies, such as Only Angels Have Wings (1939), the male protagonist, played by Cary Grant (a favorite actor of his who frequently starred in his films between 1947 and 1950), is both a hero and the top dog in his social group. In the comedies, such as Bringing Up Baby (1938), the male protagonist (again played by Grant) is no hero but rather a victim of women and society. Women have only a tangential role in Hawks' action films, whereas they are the dominant figures in his comedies. In the action-adventure films society at large often is far away and the male professionals exist in an almost hermetically sealed world, whereas in the comedies are rooted in society and its mores. Men are constantly humiliated in the comedies, or are subject to role reversals (the man as the romantically hunted prey in "Baby," or the even more dramatic role reversal, including Cary Grant in drag, in I Was a Male War Bride (1949)). In the action-adventure films in which women are marginalized, they are forced to undergo elaborate courting rituals to attract their man, who they cannot get until they prove themselves as tough as men. There is an undercurrent of homo-eroticism to the Hawks action films, and Hawks himself termed his A Girl in Every Port (1928) "a love story between two men." This homo-erotic leitmotif is most prominent in The Big Sky (1952).

By the time he made Rio Bravo, over 30 years since he first directed a film, Hawks not only was consciously moving towards parody but was in the process of revising his "closed circle of professionals" credo toward the belief that, by the time of its loose remake, El Dorado in 1966, he was stressing the superiority of family loyalties to any professional ethic. In Rio Bravo the motley group inside the jailhouse eventually forms into a family in which the stoical code of conduct of previous Hawksian groups is replaced by something akin to a family bond. The new "family" celebrates its unity with the final shootout, which is a virtual fireworks display due to the use of dynamite to overcome the villains who threaten the family's survival. The affection of the group members for each other is best summed up in the scene where the great character actor Walter Brennan, playing Wayne's deputy Stumpy, facetiously tells Wayne that he'll have tears in his eyes until he gets back to the jailhouse. The ability to razz Wayne is indicative of the bond between the two men.

The sprawl of Hawks' oeuvre over multiple genres, and their existence as high-energy examples of film as its purest, emphasizing action rather than reflection, led serious critics before the 1970s to discount Hawks as a director. They generally ignored the themes that run through his body of work, such the dynamics of the group, male friendship, professionalism, and women as a threat to the independence of men. Granted, the cinematic world limned by Hawks was limited when compared to that of John Ford, the poet of the American screen, which was richer and more complex. However, Hawks' straightforward style that emphasized human relationships undoubtedly yielded one of the greatest crops of outstanding motion pictures that can be attributed to one director. Hawks' movies not only span a wide variety of genres, but frequently rank with the best in those genres, whether the war film The Dawn Patrol, gangster film Scarface, the screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940)), the action-adventure movie Only Angels Have Wings, the noir The Big Sleep (1946)), the Western Red River and Rio Bravo, the musical-comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)) and the historical epic Land of the Pharaohs (1955)). He even had a hand in creating one of the classic science-fiction films, The Thing from Another World (1951), which was produced by Hawks but directed by Christian Nyby, who had edited multiple Hawks films and who, in his sole directorial effort, essentially created a Hawks film (though rumors have long circulated that Hawks actually directed the film rather than Nyby, that has been discounted by such cast members as Kenneth Tobey and James Arness, who have both stated unequivocally that it was Nyby alone who directed the picture).

Though Howard Hawks created some of the most memorable moments in the history of American film a half-century ago, serious critics generally eschewed his work, as they did not believe there was a controlling intelligence behind them. Seen as the consummate professional director in the industrial process that was the studio film, serious critics believed that the great moments of Hawks' films were simply accidents that accrued from working in Hollywood with other professionals. In his 1948 book "The Film Till Now," Richard Griffin summed this feeling up with "Hawks is a very good all rounder."

Serious critics at the time attributed the mantle of "artist" to a director only when they could discern artistic aspirations, a personal visual style, or serious thematic intent. Hawks seemed to them an unambitious director who, unlike D.W. Griffith or the early Cecil B. DeMille, had not made a major contribution to American film, and was not responsible for any major cinematic innovations. He lacked the personal touch of a Charles Chaplin, a Hitchcock or a Welles, did not have the painterly sensibility of a John Ford and had never matured into the master craftsman who tackled heavy themes like the failure of the American dream or racism, like George Stevens. Hawks was seen as a commercial Hollywood director who was good enough to turn out first-rate entertainments in a wide variety of genre films in a time in which genre films such as the melodrama, the war picture and the gangster picture were treated with a lack of respect.

One of the central ideas behind the modernist novel that dominated the first half of the 20th-century artistic consciousness (when the novel and the novelist were still considered the ultimate arbiters of culture in the Anglo-American world) was that the author should begin something new with each book, rather than repeating him-/herself as the 19th century novelists had done. This paradigm can be seen most spectacularly in the work of James Joyce. Of course, it is easy to see this thrust for "something new" in the works of D.W. Griffith and C.B. DeMille, the fathers of the narrative film, working as they were in a new medium. In the post-studio era, a Stanley Kubrick (through Barry Lyndon (1975), at least) and Lars von Trier can be seen as embarking on revolutionary breaks with their past. Howard Hawks was not like this, and, in fact, the latter Hawks constantly recycled not just themes but plots (so that his last great film, Rio Bravo, essentially was remade as El Dorado (1966) and Rio Lobo (1970)). He did not fit the "modernist" paradigm of an artist.

The critical perception of Hawks began to change when the auteur theory--the idea that one intelligence was responsible for the creation of superior films regardless of their designation as "commercial" or "art house"--began to influence American movie criticism. Commenting on Hawks' facility to make films in a wide variety of genres, critic Andrew Sarris, who introduced the auteur theory to American movie criticism, said of Hawks, "For a major director, there are no minor genres." A Hawks genre picture is rooted in the conventions and audience expectations typical of the Hollywood genre. The Hawks genre picture does not radically challenge, undermine or overthrow either the conventions of the genre or the audience expectations of the genre film, but expands it the genre by revivifying it with new energy. As Robert Altman said about his own McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), he fully played on the conventions and audience expectations of the Western genre and, in fact, did nothing to challenge them as he was relying on the audience being lulled into a comfort zone by the genre. What Altman wanted to do was to indulge his own artistry by painting at and filling in the edges of his canvas. Thus, Altman needed the audience's complicity through the genre conventions to accomplish this.

As a genre director, Hawks used his audience's comfort with the genre to expound his philosophy on male bonding and male-female relationships. His movies have a great deal of energy, invested in them by the master craftsman, which made them into great popular entertainments. That Hawks was a commercial filmmaker who was also a first-rate craftsman was not the sum total of his achievement as a director, but was the means by which he communicated with his audience.

While many during his life-time would not have called Hawks an artist, Robin Wood compared Hawks to William Shakespeare and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, both of whom created popular entertainments that could also appeal to elites. According to Wood, "The originality of their works lay not in the evolution of a completely new language, but in the artist's use and development of an already existing one; hence, there was common ground from the outset between artist and audience, and 'entertainment' could happen spontaneously without the intervention of a lengthy period of assimilation."

The great French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, who began his cinema career as a critic, wrote about Hawks, "The great filmmakers always tie themselves down by complying with the rules of the game . . . Take, for example, the films of Howard Hawks, and in particular Rio Bravo. That is a work of extraordinary psychological insight and aesthetic perception, but Hawks has made his film so that the insight can pass unnoticed without disturbing the audience that has come to see a Western like all the others. Hawks is the greater because he has succeeded in fitting all that he holds most dear into a well-worn subject."

A decade before Godard's insight on Hawks, in the early 1950s, the French-language critics who wrote for the cinema journal "Cahiers du Cinema" (many of whom would go on to become directors themselves) elevated Howard Hawks into the pantheon of great directors (the appreciation of Hawks in France, according to Cinématheque Francaise founder Henri Langlois, began with the French release of " Angels Have Wings. The Swiss Éric Rohmer, who would one day become a great director himself, in a 1952 review of Hawks' The Big Sky declared, "If one does not love the films of Howard Hawks, one cannot love cinema". Rohmer was joined in his enthusiasm for Hawks by such fellow French cineastes as Claude Chabrol, François Truffaut and Jacques Rivette.

The Cahiers critics claimed that a handful of commercial Hollywood directors like Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock had created films as artful and fulfilling as the masterpieces of the art cinema. André Bazin gave these critics the moniker "Hitchcocko-Hawksians".

Rivette wrote in his 1953 essay, "The Genius of Howard Hawks," that "each shot has a functional beauty, like a neck or an ankle. The smooth, orderly succession of shots has a rhythm like the pulsing of blood, and the whole film is like a beautiful body, kept alive by deep, resilient breathing." Hawks, however, considered himself an entertainer, not an "artist." His definition of a good director was simply "someone who doesn't annoy you." He was never considered an artist until the French New Wave critics crowned him one, as serious critics had ignored his oeuvre. He found the adulation amusing, and once told his admirers, "You guys know my films better than I do."

Commenting on this phenomenon, Sarris' wife Molly Haskell said, "Critics will spend hours with divining rods over the obviously hermetic mindscape of [Ingmar Bergman], [Michelangelo Antonioni], etc., giving them the benefit of every passing doubt. But they will scorn similar excursions into the genuinely cryptic, richer, and more organic terrain of home-grown talents."

