More Forbidden Hollywood this Spring


Warner Home Video and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) partner again March 3 to shine the spotlight on a director who, perhaps more than any other, represented the essence of Warner Bros.’ films made prior to the enforcement of Hollywood’s Production Code — Oscar® winner “Wild Bill” Wellman.

TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three: William Wellman at Warner Bros. will feature six classic controversial Wellman films on double-feature discs: Other Men’s Women/The Purchase Price; Frisco Jenny/Midnight Mary and Heroes for Sale/Wild Boys of the Road. The films star big headliners of the era like Barbara Stanwyck, Mary Astor, Joan Blondell, Loretta Young, James Cagney and George Brent. Each of the films has been digitally remastered from newly-restored film elements.

Also included is a fourth bonus disc containing two insightful feature-length documentaries profiling the director, along with new commentaries, original theatrical trailers, vintage Warner Bros. shorts and cartoons of the era.

Disc 1
Other Men’s Women (1931) – This is the story of a love triangle between two burly railroad men and the one woman they both desire (Mary Astor). Jack, an engineer (Regis Toomey) and Lily’s husband, is more solid and reliable. Bill (Grant Withers) is a carefree ladies’ man with an irresponsible streak. Also featured in secondary roles in this melodrama are James Cagney and Joan Blondell as a wisecracking waitress. Directed with his signature virile style, Wellman balances scenes of fraying domesticity with vigorous vignettes of tough railroad life.

The Purchase Price (1932) – This film is a brisk Wellman mix of comedy and melodrama about torch singer Joan Gordon (Barbara Stanwyck), who tiring of her relationship with small-time hood Eddie Fields (Lyle Talbot), flees to North Dakota and becomes the mail-order bride of down-to-earth farmer Jim Gilson (George Brent). Their wedded bliss is threatened by Gilson’s own stubbornness, a lecherous neighbor and the reappearance of Fields.

Disc 2
Frisco Jenny (1932) – Along with his films about men in dire straits, Wellman helmed a string of so-called women’s pictures like this one. Ruth Chatterton plays the title role of Frisco Jenny, a woman orphaned by the 1906 earthquake who becomes the madam of a prosperous brothel. She puts her son up for adoption and as he rises to prominence as district attorney he becomes dedicated to closing down such houses. When her associate proposes killing the DA, she kills the associate and must face execution.

Midnight Mary (1933) – Working on loan-out for MGM, this crime melodrama very much in the Warner mode was based on a story by Anita Loos, about a young woman on trial for murder (Loretta Young). The story is told in flashback, as she awaits her verdict. Mary Martin recalls how her life of desperate poverty leads to involvement with gangsters. When she meets a young lawyer in a brothel, scion of a wealthy and prestigious family, he helps her turn around her life. But her past catches up with her, and she chooses to face the consequences rather than cause him scandal. By the writers of the pivotal Warner Bros. pre-code gems, Baby Face and Female.

Disc 3
Heroes for Sale (1933) – Heroes for Sale, filmed with raw, gritty immediacy by the no-nonsense Wellman, covers all the Depression-era bases, and puts the spotlight on the plight of veterans. This is the hard-hitting story of Tom Holmes (Richard Barthelmess), an unsung war hero left wounded and addicted to morphine whose struggles make him an American Everyman, a tough hero for a tough time.

Wild Boys of the Road (1933) – It’s the depression, and Tom’s mother has been out of work for months when Eddie’s father loses his job. Not to burden their parents, the two high school sophomores decide to hop the freights and look for work. This socially conscience message film helped draw attention to wandering youths cut adrift by hard times. Frankie Darro, whose acting career stretched from the 1920s into the ’70s, portrays Eddie. And the actress posing as a boy in the film is played by Dorothy Coonan, who became the real life Mrs. William Wellman.

Bonus Disc
Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (1996) – The documentary traces Wellman’s life from his birth in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1896, through his distinguished World War I career as a flier (which later got him the job of directing the classic silent film Wings), his start as a mail boy at Goldwyn, his rise to director in the 20’s, his five marriages and stormy career through the ’30s to late ’50s, with a total filmography of more than 80 films.

The Men Who Made the Movies (William Wellman) (2007) – William Wellman, the Oscar®-winning screenwriter-director of the original A Star Is Born (1937), was called “Wild Bill” during his World War I service as an aviator, a nickname that persisted in Hollywood due to his “larger-than-life” personality and lifestyle. A leap-year baby born in 1896 on the 29th of February to a stockbroker father in Brookline, Massachusetts, Wellman was the great-great-great grandson of Francis Lewis, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. His mother, the former Cecilia McCarthy, was born in Ireland. Despite an upper-middle class upbringing, the young Wellman was a hell-raiser. He excelled as an athlete and particularly enjoyed playing ice hockey, but he also enjoyed less savory pastimes, like joy-riding in stolen cars at night.

TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three: William Wellman at Warner Bros. will be available as a Collection Only for $49.92 SRP.

Available at Amazon.