Raoul Walsh | Subjects | Structure and Story Telling | Visual Style

Films: Regeneration | Pillars of Society | The Thief of Bagdad | The Lucky Lady | What Price Glory | The Monkey Talks | The Loves of Carmen | Sadie Thompson | The Red Dance | In Old Arizona | The Big Trail | Women of All Nations | The Yellow Ticket | Me and My Gal | Sailor's Luck | The Bowery | Going Hollywood | Baby Face Harrington | Every Night at Eight | Big Brown Eyes | When Thief Meets Thief | Artists and Models | Hitting a New High | College Swing | The Roaring Twenties | Dark Command | They Drive by Night | High Sierra | The Strawberry Blonde | Manpower | They Died with Their Boots On | In This Our Life | Desperate Journey | Gentleman Jim | Background to Danger | Northern Pursuit | Uncertain Glory | Objective, Burma! | Salty O'Rourke | The Horn Blows at Midnight | The Man I Love | Cheyenne | Pursued | Silver River | Fighter Squadron | One Sunday Afternoon | Colorado Territory | White Heat | The Enforcer | Captain Horatio Hornblower | Along the Great Divide | Distant Drums | The World in His Arms | Glory Alley | Blackbeard, the Pirate | The Lawless Breed | Sea Devils | A Lion Is in the Streets | Gun Fury | Saskatchewan | Battle Cry | The Tall Men | The Revolt of Mamie Stover | The King and Four Queens | Band of Angels | The Naked and the Dead | The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw | A Private's Affair | Esther and the King | Come September | A Distant Trumpet

Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on directors) | Mathematics and Visual Style | Color in the Arts

Raoul Walsh

Raoul Walsh is an American director, who made films from the 1910's to the 1960's. He published an autobiography, Each Man in his Time; the life story of a director (1974). There is a good article by Fred Camper on The Big Trail, at his website at: http://www.fredcamper.com/Film/Walsh.html.

Damien Bona on Walsh (from a_film_by): "The character nuances, the superb use of landscape as a such a defining force that it practically becomes a character in and of itself, the psychological depth and the sheer exuberance and ribald camaraderie."

Raoul Walsh: Subjects

Some common themes and subjects in Raoul Walsh films: Respect for Minorities: The poor and working class characters, and the opposition to religious intolerance, derive directly from Walsh's mentor, D. W. Griffith.

Opposition to Alcohol:

Communication and Technology: Settings: Locales and Time Periods: Common images in Walsh: Animals: Flowers: Music and Dance: Romance:

Raoul Walsh: Structure and Story Telling

Story Structure: History and Story Structure: The Visualized, the Fantastic and Story Structure: Geography and Story Structure: Detection and Mystery:

Raoul Walsh: Visual Style

Locales and Staging: Geometry: Camera Movement: Visual Style: Architecture and Images: Color: Costumes and Color: Costumes:


Regeneration (1915) is Walsh's first American made feature film to survive today. He had previously worked as an assistant to D. W. Griffith.

Films set among the Poor: The Griffith Tradition

Regeneration deals with poor people in New York City's Bowery district, and was partly shot on location there.

D. W. Griffith and his pupils all made films set among the very poor. These films are mainly shot in slum districts, and deal sympathetically with the plight of their trapped characters. These stories often have tragic endings, in which one or more of the lead characters dies. The stories often deal with the daily lives of the characters. Examples: Griffith's Intolerance (the modern day, "The Mother and the Law" segments), Broken Blossoms, Way Down East and Isn't Life Wonderful, Raoul Walsh's Regeneration, Sailor's Luck, The Bowery, They Drive by Night, Glory Alley, Erich von Stroheim's Greed, Tod Browning's Outside the Law, and Freaks, King Vidor's The Crowd, Street Scene. Many of these films have location shooting. Greed strongly influenced Jean Renoir, who used Stroheim as his model for realism in film. Through Renoir, we get the birth of Neorealism, and much of the modern cinema. Griffith and his followers extended their concern to the poor and suffering in Europe: e.g. Griffith's Isn't Life Wonderful, Walsh's The Yellow Ticket.

Directors not personally associated with Griffith also made films about the poor, for example, Alice Guy's short film The Sewer (1911). And Marshall Neilan's Mary Pickford vehicle, Amarilly of Clothesline Alley (1918), seems like a comedy-drama, more light-hearted reworking of "The Mother and the Law" section of Intolerance.

Walsh relentlessly cross cuts. This device is often seen in both Griffith and his pupils, such as Tod Browning.

Crowds in Motion

The fire on the boat here anticipates the explosive finale of White Heat. We see people on top of the roughly three story tall boat here, just as Cagney will be on top of the oil tanks at the end of the later film.

The vivid boat sequences here resemble those in Walsh's Captain Horatio Hornblower, made many years later. Walsh shows his great flair for crowd scenes and spectacle, already early in his career. These show large number of extras, all performing their own individual bits of business, and yet all coordinated into well designed visual wholes. Walsh has a powerful geometric sense that allows him to group his crowds into easily understood visual patterns and forms.

Throughout Regeneration, Walsh shoots many scenes from an overhead angle. This allows him to view his crowd scenes as a group. It also creates a sense of drama. The overhead angle is inherently dramatic, emphatic and sensational.

As far back as the funeral scene in Regeneration, Walsh divided the crowd into two groups, one arranged on each side of his overhead shot.

Walsh often shows streams of people, all moving in a direction. The first look at the boat excursion shows a steady stream of people moving along the gangway into the boat. This crowd makes the steady progress of other streams of people that will flow through both Regeneration, and later Walsh films. Such streams are a basic structural unit of both Walsh's crowds, and the visual compositions that contain them.

Walsh often shows more that one stream of people on the screen at once. Sometimes, as in some of the boat shots, these streams are moving in opposite directions. In other cases, such as the two streams of policemen towards the end, who pile into two police cars, these streams are in parallel directions.

Walsh has a unique shot featuring the police. Before they go out on assignment, they group into a rectilinear grid. Then each raises his nightstick into the air, in synchronized motion. This shot shows Walsh's flair for geometric composition, and for the regular motion of crowds. Walsh executes this pattern in record time - it shows his typical speediness and economy used in his shots.


Walsh loves circular masks in this film. These bring circles into his compositions. His later films, such as Captain Horatio Hornblower, do not have masks, but they often employ circular arcs in their compositions. Masks are a silent film technology, in which part of the screen is blacked out, allowing the inner part of the image to be framed by a geometric shape. In Regeneration, these masks are usually circular. Walsh clearly carefully composed each such image to harmoniously blend with its circular frame.

There are many other circles in the images, all playing a role in Walsh's compositions. These include:

Some of these circular forms do not just play a visual role, although that is important. They also tend to be key objects, at the center of the plot in the scene in which they appear.

The arched door is at the gang's hideout. Sometimes it is shown in the background of the composition: a technique that runs through many Walsh films. But there is also a shot through an arch of the gang, with the arch forming a circular arc at the top of the frame. This anticipates similar compositions in Fighter Squadron.

Geometrical Environments

In addition to circles, highly geometrical environments run through Walsh, often based on straight lines. In Regeneration, these include: In Glory Alley, the hero's room will have a geometric skylight on top. This is seen from the inside of the room, though, rather than outside from the roof, as in Regeneration.

Vertical Environments

Walsh loves vertical environments. As early as Regeneration, they play a key role in his cinema: Walsh shows people descending down the boat side using ropes: in The Big Trail, the pioneers will lower their wagons down cliffs using ropes, as well as moving people down the cliffs by climbing down ropes.

Vertical environments are often full of danger in Walsh: the power lines in Manpower, the skyscraper-side finale of The Horn Blows at Midnight. The clothes line scene in Regeneration is filled with danger and suspense. The character falls here, as other Walsh criminals will.


As early as Regeneration, the recurring Walsh image of pets is featured. The young hero has a cat, and later, the heroine's cat has a comic encounter with a dog outside in the street.


Flowers are another Walsh image, that makes an early appearance in Regeneration. The heroine is associated with white roses, sent by the hero.

Sound Equipment

Sound equipment technology, used for communication, runs through Walsh. In Regeneration, it is represented by the bells that summon the police to action, at the police station.

A Strange Flashback

The saloon scene contains an unusual narrative device. The hero drinks beer: and as usual, alcohol is something of which Walsh strongly disapproves. We get a sudden flashback to the hero's youth, showing him more innocently consuming an ice cream cone. This very brief flashback is a highly unusual technique.

Also an off-trail narrative effect: a drinker in the saloon is having DT's, and we see them as he does. Walsh shows a goldfish seeming to swim in his beer.


Many of the characters in Regeneration are called "gangsters". In 1915, this term has a slightly different meaning than it will in the late 1920's and beyond. These men are criminals. But they are two bit crooks. They are members of small gangs of street corner criminals, and hence known as "gangsters". But they are not big bosses of organized crime. Their tiny gangs bear little resemblance to the large, powerful mobs of later years. Among other things, this means that though Regeneration is a movie about "gangsters", it is not clear that it is a "gangster film" in the sense that the term will later be used. It shares few of the conventions of later, genuine gangster films, including Walsh's own The Roaring Twenties (1939), High Sierra (1941) or White Heat (1949). The major cycle of true gangster films seem to have originated with Josef von Sternberg's Underworld (1927), a year after the big success of the gangster stage-play Broadway (1926), by Philip Dunning and George Abbott. I do not know enough about the history of silent movie era crime films to describe what intermediate bridges, if any, occur between Regeneration (1915) and Underworld (1927). For example, Lon Chaney reportedly played a gangster in the lost film, Voices of the City (Wallace Worsley, 1921) (what a beautiful title!).

When Raoul Walsh visited our campus in 1972, we asked him about Sternberg's gangster movies. He disclaimed any affinity between them and his own. He poked some satirical fun at them, suggesting that they were elaborate and somewhat arty productions. One could tell that he was not trying to say they were bad movies - underneath his humor, he clearly had a lot of respect for Sternberg. But he also plainly felt that they were an essentially different kind of cinema from his own.


Some good American films of the 1910's offer context for Regeneration. Both of these films are easily available - and should be watched!

The Gangsters and the Girl (Scott Sidney, 1914) has another two-bit street corner gang. It has a memorable scene on a fire escape then a roof top. Both the gangsters and the location photography anticipate Regeneration.

Children of Eve (John H. Collins, 1915) also has a street criminal (not part of a gang), and location photography. It also has a key element of Regeneration: a settlement house in the slums, run by an idealistic member of the upper classes. Both Regeneration and Children of Eve look at the tremendous contrast between the rich and the working classes.

Release dates:

Battling Couples

The battling foster parents in Regeneration return in The Bowery (1933) as the fighting couple at the melee. In The Bowery, this is played purely for laughs, but it is mixed in tone in Regeneration. It is partly comic, and partly also terrifying for the little kid who is trapped in the middle between these two giants. He is literally in the middle of them, and Walsh irises in on him to emphasize his trapped feelings. In both films, the couple are purely of the lowest classes, and their behavior is physical, uninhibited and almost absurdly violent.


Two early scenes emphasize ideals of masculinity. In Walsh, a real man is someone who sticks up for people weaker than himself. His teenage hero shows he has the right stuff by protecting a smaller kid who is being bullied. Walsh repeatedly shows the look of adoration on the smaller kid's face for this tough guy who is standing up to a leader of a whole gang. This ideal was part of a whole generation of filmmakers' concepts. A hero was the protector of the weak. He would fight, but only to help the powerless. The scene also underlines Walsh's concepts of male bonding.

The scene is repeated later, with variations. Here the grown-up hero defends the district attorney when he is attacked by a gang of toughs. Here the hero only intervenes when he sees the pleading eyes of the heroine. Also, the district attorney is physically weaker than the crooks, but he is not purely powerless. He is a wealthy, powerful member of the upper classes, symbolized by his white tie and tails. Meanwhile, both the hero and the tough are in the rough clothes of the lowest classes. The film suggests that feelings of brotherhood are flowing across class lines. It also anticipates the finale of The Roaring Twenties (1939), when gangster Cagney sacrifices himself to protect his ex-girl friend's upper crust district attorney boyfriend. In both cases, the upper class man is attractive, but much less strong than the lower class gangster. The whole situation is a complex set of ambiguous feelings, with the two men being both class rivals, romantic rivals, and men who are bonding together. The situation gives a rare opportunity for a lower class man to be in a position of ascendancy over an upper class man.

In this it anticipates Sadie Thompson, and the duel between the noble Marine Sergeant, a lower class man played by Walsh himself, and the powerful upper crust reformer who is lording it over the islands. Here too, the district attorney is a reformer. However, the DA in Regeneration is a much more likable figure, being basically an honorable person, unlike the sinister reformer in Sadie Thompson. He is also far more masculine and macho.

Gender Outsiders

The settlement worker is a man far less macho than the hero. He's thin, wears glasses, and a floppy bow tie: all visual signals in 1915 of a less macho man: maybe even a queer man. Yet Walsh presents the man as admirably courageous, determined and heroic in his own way. He shows the insight and the guts to run a settlement, and preach on street corners (one of several Walsh characters who engage in public speaking). The character is treated as someone who is making an important contribution to society, and one with the courage to stand up in all sorts of unique ways. Walsh films will often show support and admiration of gender outsiders.

Walsh's approach is both related to, and the opposite from, that of a contemporary film by another director, Wild and Woolly (John Emerson, 1917). In Wild and Woolly, the athletic hero (Douglas Fairbanks) ridicules an office worker, who is less macho than he is. Both Regeneration and Wild and Woolly see men as divided into categories, on the basis of their degree of machismo. In Wild and Woolly, macho is seen as good, and non-macho is seen as inferior: someone who is simply lacking in masculinity. In Regeneration, both macho and non-macho are seen as good, and both are shown as capable of making a contribution to society. In Wild and Woolly, the un-macho are the targets of public ridicule; in Regeneration, the macho and the un-macho work together as a team. (Wild and Woolly seems much inferior to the work of Walsh. In addition to its disdain for the un-macho, it shows virulent prejudice against Mexicans and Native Americans.)