Hawks' visual aesthetic eschews formalism, trick photography or narrative gimmicks. There are no flashbacks or ellipses in his films, and his pictures are usually framed as eye-level medium shots. The films themselves are precisely structured, so much so that Langlois compared Hawks to the great modernist architect Walter Gropius. Hawks strikes one as an Intuitive, unselfconscious filmmaker.

Hawks' definition of a good director was "someone who doesn't annoy you." When Hawks was awarded his lifetime achievement Academy Award, the citation referred to the director as "a giant of the American cinema whose pictures, taken as a whole, represent one of the most consistent, vivid, and varied bodies of work in world cinema." It is a fitting epitaph for one of the greatest directors in the history of American, and world cinema.

Hawks had three Spouses; Dee Hartford            (20 February 1953 - 4 March 1960) (divorced) (1 child); Mary Raye "Nancy" Gross (11 December 1941 - 9 June 1949) (divorced) (1 child) and Athole Shearer          (28 May 1928 - 5 December 1940) (divorced) (2 children)

Hawks died December 26, 1977 in Palm Springs, California from arteriosclerotic vascular disease with stroke)

IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Trade Mark Characteristics

Heroes in his films are often professionals who always get the "job" done and who often wind up learning teamwork is the best way of dealing with problems.

Rapid-fire, occasionally overlapping dialogue

His female characters are frequently "just one of the guys," coining the term "Hawksian Women."

In most of his films there is at least one scene that involves his characters singing and playing instruments.

Frequently cast Walter Brennan


Second cousin of actress Carole Lombard.

Brother-in-law of Mary Astor.

Cousin-in-law of William Powell, brother-in-law of Douglas Shearer and Norma Shearer, son-in-law of Edith Shearer.

Cousin-in-law of Clark Gable.

To build their New England-style home, Hawks' wife Slim used the set plans from his film Bringing Up Baby (1938).

Hawks' wife saw Lauren Bacall on the cover of a magazine and persuaded him to put her in the movies. Bacall was only 20 when she made her screen debut in To Have and Have Not (1944).

Hawks' friend John Ford called him "The Grey Fox" of Hollywood for his womanizing ways (regardless of whether he was married or not at the time).

Quentin Tarantino said that Hawks' Rio Bravo (1959) may be his favorite movie of all time.


Many aspects of Lauren Bacall's screen persona in To Have and Have Not (1944), her film debut, were based on Hawks' wife at that time, Slim, including her glamorous dresses, long blonde hair, smoky voice and demure, mysterious demeanor. Humphrey Bogart's character also refer to Bacall by the nickname "Slim" in the movie.

Directed five different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Walter Brennan, Gary Cooper, Margaret Wycherly, Barbara Stanwyck and Arthur Hunnicutt. Cooper and Brennan won Oscars for their performances in one of Hawks' movies.

Attended Throop Polytechnic Institute (which later become the California Institute of Techonology) and the Phillips Academy (a prep school). Later studies engineering at Cornell University. His biographer, Todd McCarthy, wrote that his educational experiences were a very important factor in the formation of his studied character, which he brought to his films, as well as every other endeavor in his life.

One of his distant cousins, Elizabeth Ellen Robinson, was the mother of Mary Gish and grandmother of Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish.

He was presented with an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement by his friend John Wayne at the 1974 Academy Awards ceremony.

Even though he was one of the most prolific directors of his generation, having directed five actors to Oscar nominations, he himself has only been nominated for an Academy Award once.

Of all the famous actresses he directed, he considered Frances Farmer the best he ever worked with. He directed her in Come and Get It (1936). Hawks was also very fond of Barbara Stanwyck, Carole Lombard and Rosalind Russell.

John Wayne gave the eulogy at his funeral.

Directed three of the American Film Institute's 100 Funniest Movies: Bringing Up Baby (1938) at #14, His Girl Friday (1940) at #19 and Ball of Fire (1941) at #92.

Personal Quotes (27)

There's action only if there's danger.

A good movie is three good scenes and no bad scenes.

I'm a storyteller--that's the chief function of a director. And they're moving pictures, let's make 'em move!

When you find out a thing that goes pretty well, you might as well do it again.

Cary Grant was so far the best that there isn't anybody to be compared to him.

John Wayne represents more force, more power, than anybody else on the screen

When [John Ford] was dying, we used to discuss how tough it was to make a good Western without [John Wayne].

[on John Wayne] He never squawks about anything. He's the easiest person I ever worked with. Because he never says anything about it, he just goes ahead and does it.

I never made a message picture, and I hope I never do.

If you don't get a damn good actor with [John Wayne] he's going to blow him right off the screen, not just by the fact that he's good, but by his power, his strength.

[John Wayne] is underrated. He's an awfully good actor. He holds a thing together; he gives it a solidity and honesty, and he can make a lot of things believable.

Rio Bravo (1959) was made because I didn't like a picture called High Noon (1952). I saw "High Noon" at about the same time I saw another western picture, and we were talking about western pictures and they asked me if I liked it, and I said, "Not particularly". I didn't think a good sheriff was going to go running around town like a chicken with his head off asking for help, and finally his Quaker wife had to save him. That isn't my idea of a good western sheriff. I said that a good sheriff would turn around and say, "How good are you? Are you good enough to take the best man they've got?" The fellow would probably say no, and he'd say, "Well, then I'd just have to take care of you". And that scene was in "Rio Bravo".

I don't think plot as a plot means much today. I'd say that everybody has seen every plot twenty times. What they haven't seen is characters and their relation to one another. I don't worry much about plot anymore.

[on Rio Bravo (1959)] After we finished we found we could have done it a lot better . . . and that's why we went ahead and made El Dorado (1967).

[on Rio Lobo (1970)] I didn't think it was any good.

[on the initial critical reception of Only Angels Have Wings (1939)] A certain critic said, "It's the only picture Hawks ever made that didn't have any truth in it". I wrote him a letter and said, "Every blooming thing in that movie was true. I knew the men that were in it and everything about it". But it was just where truth was stranger than fiction.

[on John Wayne] Way back on Red River (1948) he asked my theory about acting and I said, "Duke, you do two or three good scenes in a picture and don't offend the audience the rest of the time." So even today he says, "What's coming up next?" and I say, "This is one of the ones that you're liable to offend them. Get it over with as soon as you can. Don't do anything."

[on working with James Caan on El Dorado (1967)] He's a damn good actor and we started rolling the more we got into it. He got a lot of laughs playing it perfectly serious. He didn't know he was playing it perfectly serious. He didn't know he was playing comedy.

[on Clark Gable] Women liked Gable best when he played a heavy with a grin.

[on Lauren Bacall] We discovered Bacall was a little girl who, when she becomes insolent, becomes rather attractive. That was the only way you noticed her, because she could do it with a grin. So I said to Bogey [Humphrey Bogart], "We are going to try an interesting thing. You are about the most insolent man on the screen and I'm going to make this girl a little more insolent than you are."

[on Humphrey Bogart] He was an extremely hard-working actor. He'd always pretend that he wasn't, that he didn't give a damn, but that wasn't true. One day I said to him, "Bogey, you're just a great big phony." He put his finger to his lips and grinned at me. "Sure," he said, "but don't tell anyone."

Most of the leading men today, the younger men especially, are a little bit effeminate. There's no toughness. [Steve McQueen] and [Clint Eastwood] don't compare with [John Wayne].

If I want to have fun at a party I'll tell The Duke [John Wayne], "See that guy over there? He's a Red!"

Frank Capra, until he went into the army, was one of the greatest directors we ever had. Made great entertainment. After that he couldn't make anything. He started to analyze his pictures, and put messages in them. He put messages into his other pictures, but he didn't think about it. He did it naturally. When he got to thinking about his messages, oh brother, he turned into really . . . ah, no good.

But politics has gotten to where they want to control and tell you what kind of movies, what kind of books, what kind of everything. Who the hell is qualified to do it? I don't know how through movies you're ever gonna get to tell people how this corruption works in the country. Because the whole media is just quoting all these people. It's a story for them. You know, I write a story and then somebody comes along and they say, "You're changing that." Well, I wrote the goddamned thing. "I know, but what are you changing it for? It's printed on there. Why not keep it . . . " You know, they read stuff in the newspapers, they see stuff on television. I don't know what you're gonna do, but you're not gonna be able to do it through movies, I don't think.

If you want to make pictures and enjoy making them, you better go out and make something that a lot of people want to see. And then they'll turn you lose and let you make what you want. And then maybe you can do some of the things that you want to do. But as a beginner, you haven't got a chance.

I guarantee you that two directors that are any good can take the same story change the name of the characters, change the name of the town and make an entirely different picture.


