My new book, WILD BILL WELLMAN: HOLLYWOOD REBEL, is now completed and will be published April 7, 2015 for Random House under their Pantheon Books label.
Using his own words derived from personal letters written during his action-packed tour of duty over the war-tom skies of France, remembrances from his loving mother, the notes from his shooting scripts, and the writings of his memoirs, we follow his amazing and adventurous life from childhood to legendary filmmaker. His journey races through the decades, from choir boy to juvenile delinquent; sport's hero to decorated fighter pilot; movie star and messenger boy to silent screen director of WINGS, the winner of the First Academy Award for Best Picture.
We learn about him as a studio prankster, fist-fighter, romantic and, eventually, a family man who directed classic Hollywood films like: BEGGARS OF LIFE, THE PUBLIC ENEMY, CALL OF THE WILD, A STAR IS BORN, NOTHING SACRED, BEAU GESTE, ROXIE HART, THE OX-BOW INCIDENT, THE STORY OF G.I. JOE, YELLOW SKY, BATTLEGROUND, ISLAND IN THE SKY, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, and a resume of a hundred pictures.
Like my first book, THE MAN AND HIS WINGS: WILLIAM A. WELLMAN AND THE MAKING OF THE FIRST BEST PICTURE, this book is filled with excitement, romance, comedy, camaraderie, tragedy and triumph. Where the first book centers on my father's early life, WILD BILL WELLMAN tells the complete saga of his life and times; his troubled days as a contract studio director, blackballed for accosting a studio mogul, pilfering as a delivery boy, jump-starting his career as a result of meeting a famous general in a house of ill repute, and fighting his way to the top of the filmmaker's ladder.
William "Wild Bill" Wellman's maverick style kept him away from Hollywood's social and acceptable circle of elite ... and the accompanying laurels handed out to the "in" crowd. Although his trophy case was not crowded with awards, his winnings were many. He had secured what he most wanted -- his devoted wife, Dottie, their seven children, twenty-two grandchildren and ten great grandchildren ... and the love of making movies, many different kinds of films.
He was nominated three times for Best Director, but his only Oscar came for writing the original A STAR IS BORN (1937). That picture and others have been remade and continue to attain the label of "true classic." His films received 32 Academy Award nominations and 7 Oscars. There is a continuing discovery of his unique brand of filmmaking. He deserves to be held in the pantheon of filmmakers.
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I am pleased to announce the publication of my first book,
The Man and His WINGS: William A. Wellman and the Making of the First Best Picture
The book is an adventure story filled with action, romance, humor, comradeship, tragedy, and triumph, that chronicles the early life of my father, his days as a juvenile delinquent, his military service as a decorated fighter pilot in World War I, (in the famous Lafayette Flying Corps), and his trials and tribulations in the Hollywood jungles on the way to directing "WINGS", the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and the "Star Wars" of its generation. The book boasts 66 photographs -- many never before seen-- and Wellman's heart-wrenching, history-packed letters he wrote from France during World War I.
Wellman went on to direct the films "Public Enemy", "Call of the Wild", "Beau Geste", "Nothing Sacred", and the original "A Star Is Born", "The Ox-Bow Incident", "Battleground", and "The High and the Mighty", among many others.
The foreword for the book was contributed by Robert Redford, who writes, "Maverick is a worn term that has been batted around and has described many people over time. For me, William Welllman most authentically fits this description. Feisty, independent, self-taught, and self-made, he earned his stripes as a seeker and adventurer, sure of his passions and his own mind, and not to be trifled with by the authorities who were inherited or never saw the realities of hand-to-hand conflict or earned their way through the experience of real living."
Autographed Book $35.00
(Regular retail price online and at bookstores is $49.95)
Early reviews of the book include:
"Wild Bill Wellman was one of a kind, and so is this chonicle of his life and adventures leading up to the making of "Wings." I was especially touched by his letters home from France during World War I; now I understand a bit more about the young heroes he depicted on screen." -- Leonard Maltin, Film Critic and Historian
"I've been studying and researching Wild Bill Wellman for more than 30 years, so take my word for it -- it will take something pretty spectacular to top Bill Wellman Jr.'s effort as the best film book of the year." -- John Gallagher, The National Board of Review
"Wellman's letters from France in World War I are a great discovery and add much to his rip-roaring tale of the early movies." -- Kevin Brownlow, Author of "Mary Pickford, Rediscovered" and "The Parade's Gone By..."
"The story of William Wellman is the story of a great adventurer who became a great director. "The Man and His .Wings" documents both halves of the equation, with an unprecedented intimacy, fueled by Wellman's correspondence from the airfields of France during World War I, and his own oral histories and unpublished manuscripts..." -- Scott Eyman, Author of "Lion of Hollywood" and "Print The Legend"
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Read an excerpt from the book here
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