The Music Hall

The rowdy music hall in Regeneration is one of many lower class dance halls and bars that will reappear in Walsh's work. Later on they will be major settings in The Bowery, Sailor's Luck, The Roaring Twenties, Manpower, Glory Alley and The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, as well as his Marine Corps films. Music in Walsh is often associated with both dancing and the working classes. The entertainers on his stages tend to be as raffish as the people in the audience. They have little hauteur or show biz remoteness from ordinary folk.

Much of the audience is on balconies here, anticipating the many-tiered orchestra platform at the finale of Going Hollywood. These are some of Walsh's containers for men.

Black Musicians

The black musicians on-stage are presented with admiration and enthusiasm. Black swing and jazz musicians run through Walsh's work, always in a positive light.

Pillars of Society

Pillars of Society (1916) survives, but I have not yet been able to see it. A production still available on the Internet shows some Walsh tropes. The still shows an upper class gathering.

D.W. Griffith perhaps "supervised" Pillars of Society. The still shows a woman upbraiding the hero, while a large cast of diverse characters looks on. It anticipates the famous tableau in Griffith's Way Down East (1920) where the squire orders poor Lillian Gish out, out into the storm, while the rest of the cast looks on.

The tableau also recalls a scene in Walsh's Regeneration (1915). This is the "Eight-thirty at the Deering home" meeting (around 14:30 in Regeneration). That scene shows a bunch of upper class people, quietly grouped around a table. Similarities:


Vases of roses are on either side of the photo. Walsh liked flowers in his films, especially roses. There are also flower designs on the carpet.


The photo has Walsh's circles:



The Thief of Bagdad

Mixed Genres

The Thief of Bagdad (1924) is an Arabian Nights fantasy. Its two parts are quite different: In the later fantasy section, the characters journey to numerous locales. This sort of "road movie" structure is used fairly often in Walsh.


The Thief of Bagdad is rich in circles: While Regeneration is full of masks, often circular, I could not find any masked shots in The Thief of Bagdad.

Geometrical Environments

In addition to circles, much of Bagdad can be described as one of Walsh's geometrical environments. The entire city is a riot of geometrical forms. Other Walsh films often include scenes where the heroes visit geometrical environments. But The Thief of Bagdad is a whole film set in such a geometric city.

Many of the costumes are geometrical, especially the hats. Clothes can also be covered with square or diamond lozenge patterns.

The Island of Wak is also richly geometrical, this time in Chinese mode.

Vertical Environments

Walsh loves vertical environments. Many of the Thief's escapades have him ascending or descending steep walls:


Several Walsh films have murals, which form the background of actions. In The Thief of Bagdad, the Mongol Palace is filled with murals. They show birds and trees.

Containers for Men

The giant jars in which the hero hides, are some of Walsh's circular containers for men. The hero's underground lair might also qualify.

To escape a giant jar, the hero smashes a hole through its side with his feet. This is an example of a Walsh character smashing through a set.

The cabin on the villain's boat, when he visits the Island of Wak, is shaped like half of a cylinder. It contains the villain inside.

The huge palanquins which carry the princes, are also containers for men. They are rectilinear, however, not circular.

The hero gets into the palace by holding on to the underside of a litter. This anticipates Me and My Gal, where a gangster escapes prison by hiding in a sling under a car.

Models and Maps

The villain has a model of the Caliph's palace in The Thief of Bagdad.

The hero is also given a chart, to aide him on his quest.

The Mongol Prince's palanquin is shaped like a pagoda. It can be considered as a model version of a building.

Even more elaborate map and diagram imagery will appear in later Walsh: the floor plan of the resort, the police map in High Sierra, the giant map room used for planning and the wall map in Fighter Squadron.

Camera Movement

There is a striking tracking shot, following the hero as he moves through the busy Bagdad streets.

When the boat approaches the Island of Wak, we get a Point of View camera movement, showing the Island from the moving boat. This anticipates the ferry arriving at the start of Sunrise (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1927), which has a similar POV movement.

When the hidden Mongol army emerges, there is a track past numerous Mongol soldiers.

After the engagement is announced, the characters move forward. The camera moves along forward with them. Then a cut occurs, to a new static non-moving shot. This shot shows a delightful procession of the court.

Depth Staging

There is a striking deep focus shot, when the hero climbs the tree along the palace wall. We see deep through an archway, to many figures moving along the ground in the depth of the screen.

Walsh Characters

Several Walsh films have a working class man, in love with an upper class woman. The Thief of Bagdad has its working class thief, in love with a Princess.

The hero is also one of Walsh's crook protagonists. These Walsh crooks usually seem to have working class backgrounds and manners, and the Thief is no exception.

The Thief reforms under the influence of the heroine's love, and tries to make something of himself, just like the hero of Regeneration.

Many Walsh films with American settings have sympathetic priest characters. The Thief of Bagdad, set in medieval Arabia, has The Holy Man. He is a reverently presented Moslem preacher. Although The Holy Man is an Islamic clergyman, not a Catholic priest, his character is very similar to that of Walsh's priests. The hero of The Thief of Bagdad goes to him for counsel, just as the hero of Regeneration goes to the priest.

The Holy Man is also one of many sympathetic Walsh characters who engage in public speaking. He preaches the film's key message on the streets of Bagdad, about the importance of work.

The Rich Exploiting the Poor

When the three princes set out the treasure hunt, they order their servants to do all the hard work, while they sit around and watch. This work can be extremely dangerous, and the servant who climbs the idol falls and dies (a common fate in Walsh for men on heights).

More sociological Walsh films show working men systematically exploited by the rich, often forced into meeting quotas that lead to their death.

The Finale

The finale has the hero surrounded by huge crowds, acclaimed as the military savior of Bagdad. This anticipates the New Orleans crowds who celebrate the return of Ralph Meeker as a war hero in Glory Alley.

Both films show the hero using as little real violence as possible.

Sound Equipment

Walsh loved machines used for sound communication. In his modern day films, these are high tech. But his historical films also contain such equipment. The Thief of Bagdad repeatedly shows a giant gong, struck at daybreak. The hero also first learns of the heroine's existence, when he hears a guitar played in her chamber.


The Thief of Bagdad has the heroine attacked by drugs twice. Once, she is nearly knocked out by fumes from a poisoned rose. Later, she is rendered unconscious when she breathes drugged fumes from a brazier. Both scenes are presented as sinister.

Walsh films often show characters breathing gaseous substances. There is the dental gas in The Strawberry Blonde, and the oxygen frequently breathed by the pilots in Fighter Squadron.

The hero is also attacked, by a doped drink the sirens try to persuade him to taste. (This event only survives in an outtake from the movie.) Walsh films are full of warnings about the danger of alcohol. One wonders if these scenes showing danger from drugs in The Thief of Bagdad are an extension of this concern. Certainly, The Thief of Bagdad is completely anti-drug.


The Princess is another Walsh heroine associated with roses. She learns about her boyfriend-to-come, when a rose shape appears in the sand tray. And the prophecy is that her husband will be the first suitor to touch the rose-tree in her garden.

The sand rose includes not just the flower, but also the stem. Walsh typically includes both rose flowers and leafy stems, when he shows roses in his movies.

We get both an image (the shape of the rose in the sand) and a real rose tree in The Thief of Bagdad. Similarly, in The World in His Arms, the heroine has both rose flowers and leaves embroidered on her clothes, and real rose flowers and stems in a vase.


The hero is one of several Walsh working class men, who like to get dressed up in the fancy clothes of the upper classes. Here, the hero disguises himself as a prince. His shiny black clothes anticipate the black rain slickers worn in more modern day Walsh films.


The Thief of Bagdad sometimes reminds one of books by Dr. Seuss to come. The open, curving staircases, like the one in the heroine's bedroom, will recur in Dr. Seuss. So will the strange shaped hats, such as the villain's nested cones.

Sand divination returns in Suez (Allan Dwan, 1938). The supernatural is a bunch of hooey, and I don't approve of sand divination in real life. But one has to admit, it makes for some visually inventive scenes.

The crystal ball in The Wizard of Oz will also let people see events at a distance.

The enchanted tree people anticipate the Ents in The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien will write in the 1940's.

The Lucky Lady

The Lucky Lady (1926) is a comedy-romance, about a princess in a tiny European country. The film has attracted little interest from film historians, who almost never mention it. It is enjoyable light entertainment, however. And today, when comedy-romances are made by the carload about princesses and/or princes, it might potentially please a large audience.

As best I can tell, The Lucky Lady (1926) has nothing in common at all with the later Gene Hackman film The Lucky Lady (1975).

Male Bonding

The hero get information from a guard, identifying the heroine. The hero goes out of his way to be friendly with the guard. This is a brief example of something that plays a bigger role in other Walsh films: male bonding.

The guard is in a spectacular white dress uniform. They have elaborate white fur caps: examples of the unusual hats that run through Walsh films.

Unlike the government agents/police at the finale, who wear dark Army uniforms, these guards in white seem innocent, friendly and non-political. They are there to be ornamental at government buildings.

The border guards have a third group of uniforms. They are darker than the white uniforms, but lighter in shade than the sinister government agents. The border guards seem serious about their work of manning the border. But they don't seem malicious or malevolent.

Flirting with Feet

Walsh films often show the hero and heroine flirting with each other, through their feet. The Lucky Lady has a variant: two men interacting through their feet.

The government agent keeps trying to provoke an incident with the hero, as a pretext to arresting him. His first attempts fail. But the agent finally succeeds by stepping on the hero's foot.

Both men are in evening clothes. The hero's highly shiny black leather shoes have an erotic charge.

No Maps

The Lucky Lady lacks something omnipresent in Walsh films: maps.

The very end of the film has brief geographical information: a border guard gives directions to a hotel.


The Lucky Lady has circles:

What Price Glory

Play to Film

What Price Glory (1926) is an adaptation of the 1924 anti-war play by Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings. The play is notable for its brilliant dialogue.

Lea Jacobs' film criticism book The Decline of Sentiment (2008) has a detailed discussion of the play What Price Glory and the numerous films it influenced, including this Walsh adaptation.

If I were casting a stage production or talking film of What Price Glory, I would have cast Edmund Lowe in the lead role of Captain Flagg, and Victor McLaglen as his tough guy rival Sergeant Quirt. Lowe has the biting sarcasm and magnificent comic satire needed to embody Flagg, the play's hilarious anti-war commentator. And McLaglen has the toughness and brute strength for Quirt. However, in the film they are cast the other way around! Admittedly, Lowe's verbal wit and delivery are of no use in a silent film. Lowe will get a chance to use his verbal skills later in In Old Arizona (1929).

What Victor McLaglen has is the body. McLaglen is tall and built like a gorilla. He looks like a statue in his Marine Corps uniform, superbly muscled. This seems to be what the filmmakers wanted. McLaglen is also facially handsome in a tough guy way. Victor McLaglen was 39 at the time of filming, and at his peak as a leading man. As for his characterization, he spends a lot of time laughing with animal satisfaction every time he is near a dame. He has a rich variety of grins. He is very believable as a Captain, even if he is not much like the Captain Flagg of the play. The play's Captain Flagg is supposed to be very well built. McLaglen fully captures this aspect. But he is completely lacking in the wit or cynical social consciousness and criticism of the play's Flagg.

A Cultural Vanishing Act

The play What Price Glory created a sensation in 1924. It was widely viewed in its day as a major work. It is still easily available in print form, in anthologies of plays that are in most public libraries. Despite this, one suspects the play has faded from public consciousness - which is not a good thing.

Neither film version of What Price Glory is very close to the original play. Walsh's silent film inevitably loses the dialogue that was central to the play. And John Ford's 1952 talkie version is drastically re-worked. Apparently the play was never dramatized on television. So there is no straightforward film version of the play What Price Glory available for modern day viewers.


The war imagery will return in the World War I opening of The Roaring Twenties: rat holes, bombardments at night marked by spectacular explosions, ruined buildings.

A truck brings wounded men back from battle. The stretchers inside the truck are stacked, like a truck used for hauling livestock. This is a Walsh container with men inside.

The play has been expanded, with a long prologue showing the two leads in China and elsewhere. This turns it into a film set in many locations, a Walsh tradition.


Walsh has also added many animals, which run through his films:

Heights and Depths

The early scene at Shanghai Mabel's is an example of heights in Walsh. Mabel's apartment is one story up from the street. We see her looking out from her upstairs porch down to the street below. We also see the outdoor staircase that leads up from the alley and street to her apartment. Walsh has people going up and down this staircase. But otherwise, he has none of the climbing or falling that characterize his "heights" sequences in other films.

Depth is represented by the trenches. In a terrifying shot, a trench collapses on the soldiers inside, turning it into one of Walsh's underground chambers.


Walsh men often wind up in water. There is a ditch or pond in front of a tavern in What Price Glory.

The men also wade through a stream, during a battle. The same battle shows them marching through mud.

Flirting with Feet

Quirt is seated, stretching out his legs. He locks his ankles around the ankles of Shanghai Mabel, immobilizing her. It is a strikingly erotic image. Walsh characters often flirt with their feet.

Flagg will kick up his heels, when he's kissed in the saloon in Bar-le-Duc. We see a geometric pattern of nails in his boot soles.

Later, another kind of Walsh flirting will occur, with Charmaine sitting in Captain Flagg's lap.

Sound Equipment

Shanghai Mabel has a phonograph player, something that will return in Sadie Thompson. Walsh heroines sometimes love music: see Virginia Mayo's love for her radio in White Heat.

Forward Camera Movement

Captain Flagg is shown several times with forward camera movement. It gives him a propulsive quality, as he pushes his way forward: This is followed by a fixed shot in which the men all raise their rifles-with-bayonets in unison. It recalls the brief police drill with nightsticks in Regeneration. In both films, a group of men raise stick-like weapons in unison, in a brief gesture.