Burt Kennedy


Clarence Brown


Gordon Douglas


John Ford


Henry Hathaway

Born: March 13, 1898 in Sacramento, California, USA

Died: February 11, 1985 (age 86) in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA

Hathaway HenryAs Director:

Films: 67

Western Films: 16              

Lone Pine Films: 7
                           Thundering Herd (1933)

       Lives of the Bengal Lancers (1935)

           Brigham Young (1940)

           Rawhide (1951)
                           From Hell To Texas (1958)

                                                                                                               North to Alaska (1960)
                                                                                                               Nevada Smith (1966)

                                                                                                                Shoot Out (1971)   Multi Locations-Bishop, CA

As the archetypal studio professional, director Henry Hathaway spent five decades directing over 60 Hollywood films, leaving behind a large but rather underappreciated body of work that featured frequent collaborations with Randolph Scott, Gary Cooper, Tyrone Power and John Wayne. He directed Gary Cooper in seven films 
Born Henri Léopold de Fiennes Hathaway in Sacramento, California, he was the son of an American actor and stage manager, Rhody Hathaway (1868–1944), and a Hungarian-born Belgian aristocrat, the Marquise Lillie de Fiennes (Budapest, 1876–1938), who acted under the name Jean Hathaway.

Early Career

He started acting in his teens, in short one-reel westerns in the early days of silent film where he became a protégé of director, Allan Dwan.

In 1925, Hathaway began working as an assistant to the silent film directors Josef von Sternberg and Victor Fleming making the transition to sound with them. He was the assistant director to Fred Niblo in the 1925 version of Ben-Hur starring Francis X. Bushman and Ramon Novarro. During the remainder of the 1920s, Hathaway learned his craft as an assistant, helping direct future stars such as Gary Cooper in The Virginian (1929) and collaborating with notables Marlene Dietrich, Adolphe Menjou, Fay Wray, Walter Huston, Clara Bow, and Noah Beery. His breakthrough high-budget film, released in 1935, was The Lives of a Bengal Lancer,' with Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone. The New York Times called it ''a superb adventure story and easily the liveliest film in town.''

His movie career was interrupted by World War I. After his discharge, he briefly tried a career in finance but then returned to Hollywood to work as an assistant director under such directors as Frank Lloyd, Paul Bern, Josef von Sternberg and Victor Fleming, whom Hathaway credited for his eventual success. In 1932 Hathaway made his directorial debut with a western, Heritage of the Desert (1932), In Heritage of the Desert Based, on a Zane Grey novel, Hathaway gave Randolph Scott his first starring role in film that led to a lengthy career for Scott as a cowboy star. He quickly turned out other Grey adaptations like Wild Horse Mesa (1932), To the Last Man (1933), Man of the Forest (1933), Buffalo Stampede (1933) and The Last Round-Up (1934), all of which starred Scott in variations of the Western hero archetype.

Hathaway a fan of stories of the settling of the American West would re-make eight earlier Silents based on Zane Grey novels. He directed Gary Cooper in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) which received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and for which Hathaway won his only nomination for the Academy Award for Directing. Bengal Lancer is among the five films he directed in the 1930s with Gary Cooper. The five—Now And Forever (1934), Peter Ibbetson (also 1935), Lives Of A Bengal Lancer, Souls at Sea (1937), and The Real Glory (1939)—offer a rich example of Hathaway's breadth as director and storyteller. He followed Bengal Lancers with the musical comedy, Go West, Young Man (1936), starring Mae West, based on Lawrence Riley's Broadway hit Personal Appearance. Once again, he used Randolph Scott in this film, but did not cast him as a cowboy.

He directed the beautifully photographed but dated rural melodrama The Trail of Lonesome Pine (1936), with Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray. After directing Gary Cooper in Souls at Sea (1937) and The Real Glory (1939) a drama about the Philippine uprising that was regarded as a minor classic, Tyrone Power in Johnny Apollo (1940), and Brigham Young, Frontiersman, the 1940 examination of the Mormon movement he made a rather quiet and lyrical Western with John Wayne, The Shepherd of the Hills (1941), where the Duke played a young backwoods man contending with a group of outsiders threatening to push him and his family off his land. By the time he directed Wayne in The Shepherd of the Hills (1941), Hathaway had developed a solid reputation for technically accomplished films while becoming a pioneer of location shooting with a number of quality Westerns.

In 1940, Hathaway moved over to 20th Century Fox, where he worked almost exclusively for the next 20 years. Following the uplifting war drama Wing and a Prayer (1944), he took a dark turn into film noir and innovated further with the use of a semi-documentary approach which used newsreel footage and dramatic sequences in telling the story. This is most evident in the thriller The House on 92nd Street (1945) for which he was nominated for a Best Director award by the New York Film Critics Circle. The period also included 13 Rue Madeleine (1946) starring James Cagney, The Dark Corner (1946), Kiss of Death (1947) the film in which Richard Widmark became a star because of a single harrowing scene in which the actor, playing a hired killer, pushes an old woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs and a gritty film noir with Victor Mature, and Call Northside 777 (1948) starred Jimmy Stewart.

Hathaway went on to direct a number of above-average films that were popular with audiences, but often at odds with critics. He cast Tyrone Power and Orson Welles in the historical epic The Black Rose (1950), a sequel to the previous years Prince of Foxes (1949), and turned in a rare comedy with You’re in the Navy Now (1951), starring frequent star Gary Cooper and Jane Greer. He next helmed the stylized thriller, Niagra (1952), which starred Marilyn Monroe as a troubled wife who plans on murdering her disturbed husband (Joseph Cotton).

Throughout the rest of the 1960s, Hathaway helmed a number of competent, but rather mediocre films, but still managed to show some cinematic flair in Prince Valiant (1954), a beautiful looking mythological adventure that was weighed down by underwhelming performances from James Mason, Vivien Leigh and Robert Wagner. After teaming with Cooper again on Garden of Evil (1954), he directed Kirk Douglas in The Racers (1955), John Wayne and Sophia Loren in Legend of the Lost (1957).

In Hathaway's From Hell to Texas (1958), Dennis Hopper attempted to assert himself artistically on the set. Perhaps influenced by his recent experience with fellow actor James Dean's rebellious attitude on the sets of Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956), Hopper forced Hathaway to shoot more than 80 takes of a scene before he acquiesced to Hathaway's demands. After the shoot, Hathaway reportedly told the young actor that his career in Hollywood was over, Hopper worked again with Hathaway on The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) and True Grit (1969). Hopper later admitted he was wrong to have disrespected Hathaway as a youth and called him "the finest director I have ever worked with".

In the 1960s, signs of slowing down manifested in the caper drama Seven Thieves (1960) and the been-there, done-that Western North to Alaska (1960). Hathaway directed John Wayne in several films, including Circus World (1964). Wayne asked Hathaway to cast John Smith in the role of Steve McCabe in the film; Smith from 1959 to 1963 had played the part of rancher Slim Sherman on NBC's Laramie series. According to Smith's Internet biography, Hathaway developed an intense dislike for Smith and stopped him from landing choice roles thereafter in Hollywood.

He returned to his favored genre in the early sixties as one of three directors on the epic Cinerama Western, How the West Was Won (1962). Directing three of the anthologized film’s five segments, The Rivers, The Plains and The Outlaws, with the other two helmed by genre masters John Ford and George Marshall his work represented the bulk of the film, including the river, prairie, and train robbery sequences. He next turned to literary drama with an adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage (1964), featuring miscast stars Kim Novak and Laurence Harvey, and guided Wayne to one of his more interesting turns in the entertaining Western The Sons of Katie Elder (1965).

With rising star Steve McQueen, Hathaway found the perfect actor to play a man seeking revenge for the murder of his parents in the stark minimalist Western Nevada Smith (1966), before churning out underwhelming fare like The Last Safari (1967) and Five Card Stud (1968) with Robert Mitchum.

With both their careers winding down, Hathaway and Wayne reunited one last time for True Grit (1969), a rather pleasing Western where Wayne played cantankerous U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, who helps a 14-year-old girl (Kim Darby) hunt down the men who murdered her father. Hathawayay’s expert direction helped guide Wayne to his only Oscar. Meanwhile, the director rode off into the sunset with his last films, Shoot Out (1971) with Gregory Peck, the unforgivable Raid on Rommel (1971). Hathaway's 65th and final film was Hangup (1974). Eleven years later, on Feb. 11, 1985, Hathaway died from a heart attack at age 85. Though his career had come to an end Hathaway had amassed a large and solid body of work while earning status as a consummate professional.

His approach has been described as uncomplicated and straightforward, while at the same time many of his films are noted for their striking visual effects and unusual locations. He had a reputation as being difficult on actors, but some stars such as John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe benefited under his direction. Although Hathaway was a highly successful and reliable director working within the Hollywood studio system, his work has received little attention from critics. The director enjoyed great rapport with prop men, electricians, carpenters, cameramen, grips and other behind-the-scenes technicians, because they considered him one of their own. He had worked his way up in the movie business, moving from actor to prop boy at the age of 14.

Hathaway died from a heart attack in 1985 in Hollywood and is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. His body of work earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1638 Vine Street. He was married two times, the first to Elvira Weil, who he divorced in 1931and then to Blanche (Skip) Gonzalez with whom he had one son,; a granddaughter, and two stepgrandchildren.


Being educated is making the pictures themselves, if you make it your business to pay attention. To be a good director you've got to be a bastard. I'm a bastard and I know it. You don't have to hold an inquest to find out who killed Marilyn Monroe. Those bastards in the big executive chairs killed her. When I went to work in Universal Studios in 1914, there were five women directors. Lois Weber made the biggest pictures. John Ford and I alternated as prop men for this great director. If women haven't got a good directing job now, it's their own fault. There's lots of nice guys walking around Hollywood but they're not eating.

1970 comment on Kim Novak: “I worked one day with her and I quit.”

