Wednesday, August 17, 2022

#2,801. Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (1995) - Biopic Documentaries


In a late scene from Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick, Bill Wellman Jr., son of the great director William A. Wellman (the subject of this film), tells a story about the final weeks of his father’s life. Diagnosed with leukemia and having refused chemotherapy, William Wellman, realizing he had a short time to live, was resting at home when he turned to his son and said “Damnit Bill, don’t feel sorry for me! I’ve lived the life of a hundred men!”

Having just watched this documentary, I feel that the late Mr. Wellman was selling himself short. A pilot who did battle in the skies over France during World War I and a skilled filmmaker who never let the studios push him around, William Wellman lived the life of 200 men!

Directed by Todd Robinson, Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick is a biopic of award-winning filmmaker William A. Wellman, whose 1928 movie Wings won the first ever Academy Award for Best Picture. Starting with his early days in Brookline, Massachusetts (where he was born in 1896) and touching briefly on his service in France’s Lafayette Flying Corps during World War I, this 1996 documentary is at its best when delving into Wellman’s Hollywood career, during which he directed over 80 motion pictures.

Featuring interviews with noted celebrities like Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Nancy Reagan, Sidney Poitier, and Clint Eastwood (among others), Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick contains clips and behind-the-scenes tales from such classic Wellman films as Wings, The Public Enemy, Beau Geste, and The High and the Mighty while also peppering in stories of the director’s infamous battles with studio executives (rumor has it he once dumped an entire truckload of manure onto a producer’s desk).

An adventurer who never backed down from a fight, William A. Wellman was a forced to be reckoned with, and Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick more than does this legendary filmmaker justice.
Rating: 9 out of 10

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