What Price Glory has circles:

The Monkey Talks

The Monkey Talks (1927) is a comedy.

The hero is a circus performer who wears a chimpanzee suit. Please see my list of Animal Costumes in Fiction.


The Monkey Talks has circles:

The Loves of Carmen

The Loves of Carmen (1927) is a drama.


The Loves of Carmen has circles:

Sadie Thompson

Sadie Thompson (1928) is the first screen version of Somerset Maugham's tale. It is a pretty grim story, and far from one of my favorite Walsh movies. Still, it has some impressive qualities.

Religious Tolerance

The film is a thorough condemnation of what we now call the Religious Right. Walsh's concern with repressive reformers echoes D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916). In both films the reformers are explicitly motivated by religious fanaticism, something both filmmakers view with horror. Both films show the reformers going to the authorities, and interfering with other people's lives. These sinister reformers will recur in a comic way in Going Hollywood (1933), in the leaders of the girls' school. Walsh opens Sadie Thompson with a brief plea for tolerance, contained in one of the early titles. One of Walsh's final films, Esther and the King (1960), will also explicitly denounce religious "intolerance".

Walsh will make another film about the dangers of religious fanaticism in The Yellow Ticket (1931). He will also look critically at fanatic Indian haters in They Died with Their Boots On (1941) and A Distant Trumpet (1964).

Walsh is a consistent supporter of religion in his movies, but he wants religion to be gentle and supportive of people, not fanatic. Sympathetic priest characters appear throughout his work, in such films as Regeneration, Gentleman Jim and Colorado Territory. Often times, these priests form a mentor to the hero. There are also the sympathetic Jewish characters and Southern preacher in The Naked and the Dead, whose religious commitment play such a positive role in the finale of that film. In the settlement house in Regeneration, the hero sees a sign saying "God Is Love". This quote from the Bible sums up Walsh's religious views.

The Heroine

The heroine hangs out with the Marines, and manages to communicate easily with them. She is one of a long line of Walsh heroines who relate well in a man's world. Hornblower is most impressed with Virginia Mayo when she deals with the epidemic aboard ship, and Jane Russell joins right up with the other cowboys in The Tall Men. Even someone as refined as Olivia de Havilland functions well as an Army wife in They Died with Their Boots On, stepping right up and dealing with the issues of the film.

Raoul Walsh as Actor

Sadie Thompson is most interesting for Walsh's own acting job within it. He plays Marine Sergeant Tim O'Hara, a man who romances the heroine, played by Gloria Swanson. Walsh and Swanson were having a real life love affair at the time, one that is still celebrated. According to his autobiography, Walsh was trying to launch an acting career with this role. He would have liked to have become a regular leading man in films. Walsh had acted a great deal during his earliest, pre-1915 days in film, but this was his only sizable role after he became established as a director after 1915.

One also suspects that Walsh was projecting his own feelings with this role. Tim O'Hara is one of many Walsh heroes who is a member of a group of men. Such male bonding is very important to Walsh. Walsh had given the most idealized portrait of male friendship in What Price Glory (1926), in which his heroes were two Marines, and he would repeat his Marine friendships in Battle Cry (1955) and Marines, Lets Go (1961). All of Walsh's heroes are kind hearted men who have the warmest feelings for other people. They want to be friends and pals with others, and to be accepted as part of the group. There is no malice whatsoever to these men - they simply want friendship and social acceptance.

Like other Walsh heroes, Tim O'Hara is deeply, passionately in love with the heroine. He gives her his total support, and deep romantic commitment. Andrew Sarris has pointed out the paradoxes in Walsh's heroes. Because they are already depicted as very successful at traditional male roles, they are able to express the most romantic personal feelings without any loss of face. The emotional directness, openness and sincerity of Walsh's heroes is deeply impressive.

The Marine Corps uniforms and Sergeant's stripes here also serve as indicators of masculinity. Walsh frequently cast his heroes in such uniforms. It was clearly very important to Walsh to embody such a hero himself. By 1928, Walsh had directed around 35 feature films. But when he constructed a screen image for himself, it was as a penniless Marine Sergeant. Walsh was expressing feelings that are common to many men. But his profession of film director allowed him to live out his fantasies and ideals in a way not open to most other guys.

Raoul Walsh was clearly deeply oriented to his friends. His stories that he told us in 1972 often concentrated on the exuberant adventures he had with his buddies. In his autobiography he is proudest of having discovered John Wayne: Walsh gave him his first starring role in The Big Trail (1930). Also, when I asked him whether he knew Frank Borzage when they both worked at Fox around 1930, he lit up like a Christmas tree. Walsh and Borzage had been friends, and the memories this triggered of his old friend delighted him. He was plainly touched that we remembered Borzage's work.


Heights are mild in Sadie Thompson. The hero climbs up to the outside of the heroine's window: a climb that is not that high! Walsh has an interesting shot, showing the hero's eyes as the only part of him that reach up to the heroine's window.

Later, the hero actually climbs into the hotel through a window.

The ship has a gangway, which the heroine descends. Later the dock has a staircase.


Exhaustion can be ominous in Walsh. The tragic finale emphasizes how tired Sadie and Davidson are.


The ship officer is shown drunk. His problems might just be comedy relief - but they might also be one of Walsh's anti-alcohol statements.

He gets a sign attached to him, advertising a non-alcoholic drink.

The cartoon showing the hero as a baby also has a non-alcoholic drink: he is shown holding a milk bottle.

Mental Imagery

The heroine visualizes herself in prison. Mental imagery shots occasionally occur in Walsh.


Sadie's record player is one of Walsh's beloved sound machines.

The Marines use bugle calls for communication.

We see a drum being beaten. This is perhaps more symbolical of the rain, rather than any sort of communication.

Camera Movement

There are some simple pans, showing the people on ship at the start. They go through very small arcs.

A camera movement follows Sadie in the hotel, as she walks to the back of the frame.

Climactically, a camera movement follows Davidson, as he walks in towards Sadie.


Sadie Thompson has circles: Circular motion also is prominent: A masking effect showing the heroine, is elliptical on one side, and largely vertical on the other.

The hat-rack at the hotel is of diamond lozenge shapes.

A fan looks octagonal: a rectangle with cut-off corners.


The rain ponchos worn by the Marines get shiny and dark when wet. Rain slickers for men show up in other Walsh films.

The hero gives the heroine a flower, which she puts in her hair. She is one of many Walsh heroines associated with flowers.

The visor worn by the heroine at the start, is one of the odd hats that run through Walsh.

Early in the film, the hero (Walsh) is in a darker shirt than the other Marines, making him stand out in the crowd. Distinctive costuming for the lead is a standard Hollywood technique.

The Red Dance

The Red Dance (1928) is a silent film.


The Red Dance has circles: Some of the characters are dressed in circles: Circular motion also is prominent:

In Old Arizona

In Old Arizona (1928) is an early sound-film Western. It is co-directed by Walsh and Irving Cummings. I have no information on who did what in the film, or the nature of their collaboration.

The Cisco Kid

In Old Arizona is the first talking film about the Cisco Kid, although there had been silent films before.

The Cisco Kid is a beloved Western character who would star in many subsequent films and television shows (not by Walsh). While I really like the 1950's Cisco Kid TV show, the 1928 In Old Arizona is a disconcerting experience. While later works show the Kid as an idealistic hero, In Old Arizona depicts him as a thief, outlaw and murderer. For this and many other reasons, In Old Arizona is one of the Walsh films I enjoy the least. The sour finale is another major problem.

The book The Cisco Kid: American Hero, Hispanic Roots (2008) by Francis M. Nevins and Gary D. Keller, gives a detailed history of the Cisco Kid in all media.


The farm yard has circular equipment: a well with a wheel, a grindstone.

The heroine wears big circular earrings, like the hero of The Thief of Bagdad.

A colonnade in the opening stagecoach scene, has the arches with rounded tops that run through Walsh. The heroine's farmhouse also has a door inside with a rounded top.

As in some other Walsh films, circular imagery also plays a role in the dialogue. Here the Cisco Kid compares life to being "caught in a whirlpool".


Big hills play a major role in the main action sequence in In Old Arizona. Three bandits who are stalking the Kid are on the top of a high hill; the Cisco Kid is riding far below them, in a valley. This is the same staging Walsh will use many years later in Pursued, for the confrontation between the hero and his brother. In Pursued, the scene involves panning along with the riders; in In Old Arizona, the camera is in a fixed position, and the killers on top of the hill are relatively still, before the attack.

There is also canyon scenery, looking down into vast canyon vistas. These do not seem to resemble the "heights" imagery found in much of Walsh, however.


The opening stagecoach scene has several pans. One sweeps though a vast arc, taking in much of the architecture of the setting.

In the saloon, the camera pans past the people at the bar. This recalls the track past the Mongolian soldiers, near the end of The Thief of Bagdad. In both, the camera sweeps past a group of stationary characters, steadily revealing them to us. (The soldiers are adjusting their armor, but they are not changing the location where they are standing.)

When the Cisco Kid overhears his girlfriend late in the film, the camera pans from her talking, over to the hidden Kid listening.

Sound Equipment

Walsh films show a love of sound technology. In Old Arizona contains an Edison cylinder phonograph. In Old Arizona is a historical film: the Spanish-American War (1898) is about to break out. Walsh is showing us a piece of historical technology from that earlier era. Similarly, The Roaring Twenties looks back historically to primitive radio sets.

Walsh's historical films also tend to include early sound devices used for communication. In Old Arizona includes church bells, in the opening shot, and a Cavalry bugle. The sound of these instruments must have wowed audiences, seeing this early sound film in 1928. As is typical of Walsh, these are not simply musical, but devices actually used for communication.

Early Sound

The primitive sound recording of In Old Arizona makes it hard to hear the dialogue, and the thick, phony Hispanic accents assumed by some of the characters don't help. For this reason, I watched the DVD of In Old Arizona with the English subtitles turned on. They make the film much easier to follow.

The film makers show ingenuity, in coming up with sounds for their early talkie. My favorite is the sizzle heard in the close-up of ham and eggs frying. But the animal sounds are nice too. There are more donkey noises than in any film before Au hasard, Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966), and the cows and cowbells are pleasant too. The ticking clock plays a role in the finale. The blacksmith noises and the crying baby are distinctive, too.

The soundtrack is full of old hits, like "Daisy Bell" (1892) (which begins "Daisy, Daisy"), "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay" (1891), "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" (1896). These are atypical of Westerns. Instead, they recall New York City musical halls. They evoke the New York City background of the Edmund Lowe character, and his love for the Bowery. In Old Arizona is set in 1898, at the start of the Spanish-American War. Such hits are consistent with the film's 1898 date.

The Quartet

A male quartet sings a brief song (9:05 to 9:39), "Daisy Bell". Walsh had included male groups of musicians on-stage in the silent film Regeneration. Such groups express "male bonding". (A quartet will later sing with a band in a night club, in Hitting a New High.)

Most of what we know about this quartet, we have to deduce from their clothes:

The men's clothes are fairly similar to each other. They are not quite the Walsh subject "men who dress alike".

The men's clothes look a bit like simple Cavalry uniforms - but I can't see any insignia or marks of rank on them, so they are not uniforms.

We can see boots worn by three of the men. Spurs are prominent.

The second man in the row of four singers, sometimes makes hand gestures. This makes him look like the leader of the group.

In Old Arizona unexpectedly came into the news, when it entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2024. Legal expert Jennifer Jenkins talked about it on the radio, on NPR. NPR played a soundbite of the quartet singing "Daisy Bell". Jenkins said it was "a film that apparently features singing cowboys." Indeed it does! I want to express gratitude to Jennifer Jenkins and host Rob Schmitz, for their ideas.

The quartet does anticipate later singing cowboy groups in Westerns, such as The Sons of the Pioneers. One difference: The Sons of the Pioneers usually sang Western or Country songs. The quartet in In Old Arizona is singing the non-Western "Daisy Bell".

Silent films, including silent Westerns, regularly had people singing. You couldn't hear them. But the film's accompanists in theaters, whether an orchestra or organist or piano player, would play the song the actors were singing. See The Iron Horse (John Ford, 1924). In Old Arizona differs in that you hear the quartet singing, in recorded, synchronized sound.


In Old Arizona emphasizes that the Cisco Kid's statement "I never rob the individual", only from companies. The barber is an example of what the Kid calls "a working man", who the Cisco Kid refuses to harm.


The Cisco Kid is in a fancy gaucho's outfit. This is a costume that will be frequently worn by the Kid in later, non-Walsh versions of the character, too. Walsh likes to have his villains in elaborate all-black costumes. The Cisco Kid's black gaucho outfit is in this tradition. The Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona is a bandit and a murderer. One has to see his clothes in In Old Arizona as a "bad guy's costume". This is another example of way the Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona is not really a hero, despite the sympathy the film often accords him.

Edmund Lowe's Cavalry uniform emphasizes his scarf and boots. These will be the insignia of Robert Stack's World War II pilot in Fighter Squadron. Lowe's uniform also has huge Sergeant's stripes. The dialogue does everything possible to call attention to Lowe's Sergeant rank, too.

The Army and Pacifism

One odd thing about the dialogue in In Old Arizona: it constantly refers to the US Cavalry as "the Army". Lowe is called a "soldier" as well. I'm used to John Ford's Cavalry trilogy, which emphasizes the special traditions of the US Cavalry, treating it as a thing apart. By contrast, everyone in In Old Arizona regards the Cavalry garrison simply as an Army base, and its troops as Army soldiers.

A woman in the saloon makes funny but pointed remarks about how much she hates soldiers. There is a lot to be skeptical about the moral conduct of Lowe's Sergeant and his commander, too. One suspects that In Old Arizona is showing some pacifist skepticism about soldiers.

Edmund Lowe and Comedy

My favorite scenes in In Old Arizona are the comedy episodes, especially those that star Edmund Lowe. These are delightful, and they often seem to be from a different movie, than much of the grim melodrama around them.