On Gary Cooper: “Gary Cooper was the first actor to believe you didn't have to mug to act, if you thought of what you were doing, it showed -- and he proved he was right.”

On Dana Andrews: He had a quality. I'll tell you one thing he had like nobody I've ever seen in my life. Drunk or sober, he comes in in the morning and they're making him up and he'd say, "What do I do today?" And you say, "Do this." And he'd look at the script and he goes out and he's a district attorney and he pleads the case to the jury and he never misses a word. Pages of it.

In 1971, about Richard Burton: “He was always very professional. None of the behavior I was warned about. He was sober throughout, and always early on the set.”

With Fleming I did "The Virginian." I did all those early Westerns, all those Zane Greys, the ones I did over again. I mostly learned from them how to handle people. I would take a script home and think. Now what would I tell these people to do to make the scene, how would I start it, where would be the climax, how I could get out of it, how do I get rid of the people, where would I do it - in front of the fire or on the couch, what would I do? And I'd make up my mind, and I'd make a lot of notes and then I'd see what they did. Entirely different! But you'd learn!”


Wild Horse Mesa (1932)

Heritage of the Desert (1932)

Under the Tonto Rim (1933)

The Thundering Herd (1933)
To The Last Man (1933)

Sunset Pass (1933)

The Last Round up (1934)

Rawhide (1951)

North to Alaska (1960)

How the West Was Won (1962)

Nevada Smith (1966)

True Grit (1969)

Five Card Stud (1968)

Shootout (1971)

Sons of Katie Elder (1975)


Lambert Hillyer

Lambert Hillyer

 (July 8, 1893 – July 5, 1969)

Lambert Harwood Hillyer was born July 8, 1893, in Tyner, Indiana. His mother was character actress Lydia Knott. A graduate of Drake College, he worked as a newspaper reporter and an actor in vaudeville and stock theater. In 1917, he entered the film business becoming a became a prolific director and screenwriter. He soon teamed up with cowboy actor William S. Hart for a series of westerns that resulted in making Hart a star, for which the actor--an old-fashioned man who never forgot a slight or a favor--always gave Hillyer credit. Hillyer also worked with, Buck Jones, Tom Mix and others.

Although he could never be considered a stylist, Hillyer often managed to inject his work with the kind of panache and a flourish that other, bigger-budgeted films lacked. The opening scene of Beau Bandit (1930), for example, consists of an eerily atmospheric shot of a posse emerging from a dark, foggy river crossing; it's a somewhat Germanic touch in an otherwise undistinguished film. An incredibly prolific director, Hillyer didn't confine himself to westerns, although they were the majority of his output.

Often associated with producer Thomas H. Ince, Hillyer expanded into romantic melodramas and crime films in the 1920s. In 1936 he directed two chillers for Universal, the creepy and chilling science-fiction film The Invisible Ray and the stylish cult horror film Dracula's Daughter.

He directed the first screen depiction of Batman, a 15-part serial produced in 1943 that was re-released as a theatrical feature in 1965. He directed many B movies for Columbia Pictures in the 1930s and early 1940s, including the Westerns that were his specialty. Hillyer finished his career directing low-budget dramas and Westerns for Monogram Pictures.

Lambert Hillyer died July 5, 1969, in Los Angeles, California.


Joseph Kane

Joseph Kane

Died    August 25, 1975 (aged 81)  Santa Monica, California, USA

Jasper Joseph Inman Kane (March 19, 1894, San Diego – August 25, 1975, Santa Monica, California) was a prolific American film director, film producer, film editor and screenwriter. He is best known for his extensive directorship and focus on Western films.

Joseph Kane's career as a professional cellist ended when he became a film editor in 1926. In 1934 he took an interest in film directing and he soon became Republic's top western director. He handled many of John Wayne's Republic westerns of the 1940s, and piloted numerous Roy Rogers and Gene Autry films (he was once asked in an interview why he did so many westerns. He replied, "I like the outdoors. The horses. The cowboys. I like that."). Unlike most Republic house directors, Kane was credited as associate producer on many of his films. He stayed at Republic until the studio's demise in 1959, and after freelancing for mostly independent production companies, he turned to directing TV series.

Kane's first directorial credit was for The Fighting Marines (1935). When Mascot Pictures and several other small film companies amalgamated into Republic Pictures in 1935, Kane became staff director, remaining at the studio until it ceased production in 1958. He piloted many Gene Autry and Roy Rogers movies and directed John Wayne in films such as The Lawless Nineties (1936) and Flame of Barbary Coast (1944), and Joseph Schildkraut on The Cheaters (1945). Between 1935 and his death in 1975 he directed 119 films and numerous television series episodes.

Unlike most Republic house directors, Kane was also credited as associate producer on many of his films. Between 1939 -1957 he was a major film producer, producing over 60 films. Kane was also a film editor and screenwriter responsible for the editing process of over 20 of his films, and he had a brief stint as an actor.

On his relationship with Vera Ralston, whom husband Herbert J. Yates, president of Republic Pictures and Kane's boss, attempted without success to make a star he was quoted as saying, “She was very nice to work with. She was in the same sort of position with Yates as Marion Davies was with William Randolph Hearst. So, if she'd been that sort of person, she could have made it rough for everybody. Naturally, when you're in that kind of position with the boss, you can do anything you want. She never took advantage of that situation. She was always very cooperative, worked very hard, tried very hard. But you know, the public is a very funny thing. The public either accepts you or it doesn't, and there's nothing you can do about it. If they don't go for you, that's it.”

During the 1950s Kane worked steadily in television, with emphasis on Westerns and action series. He spent the last decade of his life as a second-unit director on such productions as Universal Studios Beau Geste (1966) and In Enemy Country (1968).

In 1991, Kane traveled to Ecuador to learn about the Huaorani Indians and their struggles with international oil companies who were exploiting the Amazon with poor environmental practices such as setting off explosive charges, building new roads and oil rigs, and causing oil spills. Based on his experiences there he wrote Savages (1995).

Joe Kane is an American author of two books and is also a journalist who writes for numerous publications such as The New Yorker, National Geographic, and Esquire.

Kane is best known for his book Running the Amazon (1989), a firsthand account of the only expedition ever to travel the entire 4,200-mile Amazon River from its source in Peru to the Atlantic Ocean, which took place between August 1985 and February 1986. The book is listed on Outside Magazine's "25 Best Adventure Books of the Last 100 Years" and National Geographic's "The 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time".

Kane was married to Margaret Munn Inman Kane, they had three children. Kane died on August 25, 1975, in Santa Monica, California.


Burt Kennedy

Born   September 3, 1922 Muskegon, Michigan

Died    February 15, 2001 Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California

Kennedy was born in Michigan, the son of vaudevillians who toured as the Dancing Kennedys. He joined the act when he was four years old. After high school, he joined the US army, fighting in the Pacific during the second world war. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Settling in Hollywood, he became a successful radio writer. After the war he joined the Pasadena Community Playhouse, but was ousted after one play as an actor for missing rehearsal. He found a job writing radio programs such as "Hash Knife Hartley" and "The Used Story Lot", then used his army fencing training to land work as a stunt fencer in films.

Kennedy was hired to write 13 scripts for a proposed television program, Juan and Diablo, with plans for John Wayne's Batjac Co. contract player Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez to star. The show was never produced, but Kennedy was kept on at Batjac to write films for producer Wayne. His initial effort, Seven Men from Now (1956), was a superb western, the first of four esteemed collaborations between director Budd Boetticher and star Randolph Scott; and the first of three with producer-director Andrew V. McLaglen.  

Boetticher thought Kennedy an ideal writer for his films because "he likes action as opposed to dialogue. He thinks visually - in everything he does." According to Kennedy: "If you can do it visually, it's always better. And it's actually easier to write that way. I don't overwrite, but the more detail I go into describing a setting, the easier it is for me to visualize what happens there." Boetticher, once called Kennedy the best Western screenwriter because he was "so carefully authentic" in his depictions of life in the Old West.

Kennedy wrote most of stories for the series, as well as a number of others for Batjac, although it would be nearly 20 years before Wayne actually appeared in the film of a Kennedy script..

Apart from the Boetticher-Scott movies, Kennedy wrote Six Black Horses (1962), in which Audie Murphy and Dan Duryea face each other in style. By the time of the latter, Kennedy had directed his first film, The Canadians (1961), starring Robert Ryan as a Mountie. "I didn't know what I was doing," Kennedy recalled. "I remember the first shot had like 400 horses in it, and I got the shot and the cameraman said, 'What do we do now?' And I thought, 'You mean I gotta do more?' The film, The Canadians (1961), but it was a critical failure. Kennedy says, “ So that's the reason I went into television (The Virginian, Lawman) to find out how you shoot pictures.”

Moving from the typewriter to the director's chair by the early 1960s, Kennedy continued for a time creating lean, leathery B's and TV Westerns. He wrote wrote and directed episodes of Lawman (1958), The Virginian (1962) and most notably the acclaimed, gritty action drama, Combat! (ABC, 1962-67). Often quoted, Kennedy said, "My theory has always been to write a real small story against a big background," Kennedy explained.

