October 21, 2014

Directors

William Beaudine (1892-1970) b. New York, USA.

William Beaudine

William Beaudine directed Mary Pickford, W.C. Fields, Will Hay and The Bowery Boys, and you’ll see what a difficult man this prolific American director is to pin down. The plethora of brash ‘B’ features that smothered the latter half of his career has tended to obscure the gems of the 1920s and 1930s. He had entered the industry at 17, as a prop boy for D.W. Griffith, with whom he stayed for three years. He began directing in 1915, but it was not until 1922, after scores of comedy two-reelers, that he was put in charge of his first feature. Comedy, children and Americana were his fortes at this juncture, but his reputation received a boost following his polished and delicate handling of two Mary Pickford vehicles, Little Annie Rooney (1925) and Human Sparrows (1926). For the next ten years, Beaudine enjoyed life in the upper echelon of Hollywood directors, culminating in his direction of W.C. Fields’ The Old Fashioned Way (1934). The visit to England that followed seems in retrospect to have been a watershed in Beaudine’s career. Although his 13 British films included four with Will Hay, all well received critically and publicly, Beaudine found himself unable to regain his former footing on his return to Hollywood. There is little to say about these post 1937 years, save that the Torchy Blane films are fun, some of The Bowery Boys films, which he directed from 1943 to 1958 are better than others. The pipe-smoking, dryly-witty Beaudine made only one recorded comment on the dire nature of most of his programme fillers. When asked to rush the completion of some long-forgotten Monogram action film, he is reputed to have replied: ‘You mean, someone out there is actually waiting to see this?’ He also directed several ‘Ham and Bud’ comedies for Kalem, sometimes uncredited, in 1915 and, according to his own records, more than 50 one and two-reelers for the Christie company between 1918 and 1921 titles remain untraceable.



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