The barber shop scene near the start is a gem of male bonding.

Lowe's scene in the saloon (a favorite Walsh location) is also filled with sparkling dialogue. Lowe's Brooklyn roughneck is a kind of character we associate with Walsh's New York City comedies, not with Westerns. He regularly pronounces "girl" as "goil", just to show us where he comes from. His use of slang also involves clever scriptwriting. He always seems to have some snappy comeback, that offers a skeptical take on events around him.

Lowe's most famous role was as one-half of the team of battling soldiers in Walsh's What Price Glory (1926). At first, one thinks that the Cisco Kid and Lowe's Sergeant will be a similar lovable pair of battling-but-quietly-bonding galoots. Unfortunately, the tone darkens in later parts of the film, and the comedy turns sour.

In these comedy scenes, Lowe seems like one of Walsh' endearing roughnecks. Unfortunately, there is a gap between his sympathetic persona here, and his less-than-admirable actions in much of the rest of the film.

The Finale

(SPOILER WARNING!) The finale sees the characters turning on each other, with full homicidal fury. The ending anticipates Pursued, in its savage hatred and personal fury. Also like Pursued: the way the Cisco Kid and the heroine pretend to be making romantic love, while they are really plotting murder. Both couples engage in tension-filled toasts, that conceal their murderous plans.

One difference: in Pursued, the hero is innocent, and only the heroine is plotting to kill him. In In Old Arizona, both the Cisco Kid and the heroine are plotting to murder each other, during their fake love making.

The Big Trail

The Big Trail (1930) is a lavishly produced early sound Western. It is best known today for giving John Wayne his first starring role.

The women pioneers work and fight right alongside of the men, typical of Walsh's fondness for women who function as men's equals.

John Wayne plays a man who has lived among the Indians. "The Indians are my friends," he tells a group of hero-worshipping children. This is typical of Walsh's support for racial equality.

In some ways, The Big Trail is another Walsh film in which a working class man courts an upper class heroine. While the heroine is hardly rich, she has the relentlessly refined manners of a lady.


The Big Trail starts right out with Walsh's favorite figure, the circle. The wagon trains in the opening shot have circular entrances and frames at their rear. These fall into the category of "circular containers for humans", a Walsh trademark. They also have circular wagon wheels, that show up everywhere in Walsh's shots. Soon, we see compositions centering on the circular washtub, where a woman is doing laundry, and a huge wagon wheel behind. The pioneers also seem to specialize in moving circular barrels westward - most shots of the characters outside of their wagons are full of these circular objects. John Wayne wears a hat with a broad circular brim, and a nearly cylindrical conical central region sticking up.

Eventually, the pioneers will gather their wagons in a circle to ward off an attack. Walsh shoots this from above, at a slightly elevated angle, creating vast landscapes with the circle of wagons in the middle. We also see smaller arcs of the wagon circle, in other compositions. Walsh fills the center of the circle with the pioneers' moving horses, while the attackers are also in movement outside. This gives a dynamic quality to these circle-centered compositions. They remind one of the dynamic crowd imagery of the boat scenes in Regeneration. And of the train depot in Going Hollywood. Just as the crowds in that film often split into two independently moving groups, so do the movements inside and outside the circle of wagons function in counterpoint here.

The Indians have an astonishing range of conical teepees - one of the best landscape panoramas in the film. Their feather headdresses form a full, complete circle, something that is not standard in Western movies. Walsh often shoots these from above, so that one sees the circular opening of the headdress top, framed by feathers all around. These shots remind one a bit of the headdresses worn by the dancers near the end of Going Hollywood. One of the Indians pounds on a large, cylindrical drum. This summons the tribe together - another instance of Walsh's fascination with sound-based communication devices.

The finale takes place in a redwood forest. The tall, cylindrical boles of the trees remind one of the circular column that ends Regeneration. In both films, there is an elegiac, mournful tone to this finale, with the hero rededicating himself to his principles, in a symbolic, emotionally laden landscape.


One of the best scenes, shows the pioneers hauling their wagons down over a steep cliff. Walsh liked films set in vertical environments. Both people and wagons move over the cliff. People are working in this vertical area, as they later will on the power lines in Manpower.

Sound Machine

A woman is playing an organ in an early scene. This perhaps recalls the more sophisticated sound equipment, in Walsh's modern-day films.


John Wayne is in a spectacular set of buckskins. He wears them throughout most of the film. But during a flashback, we see him in a different set of buckskins, of a slightly different design.

Many of the shots in The Big Trail show Wayne in full figure, with his entire body from head to toe displayed on screen. These shots seem designed to show off Wayne's best feature, his impressive physique. There are front, rear and side shots of Wayne. His buckskins emphasize his body.

The heroine's kid brother uses Wayne as an advisor and role model. When we first see the brother as he meets Wayne, he is in a suit. But soon the brother is in a set of buckskins that seem modeled on Wayne's. Men in groups in Walsh often dress alike. But here we have two men who are in similar clothes: a very small "group".

Story Structure

The Big Trail deals with a large group of disparate but friendly people, who have all joined together in a loose aggregation. The story contains many vignettes, and moves back and forth between the different characters. Walsh will use a similar structure, for much of The World in His Arms.

The Big Trail keeps moving to new locales. Each locale, such as the cliff or the storm, leads to new plot events in the film. Walsh used a similar story structure in the last hour of The Thief of Bagdad, in which the characters' quests constantly leads them to varied locales.

Long Range Planning

Both Walsh heroes and villains tend to have large-scale schemes, which they plan for and work towards. In The Big Trail, the hero is trying to guide a wagon train of settlers from the Mississippi to the land north of Oregon.

Influence from The Iron Horse

Aspects of The Big Trail recall a previous Western not directed by Raoul Walsh, The Iron Horse (John Ford, 1924). Both films:

Women of All Nations

Women of All Nations (1931) is a raucous comedy.

Women of All Nations is a low brow comedy. But parts of it are funny. And it is full of Walsh imagery.


Women of All Nations has circles: The earthquake sequence has circles: Rotary motion: El Brendel rolls out from under the palanquin.

The Yellow Ticket

The Yellow Ticket (1931) is a drama.


The Yellow Ticket has circles:

Me and My Gal

Me and My Gal (1932) is a mixture of comedy-romance about a young cop and his girlfriend, with a melodrama about a gangster. Walsh loved to mix genres.


How good is Me and My Gal? Manny Farber called it Raoul Walsh's best movie, in his 1971 Walsh essay. It has largely been unavailable for decades. When I finally caught up with it, I found it disappointing.

Part of the problem: Much of it does not seem that funny or inventive. The hero and heroine have some good scenes. But the other supporting characters are not amusing or vigorous. It takes place among routine settings of daily life, with events that show little originality.

Me and My Gal also has some of the most conventional characters in Walsh - people who seem to embody the norms of right wing, conformist traditionalists. Unlike many Walsh films, there are few minorities in Me and My Gal: none of Walsh's positively depicted Native Americans or blacks or Jews. There is none of the male bonding that is so important in other Walsh, and no gay figures. These people are all 100% heterosexual. Gender roles are conventional: men have dynamic jobs like cop or gangster, women work as waitresses or bank clerks. This might be simple realism - but it also means we don't have any of Walsh's strong women who flourish in a man's world. Male sexuality is damped down: hero and villain are mildly attractive, without oozing the sexuality of so many Walsh heroes. The hero and other men are "traditionally masculine".

Me and My Gal shows the grinding poverty of the Depression, especially in an early scene where a pathetically poor man is ready to drown his dog because he has no money to buy him food. The hero also gets a good zinger off about banks being crooked. Otherwise, Me and My Gal has little to say about society, unlike many Walsh films.

The Gangster Villain: George Walsh

The gangster is a supporting character, albeit one with a big role. But he has the characteristics of the protagonists of several other Walsh films: The gangster is one of the biggest roles that Walsh's actor brother George Walsh had in any Walsh film. George Walsh was 45 when Me and My Gal was released. He is still an impressive looking man.

In later scenes, bad guy George Walsh squares off against good guy Henry B. Walthall. Both of these were veteran silent actors, who flourished in the 1910's. They contrast with stage-trained Spencer Tracy.

Links to Pursued

Me and My Gal anticipates Walsh's much later Pursued: Pursued is a tragic drama and vastly darker in tone than the comic Me and My Gal.

Heights and Depths

Several scenes show Walsh's trademark staging around heights: The service bay under the car at the prison is one of the underground regions in Walsh. The sling the gangster improvises under the car, is one of Walsh's containers for men.

Digging down from the apartment to the vault below, seems related to underground chambers elsewhere in Walsh. Even though the vault is likely just on a lower floor, not underground.

Smashing Through a Set

The digging through the floor, is an example of a Walsh image, characters smashing through a set. As in other such Walsh scenes, the characters proceed through the opening.

Another example: the gangster smashes the attic window, then climbs through it.


Me and My Gal is full of Walsh's beloved sound equipment: radios, a phonograph, police radio.

We see a store selling such equipment. The store seems like an origin point for such devices, where all these sound machines in Walsh are originating. (A hat store will play a similar role in the film, with the persistent Walsh motif of hats.)

The heroine makes repeated phone calls to her sister.

The father used to be in the Signal Corps. Now that he is disabled, he is signaling with his eyes. This is a key character in Walsh, one that centers on a courageous means of communication. We see the heroine with a book on Morse Code, decoding what the father is saying.

The police Captain gives talks to his men.

Mental Imagery

The parody of Strange Interlude is a highpoint. This embodies the mental imagery that runs through Walsh. Only here, the "imagery" is aural, not visual: we hear the characters' thoughts.


Me and My Gal opens with one of the unfunniest drunks in show biz history. I don't like drunk humor anyway, and have never understood why people thought Dean Martin's drunk act was funny, for example. This guy in Me and My Gal is awful. Walsh usually had surefire taste in what was entertaining, but he misfires badly here. It also seems inconsistent with all the warnings about alcoholism in his films. The dysfunctional drunk IS described as an "argument for Prohibition", so perhaps there is an anti-alcohol message after all.

One of the drunk's few funny moments is his encounter with the waiter and his tray. This is one of a series of strange bits about waiters and trays that run through Walsh films.

Some scenes embody an anti-alcohol message:

The sweet drinks, always non-alcoholic, that run through Walsh, are represented by coffee with sugar. We see the heroine filling up the sugar dispensers in a key scene. The drunk also puts tons of sugar on what seems to be cereal, in a shot anticipating the cheese sprinkled on the spaghetti in The Roaring Twenties.

The heroine's chewing gum is perhaps related to the sweet drinks. And so maybe is the ice cream the couple enjoys.


There are no maps in Me and My Gal. But there is a scene where the crooks measure off paces in the apartment, so that they know where to drill. This is a kind of geographical information.

The police radio broadcasts crime scene addresses to patrol cars. This combines two Walsh interests: geographical information and sound equipment.

The box numbers used in the bank vault are perhaps a sort of "addressing system" used to organize the vault. These numbers are a MacGuffin that runs through Me and My Gal, constantly sought by the crooks.

Background Activity

The early scenes at the dock are full of background activity. Whenever people talk in the foreground, behind them a mass of humanity at the docks is going through strenuous activity. Walsh had earlier used such staging in The Big Trail, where we always saw wagon train activities in the background.

In prison, there is some background activity, while the characters are working on the cars.

At the bank, we see the street outside, including vehicles and pedestrians.

The glass architecture sometimes found in Walsh, includes two plate glass windows outside on a corner near a bank. Walsh shoots through these: we see the gangsters through two such windows.


Walsh films are full of men in strange hats, often played for comedy. The hero's derby is not as bizarre as some Walsh headgear, but it still looks comic and conspicuous. Running gags throughout the film stress the hero either adjusting the tilt of his hat, or striking a finger on the hat to emphasize a point.

Our first look at the hero has him polishing the badge on his police cap. The cap is a a peaked cap, like many Walsh heroes favor, and is exceptionally spiffy, with a shiny visor. The hero's police uniform is dressy.

The hero's fancy wedding clothes at the end include a top hat. This formal wear is perhaps another example of a Walsh working class man in upper class clothes.

Me and My Gal takes us into a hat store, for a comedy scene. It is as if we were seeing the source of all those hats in Walsh films.


Me and My Gal is full of Walsh's trademark circles: The gangster swings a paperclip, when he's on the bed in the attic. This is one of the twirled or circularly spinning objects in Walsh.

The dialogue has a number of circle references. Tracy speaks of a parody movie Strange Inner Tube. And also of checkers.

Geometric Environment

The gangster's attic is a fairly geometric environment, with its angled walls and staircases. Its tilted ceiling with a multi-paned window, anticipates the hero's room in Glory Alley.

Sailor's Luck

Sailor's Luck (1933) is a rowdy romantic comedy, set in Los Angeles, about a sailor and his girlfriend. This modern day story is another Walsh comedy filled with Irish good guys.

The pool scenes and dance contest are more of Walsh's choreographed crowd scenes.


The diving board at the swimming pool is moderately high. It is the subject of lots of comedy, with Barnacle making bizarre leaps off it. Kids, don't try this at home!

Towards the end, the hero climbs a tree, then swings through a high window. This is a bit of swashbuckling action, like something out of a Douglas Fairbanks film.

Countless sailors leap off a balcony, to join a fight.

Sound and Communications

A radio broadcast is part of the big events. In later Walsh films, radio broadcasters tend to be classy, idealized men. Here, one of the characters is broadcasting. Still, radio is a big deal.

Long distance phone calls play a role.

The sailors at the swimming pool are another Walsh group of men singing together.

Light Displays

A few Walsh films use light to make elaborate displays. The apartment building in Sailor's Luck has a flashing sign.

Flirting with Feet

Walsh characters like to flirt with their feet. This is given a comic twist in the restaurant. First the drunken rich guy in white tie and tails, rubs the woman's feet under the table. But then each of the two sailors start rubbing a man's foot under the table, thinking they are rubbing the woman. The heterosexual scene starts having a comic gay subtext.