Kennedy's witty and gripping scripts contained complex themes of morality, where the heroes (not all good) and villains (not all bad) always respect each other, even though they know they will ultimately have to shoot it out. For example, at the end of The Tall T, when Richard Boone is walking away, he says to Scott: "You wouldn't shoot me in the back. I'm going to get on my horse and ride out of here." Scott replies: "Don't do it, Frank." This is the first time in the picture that Scott has called Boone by any name.

Kennedy's westerns also revolve around issues of pride and loneliness. "I liked the loner," he explained. "I always thought that one secret of a good western is that the leading man should be able to walk away at any point, but he chooses not to, and that's what makes him a hero." This is expressed in Ride Lonesome, when lawman Scott, having avenged his wife's death, symbolically burns down the tree on which she was hanged, and refuses to participate in the happy ending enjoyed by the other characters

Kennedy's traditional action fare brandished occasional laconic comic touches, but it was really with The Rounders (1965) and its spin-off TV series that comedy came to the fore in his work. The War Wagon 1967) basked in the by-play between John Wayne and Kirk Douglas. As popularity of westerns began to wane in the early 70s, Kennedy made the popular (and spoofs) Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) where James Garner stars as a lawman who relied more on his wits than his gun, and its enjoyable sequel, Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) In Dirty Dingus McGee, Frank Sinatra stars as a two-bit outlaw and George Kennedy as a bungling sheriff.

TV-movies dominated Kennedy's credits from the 70s on; Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid (1978) and More Wild, Wild West (1980) are typical of the light touch he brought to the small screen during this period. The broadly handled Hulk Hogan action feature Suburban Commando (1991) played up Kennedy's jokey side, but his elegiac TV-saga Once Upon a Texas Train (1988), with Willie Nelson as an aging outlaw and Richard Widmark as a former Texas ranger, showed that Kennedy's earlier affectionate sobriety had not left him entirely continuing with his trademark humor and stylish dialogue.

During the last decade of his life, Kennedy welcomed visitors to his large house in the San Fernando Valley, where he lived alone with his dogs, surrounded by memorabilia from his Hollywood days.

Never nominated for an Oscar, Kennedy was honored by Western film aficionados being given the Nebraskaland Days Buffalo Bill Award in North Platte, Neb., and was hailed as "Hollywood's Trail Boss." In 1996, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him. Kennedy is buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery

He is survived by two daughters, Bridget Kennedy of Pacific Palisades and Susan Kennedy-McNutt of Portland, Ore.; and five grandchildren.

IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


He was quite a prolific writer/director, compared to other directors working post-1960. This was especially from 1964-76, where he directed 20 films, 17 of them feature films (which take much more time than television movies do), writing six of them, producing three of them, and writing three others.

Personal Quotes

[c. 1985, on Kirk Douglas] . . . he's tough, too; the people who are good are the ones that can be difficult. I remember one day we had to stop filming on The War Wagon (1967) to do a special promo film with John Wayne when Ronald Reagan was standing for governor. Kirk at that time was a Democrat; I think that now Kirk is a Reagan man.

[on John Wayne] Wayne was a stickler at work. He was fine if he realized you knew what you were doing. But if you weren't prepared, or fluffed anything, and fortunately I never did, well, then you could be in trouble. He was tough, but then so am I! Kennedy



Joseph H. Lewis

Joseph H. Lewis

Joseph H. Lewis (April 6, 1907 – August 30, 2000) was an American B-movie film director whose stylish flourishes came to be appreciated by auteur theory-espousing film critics in the years following his retirement in 1966. In a 30-year directorial career, he helmed numerous low-budget westerns, action pictures and thrillers and is remembered for original mysteries My Name Is Julia Ross (1945) and So Dark the Night (1946) as well as his most-highly regarded feature, 1949's Gun Crazy, which spotlighted a desperate young couple (Peggy Cummins and John Dall) who embark on a deadly crime spree.

Born in Brooklyn, the son of an optometrist, Joseph H. Lewis attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx and when his brother, Ben, moved to Hollywood in 1927, decided to follow with hopes of becoming an actor. Ben found him a job as camera assistant and, subsequently, young Joseph became an assistant film editor just as the film industry was converting to sound. At the dawn of his directorial career (1937 – 1940), while turning out low-budget B-Westerns, he earned the derogatory nickname "Wagon-Wheel Joe" from the studio editors,[citation needed] because of his tendency to use wagon-wheels for constructing interesting visual compositions within the frame.

Gun Crazy, considered by some to be the peak of his career, is a dark romance about gun-obsession, notable for its use of location photography and, for film students and buffs, a particularly arresting shot which lasts for ten minutes, as the audience suddenly becomes a passenger in the getaway car following a bank robbery committed by the young leads.

The term "style over content" fits director Joseph H. Lewis like a glove. His ability to elevate basically mundane and mediocre low-budget material to sublime cinematic art has gained him a substantial cult following among movie buffs. Although known for having directed horror stars Bela Lugosi, The Invisible Ghost and Lionel Atwill in early 1940s, he is most appreciated for work in film noir during the 1940s and early 1950s.

The Bonnie & Clyde look-alike Gun Crazy (1950), shot in 30 days on a budget of $400,000, is often cited as his best film. This taut gangster flick about two gun-crazy sociopaths is a dark romance about gun-obsession, notable for its use of location photography and, for film students and buffs, a particularly arresting shot which lasts for ten minutes, as the audience suddenly becomes a passenger in the getaway car following a bank robbery committed by the young leads. The film is impregnated with an electric atmosphere, zipping along at a breakneck pace. It has been likened to a "tone poem of camera movement" and described by Martin Scorsese as "unrelenting and involving". A master of expressive lighting, tight close-ups, tracking and crane shots and offbeat camera angles and perspectives, Lewis possessed an instinctive sense of visual style, which imbued even the most improbable of his B-grade westerns and crime melodramas. Significant peripheral detail was his stock-in-trade. He acquired these skills working as a camera assistant in the 1920's (his aptitude for the work may have been come from his optometrist father) and further honed them in the MGM editorial department in the early '30s. After that Lewis edited serials at Republic and served the remainder of his apprenticeship as second unit director. He was signed to a full directing contract by Universal in 1937.

During the next two decades, Lewis spent time at Columbia (1939 - 1940, 1946 - 1949), Universal again (1942), PRC (1944), MGM (1950, 1952-53) and United Artists (1957 - 1958), reliably turning out a couple of pictures per year. While he helmed more than his fair share of horse operas, it was invariably his films noir which attracted the most attention. Pick of the bunch were two slick second features during his spell at Columbia, My Name Is Julia Ross (1945), about a diabolical murder plot involving Nina Foch in her first starring role; and So Dark the Night (1946), an offbeat psychological thriller with character actor Steven Geray well cast as a French detective who unwittingly investigates his own crimes. Another candidate for inclusion on any Lewis "best" list would have to be The Big Combo (1955), made for Allied Artists and boasting impressive camera work by John Alton. It marked the beginning of a new cycle of films in which violence became rather more accentuated (the film ran into censorship trouble for that reason) and where the villain (in this case, philosophizing racketeer Richard Conte) was rather more interesting and dynamic than the maniacally obsessive but dullish nominal hero (cop Cornel Wilde). His work includes the 1944 musical Minstrel Man for PRC and the musical sequences for The Jolson Story (1946) for Columbia

After suffering a heart attack in 1953 at age 46, Lewis began to reduce his workload. His cinematic curtain call was the low-budget western Terror in a Texas Town (1958), characterized by deliberate and fluid camera movement and some neat touches, like the hero (Sterling Hayden) sporting a harpoon for the climactic final showdown. The idea of successfully uniting the townsfolk against the tyranny of arbitrary rule was also intended as a veiled attack on McCarthyism. With the credits shot through the spokes of a wagon wheel, "Terror" was a fitting finale to Lewis's career.

Toward the end of Lewis's career, he worked in episodic television, directing mostly westerns: The Rifleman, Bonanza, The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, and the pilot for Branded. Lewis finally retired in 1966 at the end of the 1965–66 TV season.

He later lectured at film schools and fan gatherings as well as at retrospectives such as the Telluride Film Festival, along with European venues in France, Germany and other locations. In 1997 he became the recipient of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Lifetime Achievement Award. When not addressing aspiring directors on the lecture circuit, he spent his remaining decades in leisure pursuits, in particular sailing and deep-sea fishing aboard his much-loved 50-foot trawler "Buena Vista".

Nearly five months after his 93rd birthday, Lewis died at his home in Los Angeles County's seaside community of Marina del Rey on August 30, 2000. Active until the end, he made his final public appearance five weeks earlier to introduce a screening of Gun Crazy at the University of California at Los Angeles. Lewis was married and had one child.


Sam Peckinpah

Date of Birth 21 February 1925, Fresno, California, USA

Date of Death           28 December 1984, Inglewood, California, USA  (heart failure)

Birth Name   David Edward Samuel Ernest Peckinpah Jr.

"If they move", commands stern-eyed William Holden, "kill 'em". So begins The Wild Bunch (1969), Sam Peckinpah's bloody, high-body-count eulogy to the mythologized Old West. "Pouring new wine into the bottle of the Western, Peckinpah explodes the bottle", observed critic Pauline Kael. That exploding bottle also christened the director with the nickname that would forever define his films and reputation: "Bloody Sam".