Both uniformed sailors seem to be wearing heavy black leather shoes. The shoes look forceful and masculine. They are well shined. Both sailors have big feet, compared to the drunk.

Geometric Environment

The swimming pool has geometric features. It has a complex fountain in its middle, full of circular forms.


The heroine wears a bracelet in the final scene. It is made up of a series of colored bands. Sailor's Luck is a black-and-white film, so one cannot see the specific colors. But the bands are very clearly marked. This anticipates later Walsh films in color, in which objects are painted with a series of colored rings.

The table in the Chinese restaurant is cicrcular. It has round plates and glasses on it.


Sailor's Luck has that Walsh tradition, men with a common profession in identical clothes: The men at the pool are in identical rented swimsuits. These cutovers do not have a common profession, however.

The Bowery

The Bowery (1933) is a rowdy comedy, set mainly in saloons in 1890's New York City.

Racism and Film Quality

The Bowery has a notorious opening, with many racist alleged "jokes" about a broad range of racial minorities. These are intermixed with an attempt to portray the very low-brow society of the 1890's Bowery. While much of this is intended as humor, and to suggest a terminally vulgar world, it is seriously offensive all the same. The Bowery is one of the least and last of Walsh's films, and not a movie one would ever want to recommend to an audience.

The Bowery as a whole is filled with low-brow humor. The Bowery is a "success" at creating a thoroughly disreputable world.

Raoul Walsh films in general are often filled with exuberant humor. It is easy, at first, to watch The Bowery, and conclude - perhaps wrongly - that it is a "typical Walsh comedy".

How typical is The Bowery of Raoul Walsh films? This book on Walsh opens with a long checklist of Walsh subjects and techniques. Surprisingly few of them show up in The Bowery. This means that The Bowery lacks the substance of many other Walsh films. It is not full of the fascinating themes and film techniques that appear in so many Walsh movies. The bridge and boxing scenes are better than the other parts of The Bowery.

Links to Glory Alley

The Bowery anticipates Glory Alley. Both have: One hastens to add that Glory Alley is NOT a racist film.

The Bowery anticipates the much better Gentleman Jim, being a comedy with an 1890's setting and boxers. Both films are also unusual in Walsh's work, by being full of real-life characters.

Villains Slick and Googy try to sell their services as hit-men-for-hire. This anticipates The Enforcer.

The Masked Marvel

Walsh films sometimes include "brief deceptions in identity by the protagonist." The Masked Marvel boxer is not the hero of the film. But his identity is indeed briefly concealed by his mask.

The Masked Marvel is played by Raoul Walsh's actor brother George Walsh. Having George Walsh play a boxer is an indication that George's physique was considered good.


Much of the film takes place in saloons, and men are drinking constantly. However, much of this seems to be beer, rather than hard liquor.

The heroine declines a drink, saying that she doesn't drink. This is a kind of anti-alcohol message scene that is common in Walsh.

SPOILER. Carrie Nation, the temperance crusader shows up, in a funny scene.

The fire hydrant and firemen perhaps relates to other Walsh films that look at the water supply infrastructure.


Murals are painted behind the bar of the saloon. The murals play a role in the plot.

Maps and Models

The mural George Raft has painted behind the bar, is of the Brooklyn Bridge, to celebrate his jump. Maybe this can be thought of as a "model" of the bridge - although this is a stretch.

The hospital sign tells its location on Delancey Street. There are also street signs, indicating Mott Street, for example.


A comic bit of business has Beery taking off his hat, and a chain of men handing it to each other, eventually hanging the hat on the wall.

The matching Army hats worn by the two heroes at the end, have the insignia "74" on them. Phallic numbers such as 1, 4, 7 and 9 frequently appear in film and comics. Please see my article on Sports Numbers and Their Symbolism for a history of such numbers in film and comics.


The Bowery has some of Walsh's trademark circles: Some circular forms contain glowing lights, a Walsh favorite: Round forms are mentioned in the dialogue: The umbrellas rotated in the stage number "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay" are some of Walsh's rotating objects. This 1891 song previously appeared in Walsh's In Old Arizona.

The woman singer's sailor suit is covered with stars, a shape that sometimes appears in Walsh.

Going Hollywood

Walsh only made a handful of musicals, but he excelled with the genre. Although many sources list Going Hollywood as a 1933 film, its dialogue explicitly sets it in 1934. The film's plot is similar in a comic way to that of George Cukor's What Price Hollywood? (1932), which also dealt with an aspiring young unknown woman on her way up in Hollywood, contrasted with an established male Hollywood figure who is on his way down due to alcoholism. This same plot was unofficially remade in the three versions of A Star is Born, the second of which was also directed by Cukor, thus completing the circle. The similarity in the plots of What Price Hollywood? and Going Hollywood was perhaps suggested by Turner Classic Movies, which showed them back to back on May 29, 2001. Going Hollywood does not seem to be an especially "inside" look at Hollywood filmmaking. Instead, it reminds one of Warners backstage musicals such as Mervyn Le Roy's Gold Diggers of 1933. The presence here of Ned Sparks as the director of the "film musical within the film" heightens this resemblance.

Marion Davies expresses a wish to break out of her regimented existence, and discover romance at the beginning of Going Hollywood. Such dreams are common in Walsh heroes. One thinks of Hornblower's striving to make romantic contact through his straight-jacket of stiff military discipline in Captain Horatio Hornblower, or tough guy Bogart's longing for romance in High Sierra.


The hero here eventually develops big problems with alcohol, and has to try to get on the wagon before his life is completely ruined by drink. Walsh earlier expressed skepticism about drinking in Regeneration, where the heroine tries to get the hero to stop drinking. And the hero's life tragically degenerates into alcoholism towards the end of The Roaring Twenties. One also recalls the way the hero of They Drive by Night is constantly refusing drinks; the film makes a big deal about his disinterest in alcohol, and suggests he is a role model for people. The sailors in The World in His Arms get shanghaied because they stop in a water front saloon for a drink, something for which the hero chews them out, after he rescues them. Alcohol is clearly an enemy of the life force and vitality that Walsh celebrated in his gung ho heroes. At the depths of his addiction, the hero of Going Hollywood also becomes alone and friendless - something that Walsh clearly views as a horror.

Sound Equipment

Bing Crosby sings his "Beautiful Girl" number in his hotel room, surrounded by sound recording men trailing him with microphones. We see their equipment in detail, and the ability of the mike to be mobile around the entire hotel suite. This scene shows Walsh's fondness for high tech sound equipment, something that will show up again with the tracking devices in White Heat. One also recalls the record player in Sadie Thompson, the early 1920's radio set in The Roaring Twenties, the long-distance telephone calls in They Drive by Night, the radio broadcast and control booth in The Horn Blows at Midnight, the loudspeakers at the end of The Enforcer, the radio in Objective, Burma! and The Naked and the Dead, and the walkie talkies in Marines, Lets Go. And while there are no high tech devices in Esther and the King, which is set in Ancient Persia, much is made of gongs used as alarms, and horns used to sound signals over distance. Similarly, the drum in The Big Trail summons the Native American tribe together.

The scene in Going Hollywood involves a complex camera movement, as the characters move around a corner of the elaborate Art Deco apartment. Crosby gets dressed here, and his actions are shared by the sound recordist and his publicity man. Such shared actions involve male bonding.

The heroine hides her radio from the strict school, and later we see a hunt for it by the school officials. In an oddly parallel scene, the hero hides his telephone because it is disturbing his sleep, and later people have to hunt for the phone.

The director (Ned Sparks) has a megaphone, a common real-life tool.

The Dream

A dream sequence is a large scale musical number. It goes through many stages, each with a separate strategy: After the dream, we see a vertical camera movement down a shower.

Musical Scenes: Staging and Visual Style

The big "Going Hollywood" number takes place in a train depot, and is Walsh at his most exuberant. The number shows Walsh's tremendous flair for directing crowd scenes. Each person in the depot here is in full motion. As is typical of Walsh, everybody is an individual, yet the motion of the crowd as a whole is also coherent. The group of young reporters here remind one of the other male groups in Walsh; they always function together as a team. Such teams generate warm feelings of male bonding. Like most of Walsh's teams, they are dressed in similar clothes, here good suits. They are often arranged in a circle, around some central person: also a Walsh staging tradition. Walsh can also use triangles to group his men, in other films. They are often staring at one location or person: a typical Walsh way of organizing his teams, and making them share common ideas and actions. Here sometimes they are all looking at Ned Sparks or Bing Crosby; another scene has Crosby making them all look at the painted stars on the ceiling of the depot, a shot that is hypnotically fascinating.

Many of the crowd scenes involve a contrast between the movement of the crowd as a whole, and a single prominent individual they are all staring at. The crowd can also subdivide into two crowds, each with its own pattern of motion. These directly recall the crowd shots in Regeneration built around two moving streams of people. The shots seem to go by at a tremendously fast pace. Just as we have figured out the pattern underlying one shot, Walsh cuts to another, with a different architecture and pattern of movement.

The film's choreographer, Albertina Rasch, is not a household name today, even among film historians. She did Ernst Lubitsch's The Merry Widow (1934), Josef von Sternberg's The King Steps Out (1936), and W. S. Van Dyke's Rosalie (1937), Marie Antoinette (1938) and Sweethearts (1938). These were mainly MGM productions.


The film set has circular lights, and a conical megaphone for the director.

The finale of Going Hollywood shows Walsh's fondness for circles in his compositions. The chorines wear elaborate headdresses made up of arching plumes. These plumes form nearly-circular arcs. The chorines show up not just in the musical number, but in the backstage rehearsal scene preceding it. Their arcs soar over the crowd of men in suits. This scene is typical of Walsh's crowd shots, many of which are full of curved patterns in their composition.

Also circular in the finale: the orchestra is seated in a huge, steep, circular amphitheater. Walsh shows us this scene from both the front and from above. In each case, the numerous circles of the different levels of the amphitheater are prominent. It is a whole world made up out of circles. Like the oil truck at the end of White Heat, it takes us to a world made up out of pure geometric, mainly circular regions. Like the truck, it contains a large number of men inside it.

Baby Face Harrington

A Crime Comedy

Baby Face Harrington (1935) is a little comedy. Like many Walsh films it mixes genres, being a comedy involving its mild-mannered good guy hero with gangsters.

Walsh made other comedies with related themes:

Like many Walsh films, Baby Face Harrington shows justice failing: Like many Walsh films, there is a jail break.

The villain is another Walsh thief. He is not the protagonist, however. The villain leads a whole gang of thieves, making him a "gangster", by definition. However, he is a thief and robber, not an Al Capone style vice lord. The villain thus resembles the bank robber anti-hero of High Sierra. Both men are ruthless killers, as well as robbers.

Among the many comedy scenes that burlesque crime movie traditions, my favorite is the police interrogation of the hero. This comes complete with a bright light they shine in his face. The ultra-polite hero triumphs however, showing that sticking to your convictions can really lead to unexpected success.

A B Movie

Baby Face Harrington shows signs of being a B Movie:

Communication and Sound Equipment

The police make a long distance phone call to New York City, to get a crook's record.

The hero gets involved with public speaking, a Walsh favorite. First he fails at this, while attempting his magic trick at the country club. Then at the end, his speech at the club is a big success.

Walsh films feature men singing together. SPOILER. In Baby Face Harrington, this has the hero and villain singing together at the end.


The finale has gags about a rafter in the barn. Both the hero and the gangster wind up on it, and fall off.

There are some small stairs or steps outside, leading to platforms:


The heroine's would-be-boyfriend urges her to have a drink, towards the end of the film. The drink symbolizes her possibly abandoning her husband, marriage, and turning to a life of frivolity. The drink is in a champagne glass, symbolizing such a frivolous lifestyle. She does not take the drink. This is one of many scenes in Walsh of good guys refusing liquor.

The hero uses a gas inhalator in his bathroom, as a cold treatment. This is one of several instances of gas in a Walsh film.


There is a panning shot, when the crooks leave the police station after the jail break.

The camera pans as the hero is dragged along by rope at the end.


Baby Face Harrington has circles: The hero spins a noisemaker at the country club.

A circular iris opens out, during a montage sequence showing the press.


Several men have that Walsh favorite flowers in their lapel: There are groups of men with a common profession who dress alike: The gas station attendant is another likable Walsh attendant in a white or cream-colored uniform. He is another Walsh man in a peaked uniform cap.

The party hats worn at the country club, are more of Walsh's strange hats.

Every Night at Eight

Every Night at Eight (1935) is a musical. It is a simple film, plainer in style than many Walsh films, but cheery and enjoyable.


Raft's band is composed entirely of working class men. When first seen, they are still in the work clothes of their professions. (These outfits sometimes include the peaked caps that run through Walsh.) This underscores visually their working class origins. Raft himself was a star who was always depicted as a working-class man. This is an interesting concept.

The three heroines are explicitly working class women, who get their start as poorly paid office workers.

The dialogue stresses how hard Walsh works. He also drives the band and singers to work hard. They rebel. But the film suggests that all this hard work is a good thing.

Later, at the yacht party, we meet a bunch of rich people. They are depicted negatively: they are snobs, bores and stuffed shirts. Even their expensive clothes are without the flair, shown by Raft's costumes. The rich are not shown to be evil, or engaged in class war against the poor. But they seem much inferior as human beings to the working class heroines and band. Their idleness is also stressed, with card playing and talk of hunting "big cats" (which turns off a heroine).

Raft gets to dress up in white tie and tails (a favorite Walsh outfit) and in white mess jackets, as part of his band leader work. He is another Walsh hero who is a "working class man who gets to dress up in the clothes of the rich".

Black People

Every Night at Eight has black people everywhere. They show up repeatedly in small roles, and in one of the musical numbers. They are largely treated with dignity. This is a progressive portrayal for its 1930's era, a time when Hollywood was awash in racist caricatures.

The singer is especially terrific. I'm not used to seeing black men sing show tunes in 30's musicals, with dignified manners and superb diction and vocal power. This is a very non-stereotyped portrayal.