David Samuel Peckinpah was born and grew up in Fresno, California, when it was still a sleepy town. Young Sam was a loner. The child's greatest influence was grandfather Denver Church, a judge, congressman and one of the best shots in the Sierra Nevada. Sam served in the US Marine Corps during World War II but - to his disappointment - did not see combat. Upon returning to the US he enrolled in Fresno State College, graduating in 1948 with a B.A. in Drama. He married Marie Selland in Las Vegas in 1947 and they moved to Los Angeles, where he enrolled in the graduate Theater Department of the University of Southern California the next year. He eventually took his Masters in 1952.

After drifting through several jobs -- including a stint as a floor-sweeper on The Liberace Show (1952) -- Sam got a job as Dialogue Director on Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) for director Don Siegel. He worked for Siegel on several films, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), in which Sam played Charlie Buckholtz, the town meter reader. Peckinpah eventually became a scriptwriter for such TV programs as Gunsmoke (1955) and The Rifleman (1958) (which he created as an episode of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater (1956) titled The Sharpshooter'in 1958). In 1961, as his marriage to Selland was coming to an end, he directed his first feature film, a western titled The Deadly Companions (1961) starring \Brian Keith and Maureen O'Hara. However, it was with his second feature, Ride the High Country (1962), that Peckinpah really began to establish his reputation. Featuring Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott (in his final screen performance), its story about two aging gunfighters anticipated several of the themes Peckinpah would explore in future films, including the controversial The Wild Bunch. Following Ride the High Country he was hired by producer Jerry Bresler to direct Major Dundee (1965), a cavalry-vs.-Indians western starring Charlton Heston. It turned out to be a film that brought to light Peckinpah's volatile reputation. During hot, on-location work in Mexico, his abrasive manner, exacerbated by booze and marijuana, provoked usually even-keeled Heston to threaten to run him through with a cavalry saber. However, when the studio later considered replacing Peckinpah, it was Heston who came to Sam's defense, going so far as to offer to return his salary to help offset any overages. Ironically, the studio accepted and Heston wound up doing the film for free.

Post-production conflicts led to Sam engaging in a bitter and ultimately losing battle with Bresler and Columbia Pictures over the final cut and, as a result, the disjointed effort fizzled at the box office. It was during this period that Peckinpah met and married his second wife, Mexican actress Begoña Palacios. However, the reputation he earned because of the conflicts on Major Dundee contributed to Peckinpah being replaced as director on his next film, the Steve McQueen film The Cincinnati Kid (1965), by Norman Jewison.

His second marriage now failing, Peckinpah did not get another feature project for two years. However, he did direct a powerful adaptation of Katherine Anne Porter's 'Noon Wine" for ABC Stage 67: Noon Wine (1966)). This, in turn, helped relaunch his feature career. He was hired by Warner Bros. to direct the film for which he is, justifiably, best remembered. The success of The Wild Bunch rejuvenated his career and propelled him through highs and lows in the 1970s. Between 1970-1978 he directed The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), Straw Dogs (1971), Junior Bonner (1972), The Getaway (1972), Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), The Killer Elite (1975), Cross of Iron (1977) and Convoy (1978). Throughout this period controversy followed him. He provoked more rancor over his use of violence in Straw Dogs, introduced Ali MacGraw to Steve McQueen in The Getaway, fought with MGM's chief James T. Aubrey over his vision for Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid that included the casting of Bob Dylan in an unscripted role as a character called "Alias." His last solid effort was the WW II anti-war epic Cross of Iron, about a German unit fighting on the Russian front, with Maximilian Schell and James Coburn, bringing the picture in successfully despite severe financial problems.

Peckinpah lived life to its fullest. He drank hard and abused drugs, producers and collaborators. At the end of his life he was considering a number of projects including the Stephen King-scripted "The Shotgunners". He was returning from Mexico in December 1984 when he died from heart failure in a hospital in Inglewood, California, at age 59. At a standing-room-only gathering that held at the Directors Guild the following month, Coburn remembered the director as a man "who pushed me over the abyss and then jumped in after me. He took me on some great adventures". To which Robert Culp added that what is surprising is not that Sam only made fourteen pictures, but that given the way he went about it, he managed to make any at all.

“Only a madman would call this creation! It’s not art! It’s not cinema! It’s pure wasted insanity!” That reaction-card from the Kansas City sneak preview of The Wild Bunch on May Day 1969 offered a foretaste of the controversy that would engulf Sam Peckinpah’s unprecedentedly bloody and bleak, revolutionary western on its release six weeks later. It was a film that would saddle its director forever with the moniker “Bloody Sam”.

The Wild Bunch was a hand grenade throw under the tent-flap of America’s assumptions about violence and our culpability in it. It tore the increasingly bloody and reprehensible Vietnam war off the nightly news and hurled it like a scarlet paint-pot all over the silver screen. The western was never the same again, nor was American cinema, and nor was Sam Peckinpah.

Peckinpah was the last great director of westerns to flourish while the genre was still taken seriously by the Hollywood studios. His first notable movie, Ride The High Country, starring aged western icons Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott, appeared two months after John Ford’s last great western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, starring Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. There was even then the sense that the baton was being passed from one generation to the next.

Comprehensive biography from The Gaurdian

Expansive biography by [email protected]


Lesley Selander

Lesley Selander (May 26, 1900 – December 5, 1979)

American film director of Westerns and science fiction movies. His career as director, spanning 127 feature films and dozens of TV episodes, lasted from 1936 to 1968. To this day, Selander remains one of the most prolific directors of feature Westerns in cinema history, having taken the helm for 107 Westerns between his first directorial feature in 1936 and 1967.

Lesley Selander's film career, which lasted more than 40 years, started in the early 1920s as a teenager when he got a job at a studio as a lab technician. He soon managed to work his way into the production end of the business and secured employment as a camera operator, then an assistant director, with several side trips as a director of two-reel shorts. As an assistant director in 1924, he worked on several comedy shorts before enlisting with MGM, where he assisted on such productions as The Thin Man (1934), The Cat and the Fiddle (1934), and A Night At the Opera (1935 and Fritz Lang's Fury (1936). At the behest of pal Buck Jones, Selander was promoted to feature director in 1936, helming his first feature and the first of a number of the cowboy star's latter oaters, in addition to a brace of Tim Holt and Hopalong Cassidy vehicles.

Although Selander couldn't be considered an "A"-list director, his films had a professionalism and a verve that many of those made by his fellow B directors lacked. His sense of pacing was such that his films could be counted on to move quickly and smoothly, and not just his westerns. He also made detective thrillers, action/adventure pictures and even a horror film or two. One standout that is seldom seen nowadays, however, is Return from the Sea (1954), a sentimental and lyrical story of a cynical, embittered merchant seaman and the equally disillusioned waitress he meets in a dingy diner in the waterfront section of town. It's a surprisingly sensitive work for a man who spent his career making tough, macho shoot-'em-ups, and even more of a surprise are the outstanding performances by an unlikely cast: tough-guy Neville Brand as the sailor, perennial gun moll Jan Sterling as the waitress, and a terrific job by veteran heavy John Doucette as a garrulous, happy-go-lucky cab driver determined to bring the two together. With this little jewel Selander proved he was capable of much more than cattle stampedes, Indian attacks and gangster shootouts, but unfortunately he never made another one like it.

As the market for B westerns died out, Selander, like so many of his fellow B directors--turned to television. The last few feature films he made, in the mid- and late 1960s, were a string of what's come to be known as "geezer westerns" churned out by producer A.C. Lyles, embarrassing efforts made on the cheap that were meant to give employment to aging cowboy stars; the less said about them, the better.

In 1956, he was nominated for the Directors Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Television, for his work directing a 1954 episode of Lassie.

Lesley Selander retired from the business in 1968, and died in 1979.

Note: Selander is generally considered to be the most prolific director of feature Westerns of all time, with at least 107 to his credit between 1935 and 1967. Lambert Hillyer finishes a close second with 106 horse operas helmed between 1917 and 1949.




George Sherman


George Stevens


John Sturges

Date of Birth 3 January 1910, Oak Park, Illinois, USA

Date of Death           18 August 1992, San Luis Obispo, California, USA  (heart attack and emphysema) John

John Sturges was born on January 3, 1910 in Oak Park, Illinois, USA as John Elliott Sturges. He was a director and producer, known for The Great Escape (1963), The Magnificent Seven (1960) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955). He was married to Katherine Helena Soules and Dorothy Lynn Brooks. He died on August 18, 1992 in San Luis Obispo, California, USA.

John Eliot Sturges (/ˈstɜːrdʒɪs/; January 3, 1910 – August 18, 1992) was an American film director. His movies include Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), and Ice Station Zebra (1968). The Great Escape was entered into the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival.[1] He was not related to director Preston Sturges

John Sturges was born on January 3, 1910 in Oak Park, Illinois, USA as John Eliot Carne. The third child and second son born to Reginald G. R. Carne, an English-born banker and real estate developer, and Grace Delafield Sturges, who traced her English ancestry back to the Mayflower. When John was two years old his family moved to Southern California, where Reginald founded the Bank of Ojai. Three years later Reginald's alcoholism led to divorce. Grace raised the children and reclaimed her family name; John used that name throughout his adult life.

Grace moved with her children to a small frame home in Santa Monica, where they lived off bread dipped in bacon grease and lima beans picked from a nearby farm. John loved the outdoors; he rode ostriches, raced soapboxes, built wireless receivers, and enjoyed shooting his BB gun. In 1923 Grace moved the family to Berkeley, California. John appeared as a pilgrim and King Tut's mummy in plays at Berkeley High School. He majored in science at Marin Junior College and served as stage manager during the 1930-1931 season at the Tamalpais Theatre in San Anselmo to supplement his income.

In 1931 Sturges moved to Los Angeles. He took engineering classes at Santa Monica City College and chipped paint and pumped gas to make a living. His brother, Sturges Carne, was an art director at RKO Studios and in 1932 got him a job as an assistant art director, inking blueprints.

Sturges aided the production designer Robert Edmond Jones in bringing three-strip Technicolor to the studio in 1934. The success of Becky Sharp (1935) and The Garden of Allah (1936) led the studio head David O. Selznick to promote Sturges to color consultant. Sturges was fascinated with the art of making movies and carefully watched the work of the directors John Ford, George Cukor, and his mentor George Stevens. Sturges served a four-year apprenticeship in RKO's editing department, working with the future directors Robert Wise and Mark Robson, and learned how cutters could speed the strength of any scene. "If you know how to cut pictures," he noted, "you know how to make 'em" (Lovell, p. 24). Stevens had Sturges as his second unit director in his highly successful adventure Gunga Din (1939). Sturges was principal editor on Garson Kanin's They Knew What They Wanted (1940) and Tom, Dick and Harry (1941). By the time William Dieterle's Syncopation (1942) was released, its editor, despite extreme near-sightedness, had enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Sturges directed forty-five training films for the army air corps and army intelligence, based in Dayton, Ohio, and Culver City, California. In June 1944 Sturges and the Hollywood director William Wyler teamed up to make a documentary; they joined the Fifty-Seventh Fighter Group on Corsica to tell the story of the P-47 Thunderbolt dive bombers and their pilots. In July they chronicled the Allies' triumphal entry into Rome. Sturges and Wyler filmed the army's Rhone River offensive in September. The resulting forty-three-minute documentary, Thunderbolt (1945), would become a color classic and win Captain Sturges a Bronze Star.

He began his career as a film director at Columbia Pictures at an entry-level $300 a week. Sturges was assigned a series of unremarkable B pictures: The Man Who Dared, Shadowed, and Alias Mr. Twilight (all 1946). The studio head Harry Cohn liked Sturges's ability to bring in projects on time and under budget. More films followed: For the Love of Rusty and Keeper of the Bees (both 1947), the former starring a German shepherd. The Sign of the Ram (1948) was his first fully funded picture and Best Man Wins (1948), with a $400,000 budget, was his first to win the commendation of critics. The actor Randolph Scott asked Sturges to direct his next western, The Walking Hills, which was shot in Death Valley and released on March 5, 1949. Its climatic sandstorm and shootout helped make it Columbia's highest grosser of the year.

In November 1949 Sturges signed on with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Hollywood's most prestigious studio, and directed seven films in two years, including The People Against O'Hara (1951), his first of three films with Spencer Tracy. Tracy liked working with Sturges's single-take setups and the director's understanding that scripts were "places where you come on and lay back" (Curtis, p. 676). Tracy's praise was "the nicest compliment I ever got as a director," Sturges later said. Sturges's The Magnificent Yankee (1950) portrayed the Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as an American ideal, and his widescreen Escape from Fort Bravo (1953) cemented his growing reputation as a leading action director.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1954), a reteaming with Tracy and the second of five films Sturges shot in desolate Lone Pine, California, became a classic featuring the reluctant hero fighting bigotry and a murderous mob. He made imaginative use of the widescreen CinemaScope format by placing Spencer Tracy alone against a vast desert panorama in the suspense film Bad Day at Black Rock, for which he received a Best Director Oscar nomination in 1955. The film was also honored by the Cannes Film Festival and the National Board of Review. The novelist John O'Hara, writing in Collier's, called it "one of the finest motion pictures ever made" (Lovell, p. 111). The film critic Pauline Kael described it as "a very superior example of motion picture craftsmanship" (Los Angeles Times, 21 Aug. 1992).

Sturges chafed under studio oversight. "You can do anything," he maintained, "if they leave you alone" (Lovell, p. 100). In 1955 he became a freelancer so he could pick his own projects. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, was a huge hit for Paramount, grossing $4.7 million in its initial domestic release. Reunited with Tracy, he directed Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea (1958) for Warner Bros. Variety praised the picture's "power, vitality and sharp excitement," and the skilled direction that "captures the dignity and the stubbornness of the old man, and . . . his tender final defeat" (31 Dec. 1957). Twice, Sturges teamed with Frank Sinatra, directing the moneymakers Never So Few (1960) and Sergeants 3 (1962).

In the 1960s Sturges's success allowed him to make more spectacular films such as The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963). As producer and director, Sturges handpicked Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn to star in Magnificent Seven. The simple story of seven American gunmen protecting a Mexican village from bandits was a worldwide hit. He brought back McQueen, Bronson, and Coburn to star in Great Escape, which was based on a real World War II prison break and did even better, hitting the $16 million mark.

At the peak of his bankability, Sturges had his choice of scripts. He was reteamed with Lancaster in The Hallelujah Trail (1965). Ice Station Zebra (1968) was an $8 million Cold War thriller that grossed barely half its production cost. Marooned (1969) had a space agency head, played by Gregory Peck, rescuing three stranded American astronauts. Joe Kidd (1972) starred Clint Eastwood in a revisionist western. McQ (1974) with John Wayne did only modestly well. The Eagle Has Landed (1976), a World War II thriller, would be his final film.

Sturges retired to Baja California. He had divorced his first wife in 1966 and spent his time fishing for marlin and yellowtail. In 1984 he married his fishing partner Kathy Soules and moved to Morro Bay, then San Luis Obispo, where he designed and helped build a ranch house. He was reclusive and liked being self-sufficient. His chronic emphysema would lead to a fatal heart attack.

Sturges modestly said that a professional director "finishes the film"(Los Angeles Times, 21 Aug. 1992). Sturges had gotten into the film business in order to make a living. He told his biographer, "I guess you could say I was a pretty good action director, that I had a flair for staging" (Lovell, p. 297). Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, John Frankenheimer, William Friedkin, Andrew Davis, and John Carpenter are among a generation of moviemakers who have indicated their indebtedness to Sturges and his work. The novelist Wallace Markfield considered Sturges unparalleled in his ability in "exploiting the plain, pure physicality of hard, marred men doing difficult jobs" (New York Times, 22 Aug. 1992).

Sturges developed a reputation for elevated character-based drama within the confines of genre filmmaking. He was awarded the Golden Boot Award in 1992 for his lifetime contribution to Westerns.

He once met Akira Kurosawa, who told him that he loved The Magnificent Seven (which was a remake of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai). Sturges considered this the proudest moment of his professional career.

He was married twice: to Katherine Helena Soules and then to Dorothy Lynn Brooks, a secretary at Warner Bros. The couple had two children. Sturges died on August 18, 1992 in San Luis Obispo, California, USA.


Raoul Walsh

William Wellman


Simon Wincer

Simon Wincer (born 1943 in Sydney) is an Australian film director and film producer. He attended Cranbrook School, Bellevue Hill, Sydney from 1950 to 1961. On leaving school he worked as a stage hand at TV Station Channel 7. By the 1980s he directed over 200 hours of television.

In 1979, Wincer made his directorial bow with the romantic comedy Snapshot. Wincer's first turn as a producer was for the internationally successful The Man From Snowy River (1982). It was after this that his own career flipped into high gear. Wincer's next venture, Phar Lap (1983), the fact-based story of Australia's greatest race horse and his mysterious death, earned considerable critical acclaim and ranks as one Australia's most popular films. Wincer's next film, One Night Stand, was a chilling black comedy about four young people who find themselves stranded in the Sydney Opera House after the start of WWIII.

Wincer made a rather inauspicious Hollywood debut with the bland kidpic D.A.R.Y.L. (1985), but did much better with the Disney made-for-television drama The Girl Who Spelled Freedom (1986) for which he earned a Christopher Award. His highest accolades in the U.S. were for directing the acclaimed television miniseries. For his work on Lonesome Dove (1989), for which Wincer won an Emmy for Best Director. The show went on to win six more and was nominated for 18 Emmys. He also had great success with Quigley Down Under (1990) Free Willy (1993) The Phantom (1996) and Monte Walsh (2003).

 About Monte Walsh he said, “"It's a story of clearly delineated characters, and you get to know and love these cowboys. You share their ups, their downs and the way they deal with their changing way of life. Also, this story is a bit richer in terms of the setting. This is a green Western, as opposed to a hot, dusty one. There is plenty of dust, but it's set in Wyoming with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, so it's quite spectacular to look at. The landscapes are very much a character in this, and there are all kinds of interesting elements that bring together a very rich story."

On the 25th anniversary of the epic western, C&I goes behind the scenes with director Simon Wincer.

Lonesome Dove (Miniseries)

Written by    Larry McMurtry (novel)

Starring         Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Anjelica Huston

Original release       February 5 – February 8, 1989

Lonesome Dove is a 1989 American epic Western adventure television miniseries directed by Simon Wincer. It is a four part adaptation of the 1985 novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry and is the first installment in the Lonesome Dove franchise. The series stars Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. The series was originally broadcast by CBS over four nights in February 1989, drawing a huge viewing audience, earning numerous awards, and reviving both the television western and the miniseries.