The black singer is soon followed by a black chorus. They too sing in a dignified manner. Unfortunately, they are garbed in "Southern field hand" costumes. These suggest that cliche, the "happy Southern black cotton picker". It is not perfect as an image, but not enough to spoil this outstanding musical number, when viewed as a whole.

Elsewhere, we see blacks as maids and servants. These subservient roles are not ideal role models. But these servants also talk and act with dignity. This too is not a perfect image by modern standards, but it is an improvement on much of the racist cinema of the era.

People in Groups, with Common Clothes

Walsh films are full of "groups of men in a common profession, who dress alike". Every Night at Eight offers a variation on this: it has a group of women who dress alike. The three women singers are constantly shown getting matching outfits for their job. They even get three matching dogs (more of the pets that run through Walsh).

The women also get grooming scenes, that echo the many male barbershop scenes with men grooming in other Walsh films.

Every Night at Eight is also full of messenger boys, bellboys and other uniformed groups of male functionaries. Such bellboy uniforms were a popular way for Hollywood films of the era to add a little glamour. There are even three bouncers, in slightly tougher but still fancy uniforms.


Exhaustion is a theme that runs through Walsh. In Every Night at Eight, Raft has kept the band and singers up till 4AM rehearsing. A pot of coffee is prominent on a table.

Raft has a nightmare. Unlike some dreams in Walsh films, it is not dramatized. Instead, we see him in bed, talking about the events in the bad dream. The shot is eerily staged, with Raft's image reflected in a mirror. After Raft is reassured by the heroine, he drops back into sleep: another image of exhaustion.

Communication and Sound Equipment

Every Night at Eight is about musicians who broadcast on the radio. Not unexpectedly, it is full of every sort of sound equipment. This also reflects Raoul Walsh's love of such sound communication devices. We get backstage looks at a radio control room. There are microphones, too.

The film includes a sound truck in the street.

The heroines use an office dictating machine to make a recording of their singing.

The film opens with a telephone switchboard. There is also a bank of phones at the radio studio, with many people answering them, and recording information on adding machines. It emphasizes how high tech and advanced the radio studio is, as a center of communications.

Raft asks radio listeners to write to their local stations praising the show. His speech is an example of the Walsh subject public speaking. The letters are another example of mass communication in Walsh. The way listeners to the radio contest call in with their votes, is another example of public feedback.

Every Night at Eight has a good deal about the business of radio. While many Walsh films deal with sound communication, Every Night at Eight also looks at the business aspects behind such communication. This extension of the subject recalls a bit Me and My Gal, which shows salesmen selling sound equipment to the public.

Several Walsh films have people making animal noises as communication signals. Every Night at Eight has an odd comic variation on this, with a woman who comically sings using chicken sounds. It's a delightful scene.


Walsh likes maps. There aren't any maps in Every Night at Eight. But there are jokes about geography, with the heroines confused about the correct location of cities, states, countries and continents. Later at the rich people's party, the jokes continue about the heroines' alleged hometown of Jacksonville.


Every Night at Eight has circles:

Camera Movement: Tracks Down Rows of Stationary Figures

Walsh tracks down a row of workers at the radio contest. In most ways, this is a typical Walsh "track down a row of stationary figures". A small difference: the track is a bit shorter than some such tracks in other Walsh films.

Big Brown Eyes

A Crime Film: But with Detective Heroes

Big Brown Eyes (1936) is a detective movie. It is a cops-versus-thieves tale: a familiar Walsh subject. But here it is the detectives who are the protagonists, and the thieves who are supporting characters. This is an unusual point of view for Walsh.

The film embodies other Walsh takes on crime. We see intrigue between jewel thieves and fences, as in High Sierra. Also like High Sierra, the crooks visit many different locales in the course of their crimes, although these visits are less on-screen than those of High Sierra. As in The Roaring Twenties, the courts and the justice system are shown as ineffective, and coming to the wrong verdicts.

A Woman Detective

The newspaperwoman heroine is one of Walsh's strong women, who succeed in a world of men. She is the one who does the important detective work in the film.

Big Brown Eyes is part of a large number of 1930's films, in which reporters investigate crimes. Perhaps these started with the success on stage of The Front Page (1928), by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, a work itself much filmed. Such movies tend to mix a comic look at high energy, raffish reporters, with a look at some often fairly grim urban crime.

Some of these films center on female reporters. It was considered a good way to get women involved as detectives. One wonders if Big Brown Eyes was the model for Warner Brothers' series of comedy-mysteries about star female reporter Torchy Blane, which started the next year with Smart Blonde (Frank McDonald, 1937). Blane has a policeman boyfriend, just like the Cary Grant character in Big Brown Eyes. Another female reporter solving crime in a mystery-comedy: There Goes My Girl (Ben Holmes, 1937).

Big Brown Eyes' policeman boyfriend (Cary Grant) is treated much more respectfully than the cop boyfriend in the Torchy Blane movies, who is basically just comedy relief. Grant is not the one who makes the key detective breakthroughs, but he is a determined professional of high integrity, and generally knows his business.

A Sexy Cop

Grant's cop resembles some other Walsh characters. He is good looking, a dream boat, well-dressed and sexy as hell. He recalls the Edmund Lowe character in In Old Arizona, who while a soldier, is basically a detective on the trail of a bad guy throughout the film. Grant also looks forward to the lawyer in The Roaring Twenties. The lawyer is repeatedly referred to as "big and good looking": in fact "Big and Good Looking" is Cagney's nickname for the lawyer in the story. Similarly, Grant's cop is nicknamed "The Handsome Dick". One wonders how they got this name past the censors!

All three of these characters are also linked to New York City. Dialogue in all three movies makes jokes about Brooklyn.

The characters in In Old Arizona and The Roaring Twenties are both involved in male bonding with the leads of the film. By contrast, Grant in Big Brown Eyes is "bonding" with the lead of the film: but this time, that lead character is a woman. In some ways, the relationship in Big Brown Eyes is male bonding, but transferred to a female-male couple.

While the heroine and hero of Big Brown Eyes are close, they are rarely shown doing any conventional romantic activities. Instead they hang out with each other, and work on the case. This also makes their romance seem like the male bonding in other Walsh films. By contrast, Walter Pigeon's suave villain propositions the heroine to be his mistress, wooing her with conventional gifts and presents. The heroine completely rejects this. In some ways, this is more of a traditional heterosexual courtship that anything going on between the hero and heroine.


The heroine gets her reporting job, after making a rousing speech to an editor. He likes what she says, and thinks it would make a good article. Later, we see her dictating an editorial-style article into a machine, which is also intended to rouse the public. Her writing for the paper often seems to be in a mode related to public speaking. Walsh frequently shows public speaking in his films. What the heroine of Big Brown Eyes is doing seems related - although she is "speaking" to the world through a newspaper, rather than to a crowd on the street.

Crime Does Not Pay

SPOILER: Crime lord Walter Pigeon employs men like Lloyd Nolan: but Pigeon eventually chews them up and destroys them. This recalls a bit the social systems in Walsh which use up and destroy the poor people trapped inside them. There are differences: the poor trapped characters in other Walsh are innocent, while Nolan is a crook who should know he's involved with a dysfunctional life style.

Geometrical Environments

Big Brown Eyes contains several of Walsh's geometrical environments: One might note that none of these environments are as startlingly geometrical, as those in many other Walsh movies. The barber shop and the apartments are Art Deco, a style based on geometry. So their geometrical features are not unexpected.

Still, the barber shop has cylindrical lamps on the ceiling, Nolan's bathroom has much taller and skinnier cylindrical light fixtures on the walls, and the police desk room has typical spherical police station lamps outside the door. All of these show Walsh's love of circular forms.

The hotel elevators have unusual octagonal floor indicator dials above them.

The water cooler used by Grant has a pattern in the glass, that can be read both as diamond lozenge shapes, and repeating triangles.

The pinball machine is full of spherical balls and round holes.

Vertical Environments

There are two scenes, in which men stand on apartment house ledges, outside a window, high over the streets below. Unlike other Walsh films, they do not climb up or down the building.

The Model

After the credits end, we see a strange model of the New York City skyline, made out of boxes and products sold at the barber shop. It is an odd visual effect, and one that plays no role in the plot. It is typical of Walsh's interest in models. This model looks like a miniature city built by kids out of household objects. It has a joyous quality, like most of the models in Walsh.

The model seems to be on a display counter in the barber shop. It seems to be a charming sales gimmick: a way of arranging the shop's wares to make a fun, visually arresting pattern.

Sound Equipment and Technology

Like other Walsh films, Big Brown Eyes incorporates sound communication technology: While it is not technological, the hero's ventriloquism is also a sound producing system.

There are other kinds of technology, too. There is an extensive montage about how the police use fingerprints to search out the identities of crooks.

There is a lecture about the evils of gambling-pinball machines. It is clearly designed to enlighten the audience.

Men who Dress Alike

The crooks are in common clothes. When Walter Pigeon is in white tie and tails, his assistant Lloyd Nolan is too. Later, all of the crooks are in tuxedos together. In some ways, these are also working class men who are getting dressed up in upper class clothes - although they are criminals, and not the more typical and sympathetic Walsh working men.

The barbers at the shop all wear a common tunic uniform.

The police at the jail are also in spiffy, dressy uniforms.


Fancy dresser Walter Pigeon is in full polo costume at one point. His polo helmet is an example of the odd hats that run through Walsh.

Cary Grant wears the long coats that were so glamorous in the 1930's. Later, a general in Fighter Squadron will be seen in a long uniform coat.

The young thief brother is in the dark shirt and suit that signals "mobster" in old movies. He anticipates Steve Cochran's hood in White Heat. Walsh liked over-the-top black costumes for villains.


Walsh films often associate flowers with heroines, especially roses. Big Brown Eyes is strange, in that the killer Lloyd Nolan is the one with the love of flowers, especially roses. This is treated as some sort of odd or eccentric character trait, in him.


Walsh films are consistently anti-alcohol. There is no preachment or dialogue about liquor in Big Brown Eyes. But killer Lloyd Nolan has a bar in his apartment, and his fellow crooks drink too. Meanwhile, cop hero Cary Grant drinks water from office water coolers. He recalls Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad, who is also shown drinking water. Grant also likes soft drinks from the hotel soda fountain, as does minor crook Douglas Fowley. This is very different from say, The Thin Man movies, with their boozing heroes.

Camera Movement: Pans

Big Brown Eyes opens with a striking, apparently nearly 360 degree pan around the barber shop. The pan opens with the heroine moving behind a mirror. It is a bit of visual virtuosity to open the film.

Camera Movement: Tracks

There are several camera movements that follow the characters, in the aftermath of the trial. Grant is followed along a building, as he walks. He moves down some steps, in a manner that recalls Max Ophuls - although we never see the steps, since the camera is focused on his head.

Tilted Camera and Dialogue

The opening barbershop conversation is shot in an unusual manner. Each character who is talking gets a tight close-up - and the camera is tilted. These close-ups succeed each other rapidly, making a brisk "public conversation" in which lots of people in the barbershop take part. Later, speeches in the courtroom are handled in the same way.

Tilted images will recur, in the historical vignettes that run through The Roaring Twenties.

When Thief Meets Thief

When Thief Meets Thief (1937) is a mainly ordinary picture. A big problem: it is awfully grim. Many books and films about jewel thieves are much more light-hearted.

There are nice scenes in it: The hero running joyfully through London. Everything with the hero's older man friend Sanders (Edward Rigby).


When Thief Meets Thief has circles: Circles in the heroine's bedroom:

Artists and Models

Artists and Models (1937) is a delightful musical comedy.

Geometric Worlds

The hero's office is one of Walsh's geometric environments: The night club sets are also geometric. The main club has huge rounded urns. There are glowing spherical lamps on the tables. There are some huge, shallow circular steps. In the next set, there is a circular walkway, down which the heroine and the millionaire promenade: followed by three pans and a forward track by the camera. They arrive at a swimming pool, with rounded ladders like those in They Drive by Night.

The yacht is only in a single scene, but it has a beautiful circular table surrounded by a huge circular seat.

The puppet show also has a semi-circular proscenium. It is full of circular musical instruments.

There are other circles in the film:

Also geometric:

The Model

Walsh films regularly include models: not women modeling clothes, but scale models. Artists and Models has one of the best: a huge scale model of an Art Deco skyscraper complex. The skyscraper is incredibly futuristic looking. In fact, it looks like the buildings comic book artist Carmine Infantino would later draw for the planet Rann in Adam Strange (1959-1964). The skyscraper has many circular and rounded features. A spiral light seems to rotate in one of the towers.

The Arbor: Heights

Judy Canova and Ben Blue have a big duet in a flowered arbor, making Canova one of many Walsh heroines associated with flowers. A similar arbor will have love scenes in College Swing. Towards the end, Blue climbs the arbor, then back down. It is a charming scene involving that Walsh favorite, heights.

The balcony at the end where the millionaire and Canova talk, is also a mild example of heights.

So is the fire escape and balcony in the big final musical number, "Public Melody Number 1". The ideas for this number were originated by a youthful Vincente Minnelli.

Artists and Models opens with the Yacht Club Boys falling down the side of a skyscraper. This is a classic Walsh image of falling from heights. The stage show they soon put on calls for a giant staircase set, which is pushed on stage.

Sound Technology

Artists and Models uses sound technology, like other Walsh films: Walsh's love of folk songs and traditional tunes emerges, when the Canova family sing "The Ballad of Jesse James". This is the last thing one would expect in a glitzy musical. The 19th Century song will play a major role in Samuel Fuller's I Shot Jesse James (1949).

Non-sound communication emerges, when the millionaire talks about wanting "electrical signs, color displays" to advertise his product. There is also an electric sign in the water, that announces André Kostelanetz's orchestra.


The night club stage is surrounded by water, a strange gimmick. There is even a canoe at one point, embodying Walsh's love for water and small boats. The musicians performing against a watery background, anticipates the prize fight on the barge in Gentleman Jim.