An estimated 26,000,000 homes tuned in to watch Lonesome Dove, unusually high numbers for a Western at that time. The western genre was considered dead by most people, as was the miniseries. By the show's end, it had earned huge ratings and virtually revamped the entire 1989–1990 television season. A favorite with audiences, as well as critics, Lonesome Dove garnered many honors and awards. At the 1989 Emmy Awards, the miniseries had 18 nominations and seven wins, including one for director Simon Wincer. Lonesome Dove also won two Golden Globes, for Best Miniseries and Best Actor in a Miniseries (Robert Duvall).

The rights to Lonesome Dove on home video have varied for over a decade. It was first released on VHS in 1991 by Cabin Fever Entertainment who owned all of the home video rights to co-executive producer Robert Halmi Jr.'s company RHI entertainment. It came in a gift set on four cassettes. In 1998 Cabin Fever went defunct and the rights to their home video releases were subsequently sold to Hallmark Entertainment who through a distribution agreement with Artisan Entertainment acquired the rights to Lonesome Dove. In 2000 Hallmark and Artisan re-released Lonesome Dove on VHS and released it on DVD for the very first time. In 2003 Artisan went out of business selling the rights of their video library to Lionsgate. In 2008 Lonesome Dove made its debut to Blu Ray distributed by Genius Products and RHI Entertainment. In 2011 Vivendi Entertainment did another DVD reissue, and in 2014 Mill Creek Entertainment acquired rights and re-released the series on Blu Ray. They currently own the rights to the series.


William Witney

William Witney

An interviewer once asked director William Witney the secret to making good Westerns. "It's really very simple," he said. "Make sure you have good headlights on your car." At the look of puzzlement on the interviewer's face, Witney explained (with that ever-present twinkle in his eye), "because you go to work in the dark and you come home in the dark." He knew what he was talking about. This man, who would become known for his fast-paced and action-packed serials and features, started making movies in the '30s. "Back then," Witney once said, "we'd start in the morning before the sun came up, shooting with flares."

Over the years, William Witney built a legacy that continues to this day. Although his hey-day in motion pictures was in the'30s, '40s and '50s, in television from the mid-'50s through the '60s and his last film was in 1982, film-makers are still being influenced by him, more than a quarter of a century later. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have admitted that Saturday afternoon serials inspired the Indiana Jones movies. And Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown) calls William Witney a "forgotten master."  Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1915, Witney began in the picture business as a messenger boy for Mascot Pictures, which shot its interiors on the Mack Sennett lot, later home to Republic Pictures. He mimeod scripts, helped gather props, did script continuity on the set and even learned editing. The first serial he helped cut was The Miracle Rider with Tom Mix.

He was holding script on location in Utah in 1937 when the director was fired and Witney was told to take over for one day. "I was the only one who knew the script," he later explained. He was 21. A replacement never showed up so that "one day" turned into a nearly 40-year career during which he directed or co-directed 24 serials, 64 features and hundreds of episodes for such diverse television series as Lassie, Sky King, Zorro, Mike Hammer, M Squad, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Tales of Wells Fargo, Laramie, The Virginian, Alfred Hitchcock, Daniel Boone, The Wild Wild West and High Chaparral. (The serial titles included such now classics as The Lone Ranger, The Adventures of Captain Marvel, The Perils of Nyoka, three Dick Tracys and Zorro's Fighting Legion, (a Steven Spielberg favorite).  Cowboy star Rex Allen, a 1983 Golden Boot honoree, called Witney "my favorite director. He got more on the screen for a dollar than any director I've ever known."  Stunt man Loren Janes, a 2001 Golden Boot recipient, has said that "the reason he could shoot so fast and get a 100 set-ups a day (on the serials), the man was prepared and he knew what he was doing. And he wouldn't pick a spot that would be horrible for a crew to get to. And he had a sensitivity that could get a quietness and special something out of the actors."

On the set, Witney always did it his way. He would shout "Come on!" instead of "Action!" to bring a group of horsemen galloping toward camera. And he never liked the way movie fights were shot.  In the early days, the stuntmen staged the fights. Three or four "would get into it," Witney once said, "and by the time three or four minutes had passed, they were out of breath and scattered all over the set, just staggering around, waiting for someone to hit them."  Then one day, he visited a friend on the Warners lot and watched Busby Berkeley doing one of his kaleidoscopic dance numbers. "He lined up the girls for one leg kick," he said. "One kick and he got it perfect. Then herehearsed another little movement and shot that one and then some close-ups to go between those shots." That's when Witney began shooting his fights in pieces, moving in for close-ups of the leads, then back to the stuntmen for the next piece. "The stunt people loved it," he said. "A fall over a table could be done with precision, without the chance of being off balance when they hit the table. It made their work easier." Witney once recalled that they averaged three to five weeks to shoot the 12 to 15 episodes of a serial (more screen time than Gone With The Wind). To do that, most serials had two directors so "you could shoot on a Monday, let's say, then the other guy shot Tuesday and you'd spend that day preparing for your turn as director on Wednesday."

What was the appeal of Westerns for Witney? "I love horses for one thing," he said. "And I love the outdoors. I always felt like John Ford did. If it rained, I was ready to shoot in the rain. If it was windy, that made a Western picture for me. I was happy to work in the wind and the rain."Quentin Tarantino told the New York Times in 2000 that he discovered Witney during a year-and-a-half period of gorging himself on film history. He came across 1958's Bonnie Parker Story and "It was like, whoa, who made this?" Tarantino said. "I have to see everything he ever did!" In so doing, the young film-maker realized that the Serial King was a true journeyman director. "When they stopped making serials," Tarantino said, "he moved over to Saturday morning cowboy pictures and did pretty much everything Roy Rogers shot between the late '40s and early '50s." When Republic Pictures closed, he went over to American International to direct, "all the while churning out TV shows," Tarantino said. "He ended with Darktown Strutters in 1975."

"I've found directors I like," Tarantino said, "but William Witney is ahead of them all. I think it's so cool that he began as the king of the cowboy serials and ended with a black exploitation film. That's a career, man." He showed Witney's Stranger At My Door to a "group of friends, all film people," Tarantino said, "and it just blew them away. I showed his Paratroop Command to Peter Bogdanovich and at one point, he goes, like, hey, wait a minute, what's happening? It was so realistic. You knew it was made by a guy who had been there. William Witney was in the Marines in World War II for something like five years. One of the things I got from his films is that the camera movements are so elegant. You have to have made movies for 30 years to be able to move the camera so unpretentiously.  I've turned quite a few friends on to William Witney," Tarantino said, "so he lives through us, at least."

William Wyler

Museum Pays Tribute to Leading Western Directors

What makes a great western movie? Some might argue it’s about the characters. Others might maintain it’s the story. Still others might insist it’s the performances. However, most would include the visual sweep and impact of big skies, open plains and towering mountains. What ties all these elements together is a strong creative director; one who controls the film’s artistic and dramatic aspects and guides the cast and technical crew through an overall vision.

What ties all these elements together is a strong and creative director. A good director is like the captain of a ship and it is he (or she) who ultimately has the responsibility of controlling the film’s artistic and dramatic aspects.

The director has a key role in choosing the cast members, production design, and the creative aspects of filmmaking.

A director gives direction to the cast and technical crew; he visualizes the script and creates an overall vision through which a film eventually becomes realized and in its best form, brings the audience into the story. Realizing this vision includes overseeing the artistic and technical elements of film production, as well as directing the shooting timetable and meeting deadlines.

America has enjoyed a long list of Western directors that have earned them legendary status with audiences. We present below a list of 25 western directors, some with extensive filmographies, other’s with a few, but all who made significant contributions in style, story and photography in amplifying the silver screen experience.



Westerns have attracted many of America’s great film directors. Our list of top 25 includes: George Archainbaud, Budd Boetticher, John English, John Ford, Henry Hathaway, Burt Kennedy, Henry King, Sam Peckinpah, Lesley Selander, George Stevens, John Sturges, Quentin Tarantino  William Wellman, William Witney and William Wyler to name a few.

These 25 directors are featured in the Museum’s new Great Directors of American Western Films, exhibit that is being developed. Exhibit frames briefly highlight their career and easy to click on QR codes or links on our webpage provide more extensive background as to their biography and filmography. Clicking on the director’s name will also take you directly to their bio.

The listing is alphabetical. The review is not intended to rate the directors, but identify 25 of those directors whose films or film made a dramatic impact on the theater going community and American culture in the Western genre.

George                      Archainbaud

Budd                         Boetticher

Robert                      Bradbury

Andre                       deToth

B Reeves                  Eason

Clint                          Eastwood

John                          English

John                          Ford

Henry                      Hathaway

Howard                   Hawks

Lambert                   Hillyer

Joe                             Kane

Burt                           Kennedy

Joseph H.               Lewis

Anthony                   Mann

Andrew                    McLaglen

Sam                           Peckinpah

Lesley                       Selander

George                      Sherman

John                          Sturges

Quentin                   Tarantino

Raoul                        Walsh

William                   Wellman

Simmon                  Wincer

William                   Witney


Contact Info

The Museum of Western Film History
701 S. Main Street
Lone Pine, CA 93545