Later, there will be a swimming pool in the club, and a big water scene. The hero winds up in the pool, like many Walsh heroes who have fun adventures in the water. There is something sexy and dashing about these men. See Errol Flynn as a boxer thrown into the water in Gentleman Jim, and Gregory Peck swimming ashore in Captain Horatio Hornblower. All of these men have their clothes on, which get sopping wet.

Judy Canova and Ben Blue also get soaked during the rain-making sequence.


Artists and Models is full of flowers, like other Walsh films:


There are more of Walsh's anti-alcohol statements, with the doctor warning about "dissipation" ruining health, and the hero talking about "going on the water wagon".

The hero offers a woman an ice cream soda. This focus on fountain soft drinks, recalls Big Brown Eyes and the hero's penchant for pineapple soda. Both form an interesting, non-alcoholic alternative.

Characters and Class

The society woman works as a volunteer fundraiser for a charity foundation. This recalls the society woman turned social worker heroine of Regeneration. This woman has the hauteur and total self confidence of upper class women in Walsh, such as the heroine of Gentleman Jim. But her devotion to her charity work, her lack of malice, and her adaptability and practicality, all make her sympathetic. Still, this is another Walsh film where class lines are deeply drawn.

The heroine is an unusual but real example of a Walsh working class heroine. She is a beautiful model, who keeps losing jobs to the debutante-advertising craze of the 1930's. My parents remember this from real life: even impoverished working class people like themselves, knew famous New York City debutantes from magazine advertisements. Lupino's model is believable as a woman who is both a working class woman trying to make ends meet, and a figure of glamour.

The Mother

The millionaire travels around with his mother, and spends his time with a bevy of beautiful women. There is perhaps some wish fulfillment fantasy here. Several Walsh characters are devastated because they have lost their mothers: Regeneration, White Heat, Glory Alley. Here is one who has one, and spends time with her while she is alive. Walsh men also can enjoy females, and the millionaire definitely does this.


Walsh characters like to flirt with their feet. Here the heroine loses her shoes in the pool, and the millionaire retrieves them (he is another Walsh hero who winds up in the water). He soon is putting them back on her feet, and reminding her of the legend of Cinderella. This is all quite sexy. The film develops this further in the finale.

The millionaire himself wears unusually shiny patent leather shoes with his tux. We see this when he practices golf in his hotel room. We also see him earlier with a black leather chair in his office. He doesn't lose a chance to dude himself up, like many other Walsh heroes. He becomes one of many Walsh men who dress up in white tie and tails.

Men Dressed Alike

The Yacht Club Boys, a zany singing group of the era, are another Walsh example of men dressed alike. They are also men who sing together.

At the costume ball, hero Jack Benny keeps finding other men who are in the same Romeo costume he is. This is quite funny. The millionaire also emerges from a group of men, all in 18th Century French court costume.

Fantasy and the Puppets

The puppets are a delightful, unexpected bit of fantasy. They are as surreal and fantastic as anything in The Thief of Bagdad. This is a side of Walsh that never quite disappears.

Rube Goldberg's drawing also brings an imaginative touch of fantasy to the film.

Hitting a New High

Hitting a New High (1937) is a musical. It is one of Walsh's least successful pictures, despite what looks like considerable effort going into the film.

Fusion: Classical Music and Pop

The possibility that fusions might be possible between classical and popular music were much discussed in this era. The heroine of Hitting a New High is a would-be opera singer, who uses her classical technique to be a jazz singer in a nightclub. Neither she nor the movie seem to regard this as a positive situation, or as prediction of a "fusion" between classical and jazz.

More positively, the heroine is recruited by an opera impresario and a composer, to star in the composer's new opera. Not only do they admire the heroine's vocal talent. But the opera also requires a singer who is both a classical opera singer and a jazz singer. This is an interesting idea. One wishes it were more developed by the film. Presemably, the music of such an opera might combine classical and jazz elements, like the famous real-life opera Porgy and Bess (George Gershwin, 1935).

Fake Fantasy

The press agent launches a hoax: passing off the opera singer heroine as a "Bird-Girl" from the African jungle. Presumably, a "Bird-Girl" would be a member of a race of beings who were half human and half bird, although this is not gone into in the film in explicit detail. We do see the heroine singing as if she were a bird. The famous novel Green Mansions (1904) by William Henry Hudson had such a bird-woman as its heroine.

Walsh films often have bits of fantasy. The fantasy is sometimes "real" within the story of the film, and sometimes a bit of "let's pretend" by the characters. The Bird-Girl is strictly a pretense, not something "real" within the action of the film.

The heroine of Hitting a New High dressing and acting as a Bird-Girl anticipates John Payne dressing as a giant Cupid in College Swing.

Both images are quite surreal. Walsh musicals from the 1930's often have surrealist feel and imagery.

Jungle Scenery

Horton makes a comical safari trek through the African jungle. The jungle scenes oddly anticipate in feel those to come in Objective, Burma!, even though Hitting a New High is a comedy and Objective, Burma! is a very grim war movie.

The heroine is seen in a jungle pool. It has a small waterfall. The pool anticipates the jungle pool in The Naked and the Dead, another Walsh war movie.

The heroine is in the pool: one of many Walsh characters who get into water. Earlier, Horton and crew wade a small jungle stream.


Walsh likes animals. Numerous birds run throughout Hitting a New High.

The opening is a comedy photo shoot with a lion.

Sound Equipment and Technology

A microphone is often on stage with the band.

Diamond Lozenges

Diamond lozenge shapes are in a lattice in the night club, during the singing of the title song "Hitting a New High".


The sets of Hitting a New High are full of circles: Costumes also include circles: Horton's gear perhaps evokes two of Walsh's favorite subjects: The abundance of circles in Hitting a New High is one of the most Walsh-like aspects of the movie.


Men are systematically dressed in white tie and tails. This starts at the opening with Jack Oakie, and continues throughout the entire movie. The effect is a bit odd. Many Hollywood films restrict tails for the hero dressing up at the big finale, or at some key scene where the hero makes a big breakthrough. The fancy tails add punch and a visual splash. By contrast, the way everyone is dressed in tails throughout Hitting a New High seems to deny the fancy outfit much impact or pizazz.

Also a bit odd: the hero's boyfriend (John Howard), nominally the "handsome hero of the film", is mainly restricted to tuxedoes, rather than tails. Normally the hero of a Hollywood film gets the dressiest clothes, including white tie and tails. The hero's tuxedoes are his "working clothes" as the leader of the band. Perhaps restricting the hero such clothes underscores his "working man" feel.

Walsh films often have men with a common profession dressed alike:

Admittedly, having singers and dancers in common clothes is standard Hollywood practice, not just something Walsh likes.

Horton's pith helmets at the start, are examples of the strange hats that run through Walsh. The pith helmets are used for comedy.

The heroine is first seen in a shiny metallic dress. Walsh likes metallic clothes.

Walsh films regularly show men wearing flowers in their lapel. A variation on this appears in Hitting a New High: the heroine wears a feminine version of that male outfit, white tie and tails, for her musical number "Hitting a New High". Such female versions are fairly common in Hollywood films starring women dancers. Her outfit gets a Walsh touch: she is wearing a flower in her lapel, just like numerous men in Walsh films.

College Swing

College Swing (1938) is a pleasant mix of music and comedy.

Into Fantasy Land

John Payne's startling and joyous entrance into the film, dressed as a giant Cupid, is delightful. It suggests a loosening of bonds, and an expression of romantic fantasy. Payne also looks like a hero out of Walsh's own The Thief of Bagdad. Payne is also mainly in the white clothes, that are sometimes worn by Walsh Good Guys. His zone of leaves also links him with nature, as does the flowered arbor where he sings.

Soon the mysterious veiled lady will also enter, applying for a job as a Professor of Love. Walsh is allowing his characters to express their romantic longings and erotic dreams.

Vertical Environments

The young hero (John Payne) serenades the heroine below her balcony. This anticipates the heroine's balcony in They Died with Their Boots On. Later, people climb the pergola outside Payne's own room. And there is a balcony with the band in the final musical number.

SPOILER: At the climax of his routine, Professor Volt (Ben Blue) runs up the wall. This is a delightful special effect.

Sound Equipment and Technology

There is a disguised radio, one of the examples of sound technology that run through Walsh.

In the finale, there is also a genuine radio broadcaster, played by Robert Cummings. Like the radio announcer in High Sierra, he seems like the last word in likable sophistication and charm. This is a profession that is idealized in Walsh.

The opening shows a school bell ringing, in 1938. This recalls the opening shot of church bells in In Old Arizona.

The bell will ring in modern times, to signal Gracie finishing her exam. In addition, coded black or white flags are used, to tell whether she passes.

Waiters and Trays

The "College Swing" number is danced near the start, in the campus malt shop. It returns as the big finale. Both versions involve waiters with trays. In the opening, waiters try to dance, while holding trays. In the finale, a waiter with a tray is dragged into a dance, despite his awkwardness at having his hands full. There is a bit of kinkiness to this. In College Swing, it a woman who is taking advantage of the waiter.

A waiter with a tray keeping his hands useless returns in the big robbery sequence in High Sierra. Once again, this turns into some odd-but-intriguing comedy. In High Sierra it is a man, Humphrey Bogart, who has the young waiter under his thumb.


John Payne's girlfriend is wearing a dress with daisy motifs, in one scene. She also gives Payne a flower, from the arbor which is the setting of their meetings. Later, he's shown wearing a flower on his suit lapel.

The big love scene between Gracie and Horton takes place against a row of flowering trees (maybe apple trees).

Diamond Lozenges

That Walsh favorite, diamond lozenge shapes, shows up in many of the sets:


The gym is full of circular forms: hanging rings, round or cylindrical weights on poles, the fan that blows Ben Blue over.

Hope's office has a globe in the background.

There are some of Walsh's arched doorways, in the set for the finale. Hope's office also has arched windows.

Some Walsh films include circles in the dialogue. Perhaps the reference to a "thoroughly rounded education" is an example.

Geometric Worlds

The student malt shop, the Hangout, is full of geometric features. They are not quite as pronounced as some of the geometric environments in other Walsh films, through. Still, they include the lattice work, geometrically angled booths, and a white tile floor with an angled, slightly raised platform for the band.

The students at the Hangout make geometric gestures with their hands, while dancing. These movements also bring them into a geometric world. This recalls a bit the Recruit Depot in Battle Cry, where the new Marines are surrounded by geometric architecture, and take part in geometric drill exercises.

Camera Movement: Pans

In the schoolroom opening, Walsh pans over a number of women, listening to the choral recital. Such pans over static rows of people, run through Walsh.

Gracie makes a spectacular entrance to the final exam, in a pan that follows her processional movement.

Camera Movement: Tracks

Several of the musical numbers contain long tracking shots. In "College Swing", Walsh tracks along the lattice work from left-to-right, making a pleasing geometric pattern. Later, when the waiters have their song, Walsh will move slowly along the lattice from right-to-left, with the waiters moving along behind it. The number looks like something out of Max Ophuls, with characters in a moving camera sequence obscured by lattice grillwork in the front.

John Payne and his girlfriend also move forward through the arbor, in their second number. This is a vigorous camera movement. It adds a pleasing freshness to the scene.

The Roaring Twenties


The Roaring Twenties (1939) is a gangster movie, set against the historical background of the 1920's. This is the film that was unofficially spoofed by Amy Heckerling's Johnny Dangerously (1984). Despite its often serious surface, The Roaring Twenties is itself often slightly tongue in cheek. It is filled with comedy, and is considerably more light hearted than many gangster films. It is a lot of fun with James Cagney as the good gangster (a species that only exists in movies) and Humphrey Bogart as the bad gangster (and he is really, really, rotten!) Walsh's dynamic storytelling is at full tilt throughout.

Villainous gangster Bogart commits the senseless murder of an unarmed man, in the warehouse raid scene. Such vicious killings mark out the villains of Walsh films. Similar needless killings recur with gangster protagonist Cagney in White Heat, the evil sergeant in The Naked and the Dead, and Haman in Esther and the King. All of these men are shown to be deeply emotionally disturbed. They are cut off from other humans, and unable to relate to them emotionally.

Settings and Politics

When villain Bogart rises to power as a gangster, he takes on upper class trappings, such as fancy business offices and good suits. He looks as much like an upper class businessman as possible. He even practices golf in his office, like real executives - or like the real millionaire in Artists and Models. When Cagney comes and pleads to Bogart for help, the scenes look visually like a lower or middle class man, at the mercy of a rich, wealthy, indifferent businessman. The class warfare of the rich against the poor, so prominent in the Depression, is visually evoked - even though Bogart is not actually a "real" businessman in the plot. Bogart procedes to exploit Cagney financially, with vicious ruthlessness, just like real rich people in the Depression mercilessly attacked the poor.

This gangster film has as many scenes as possible in speakeasies and saloons. Walsh loved such places, and they are a key locale for his films. Most of the scenes also include music, with many old standards from the 1920's. These speakeasies are full of raffish characters, and the rowdy action typical of Walsh's nightclubs. Here they are presided over by character actress and comedienne Gladys George, who shows the gusto Walsh liked in actors.

The Lawyer

Cagney actually refers to the young lawyer (and his romantic rival) as "big, dumb and good looking". This too is a type in Walsh's cinema. Such young rivals will recur in White Heat, with Steve Cochran's character, and in High Sierra. The lawyer is dressed in better and better suits throughout the film; at the climax, he is in pinstripes, showing he has achieved the acme of social and romantic respectability.

The early scenes show the hero's male bonding with the lawyer. Cagney tells the lawyer how much he likes him, during their first meeting in the foxhole. And the two men embrace when the Armistice is announced. This is a rare scene of men hugging in old movies.

During the war scenes in Europe, the lawyer is nostalgic for New York City, and mentions Brooklyn. This recalls another displaced New Yorker serving as a soldier, Edmund Lowe out West in In Old Arizona, and his nostalgia for New York City.

The lawyer winds up in the D.A.'s office, like the hero's rival in Regeneration.

The Down Side of Alcohol

Walsh films are filled with dire portraits of the harm caused by alcohol. The Roaring Twenties offers a full scale account of the evils of Prohibition. It shows drink gaining a new respectability, among people who would not have used liquor before. This leads to another of Walsh's horrific traffic accidents.

Throughout much of the film, the hero refuses to drink: one of several non-drinking Walsh heroes.

The finale also includes a terrifying portrait of the hero descending into alcoholism.

Sound Equipment: Early Radios

One scene shows the heroine using a primitive, early 1920's radio set. This is typical of Walsh's love of sound equipment. This set must have brought back nostalgic memories for many 1939 viewers. Everybody in that era had a regular radio receiver: by 1939, radio was the dominant entertainment medium in the US, found in every home.

The organ grinder also uses a sound machine. And the electric piano that plays during the restaurant shootout is also sound technology.

Traditional low tech sound equipment is also present, of the kind that runs through Walsh's historical films. The Army uses bugles and whistles. The night watchmen use whistles, too. A foghorn sounds in the ship sequence.

Public speaking is another traditional Walsh subject, related to communication. Here Gladys George repeatedly speaks to patrons in the nightclub. She does it very well, with clarity, humor, and strong urgings to the crowd on how they should behave.

There is also non-sound-related technology in The Roaring Twenties. The hero is a technological person. He starts off by doing car repair in a garage. Later on, he moves to running a still. The boat he commands is also a technological enterprise.


Walsh heroes seem to have limitless energy. But paradoxically, the theme of exhaustion also runs through Walsh films. Here, there is a funny scene, in which Cagney comes to visit his taxi-driver friend, only to find him fallen asleep at the breakfast table. The exhaustion is linked to over-work: the taxi-driver had a demanding fare.

The Night Club Shooting: Crowds and Flowers

After the shooting in the nightclub, the crowd flees in panic. This anticipates the scene in The World in His Arms, where the crowd flees the hotel ball room after a fight. Both scenes are impressively staged. They show Walsh's interest in choreographed crowd scenes. Both episodes are linked to the panic on the boat after the fire, in Regeneration.

When one of the men is being carried out after the fight, Gladys George throws roses on him. This recalls the flowers thrown on gangster Lloyd Nolan after he is killed in Big Brown Eyes. Both gestures are full of ironical dark humor.


The finale shows the hero aspiring to reach symbolic heights: the top of the church steps. It anticipates later tragic finales in Walsh, with the hero trying to reach a mountain top: High Sierra, or the top of the oil tankers: White Heat.

Earlier, the pit used by the World War I soldiers also has a high, steep side. People keep falling down it, as men often do fall from heights in Walsh. The men keep falling on each other, when they reach the bottom. This recalls the waiters who comically collapse on each other in College Swing.

In the battle with Bogart's men at the end, one falls off a high balcony at the top of the stairs.

The lawyer wants an office on the 28th floor of the Woolworth Building, a Manhattan skyscraper. He says you can see the bay and Brooklyn from it.


Walsh likes maps. There is an animated map of the United States, showing how the states ratified Prohibition.

Later, Cagney's business has a wall calendar with a stylized map of Manhattan on it. The image is like a scale model of Manhattan, recalling the actual models that appear in other Walsh films.

Men Dressed Alike

Bogart's bodyguards at the end are all dressed alike, in matching spiffy tuxedos. This is one of many male groups in Walsh, that share both a common profession and common clothes.

Earlier, during the shipboard scene, the common visored nautical caps worn by Bogart and Cagney underscores their sense of brotherhood. Both men are actually impersonating sailors; both are actually bootleggers. The visored caps are part of this disguise. The visors show Walsh's love of complex curving forms.

Cagney is first seen in a tuxedo during the New Year's scene. This is also the first time both Danny and the lawyer are shown in tuxedoes. Both in this scene and later, several night club customers are in that favorite Walsh costume, white tie and tails.

The soldiers and the night watchmen also share common uniforms. So do some of the cabbies at the end. The cab drivers in Grand Central Station are especially slick, with matching visored caps.


Walsh likes strange hats in his films. In The Roaring Twenties, these include the helmets the American soldiers wear, and the souvenir German helmet Cagney brings home.


The close-up of the plate of spaghetti is one of the delightful shots in this film. It always makes me hungry. The plate is one of Walsh's favorite shapes, a circle. Viewed at an angle, it makes an ellipse on the screen. While this is a simple image, it is very satisfying. It is an example of the geometric delight Walsh brings to his compositions. We watch as a gangster covers the top of the spaghetti with cheese, a shot which appeals to the sense of taste. But it also forms a pure geometric pattern, the filling up of a circular region with a covering. Watching such a geometric process in action is an example of Walsh's geometric cinema.

Circles also fill the scene on the boat. We see portholes and circular life preservers in the background walls of the shot, just like the circular object on the tenement wall in Regeneration. There are also table lamps whose shades are perfect hemispheres, and nearly hemispherical lights on the walls. Walsh also shoots the big fight through hanging cables, that make catenary shaped curved arcs in the composition.

Other scenes in the film include circles, too:

Walsh films sometimes include circles in the dialogue. The song played by the organ grinder is "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" (1918). However, this might also be a reference to Cagney's earlier film The Public Enemy (1931), where it is played.

Geometric Worlds: Made of Straight Lines

Other scenes in the film have sets that include regularly repeated straight lines. These include the warehouse, with its huge, repeated, trapezoidal flanges, and the church at the end, with its huge outdoor staircase. Both scenes allow people to enter and wander around within a purely geometrical world, a world made entirely of straight lines. The Italian restaurant, with its regularly repeating checkerboard tablecloths, also has something of the status of a geometric world.

The briefly seen ship-front, when the hero disembarks after World War I, is also a geometric world.

Camera Movement

When Cagney comes back from World War I, a track follows him down the tenement street where his friend lives. Such shots following heroes walking through architecture, are common in Walsh. There are porch steps - such Walsh tracks sometimes include steps.

When Gladys George sings "A Shanty in Old Shanty Town", the camera moves along with her as she walks about the saloon. Cagney is revealed midway through the long shot.

Depth Staging

When the gangsters are staking out the heroine's home at the end, we get a shot from the gangsters' car, all the way to the front door of the heroine's house. This depth staging is motivated by the plot: it conveys the idea of "surveillance", evil men watching other people. It contrasts the middle class home and the sinister gangsters watching it, preparing to harm the heroine's family.


The closest ancestor I have been able to discover for The Roaring Twenties, and the 1930's Hollywood gangster film in general, is the play Broadway (1926), by Philip Dunning and George Abbott. This play was a huge commercial and critical success in 1926, and did much to popularize the world of gangsters and speakeasies in entertainment media. It conveys the milieu that would later appear in gangster films with startling vividness. Some of the play's characters are gangsters, bootleggers who are conducting turf wars for control of the illegal liquor industry during Prohibition. These men hijack each others trucks, and gun each other down in cold blood, just as in Walsh's film, and other gangster works. They also control liquor distribution in well defined geographic areas of New York City. As in Walsh's film, there is a scene in which they force an unwilling night club owner to take their booze. The gangsters are all dressed in tuxedos, just as in The Roaring Twenties, and many other gangster films.

Other characters in Broadway are show biz types, singers and dancers who work in mob controlled night clubs. These characters are not criminals or dishonest, but they have to coexist with the gangsters in a common environment. Such night clubs and their entertainers are also featured prominently in The Roaring Twenties, and other gangster movies. The honest, two-bit hoofer who has to confront the gangsters in Broadway was originally played on stage by Lee Tracy, who became a big 1930's movie star himself, after he was imported to Hollywood to appear in another stage adaptation, Roy Del Ruth's Blessed Event (1932).

The subject matter of Broadway is not its only link to Hollywood. The snappy, slang filled, vernacular dialogue of Broadway anticipates countless 1930's talkies. In fact, the archetypal Warner Brothers picture of the 1930's, featuring tough but honest characters who cope with working class poverty with a wisecrack, seems to come directly out of Broadway. Reading it, I had to constantly remind myself that this was 1926, and not some 1930's movie.

Broadway is far from being a perfect work. It ethnically stereotypes some of its crooks, something that is not morally acceptable. Commendably, this problem is not shared by The Roaring Twenties, which looks as if it has made a conscious effort to gives its various gangsters names not associated with any ethnic group.

At one point in its development, Broadway was known as The Roaring Forties. The phrase still survives in the text of the finished play. It refers not to the decade of the 1940's, but rather to such New York City streets as 42nd Street, the locale for the play's action. Broadway is a somewhat misleading title, by today's standards. The work deals not with the New York theater, which is what the phrase "Broadway" usually conjures up today, but with the speakeasies and gangsters who once thrived in the neighborhood of Broadway.

Broadway is easily available in book form in many libraries. It was reprinted, for example, in Famous Plays of Crime and Detection (1946), edited by Van H. Cartmell and Bennett Cerf. Like comic books, plays and the theater are a once popular and hugely influential medium, that are now sinking slowly off most contemporary readers' radar screens. People will only develop a real understanding of popular culture when they explore all of its media, rather than simply restricting themselves to film alone.

There is also a film version of the play, Broadway (1929), directed by Paul Fejos. Like other works by Fejos, it is very hard to see today, and most contemporary filmgoers, myself included, are completely unfamiliar with this early talkie. Thomas E. Jackson repeated his stage role as the police detective in the movie version, and went on to play supporting roles as policemen and District Attorney's for the next forty years in Hollywood. And Evelyn Brent, who had appeared in Sternberg's gangster films, plays a major role in the film version.

Dark Command

A Civil War Western

Dark Command (1940) is a Civil War story, loosely based on Quantrill's Raiders. Like several Walsh films, it mixes genres, being both a Western and a Civil War tale. It is also one of several Walsh films with historical frameworks, with title screens and montages providing the historical events behind the tale.

Dark Command is a sinister story. Many of the Southern sympathizers seem to have no moral base or safeguards. They can and will do anything, in the name of the South. Watching them is a disturbing experience. These are apparently gifted and glamorous people, who do things worse than most films' villains.

Walsh will return with another horrifying look at the South and slavery in Band of Angels.

The Villain and his Mother

The conflict in the villain's family anticipates Pursued. Both families have tough-as-nails mothers. Both conflicts reach murderous dimensions.

Male Bonding

The brother (Roy Rogers) develops a strong need to bond with the hero (John Wayne). The two men get dressed together after taking the same side in the big fight. The scene expresses male bonding. It recalls Big Crosby getting dressed while the sound man records his singing, in Going Hollywood. It also recalls the barbershop clean-up scene of the two men in In Old Arizona.

The brother never takes any interest in women. His sole affection is for the hero.

The brother wants to be first a cowboy, then a soldier. He is a bit like the young men in Walsh who want to join the team.

The brother wants to support the hero's wooing, and nicknames himself "Cupid". This recalls the hero dressed as Cupid in College Swing.

The brother eventually mounts a rescue of the hero, anticipating Fighter Squadron. In both films, this is a sign of his affection.

Sinister Guns

The brother is obsessed with using a gun - and it leads to disaster. This anticipates the finale of The Lawless Breed. In both films, a very young man's naive enthusiasm for guns is seen as horrifying.

Thieves and Looters

The villain becomes a guerilla, and starts looting on a large scale: his main motivation. In many ways, he is just a thief. Thief and robber characters run through Walsh. This villain is different, only in that he wears a self-chosen uniform and gives himself military pretensions.

The villain is played by Walter Pigeon, normally a leading-man-good-guy type, but who had previously portrayed another criminal in Walsh's Big Brown Eyes. Both crooks played by Pigeon have respectable secret identities. In both films, the detective heroes penetrate the bad guy's secret identity. But in Dark Command, unlike Big Brown Eyes, this does not involve any detective work. The hero simply recognizes the villain.

The way the villain makes money off of war, anticipates the war profiteer title character in The Revolt of Mamie Stover.

Fire and Warlords

At the finale, the villain burns the town, just like the historic Quantrill and his infamous attack on Lawrenceville in 1863. This anticipates the sinister warlord in Captain Horatio Hornblower, and his desire to burn towns.

The finale is one of the disastrous fires that run through Walsh.

The villain's progress is shown through a burning map. This is one of the more unusual map images in Walsh.

Subverting Justice

The villain intimidates the jury, in the big trial. This is one of several Walsh films that show justice being subverted, especially in courtrooms. Here, he uses tactics that also suggest such 1940 contemporary evils as the the Ku Klux Klan. The scene is discomforting, like much of Dark Command. It implies that the intimidation it depicts is going on right now, outside of the movie theater, in 1940 society.

Class and Clothes

Like many Walsh films, social class is underlined throughout Dark Command. This is another Walsh film, with a poor hero in love with an upper class woman.

The hero never gets any good clothes - somewhat unusually for a Hollywood hero. Instead, he is in cheap, simple outfits throughout. By contrast, while the hero's brother is in many ways no good, he is dressed in one fancy outfit after another through the whole movie. These remind the audience of his upper class status. They also suggest the superficiality of such markers: they are not linked to personal worth or character, just class privilege.

Working class heroes in Walsh often get to dress in the clothes of the upper classes, such as white tie and tails, in fun scenes. The villain's clothes at the end seem like a dark, twisted parody of such fancy outfits. He is dressed in a Confederate officer's uniform. He looks sharp - but we also realize that this uniform is worn by men who kill people, and who are defending an evil social order. The hero points out the falseness of the villain's V insignia, in a scene that causes discomfort. Also with negative connotations: the villain getting his boots shined. This is upper class privilege at its least likable.


Walsh loved sound-based communication systems in his historical films: The telegraph is used to inform the town about the start of the Civil War. The telegraph wires also play a role in the finale.

Public speaking includes election speeches, courtroom orations, speeches in the bank, and speeches to the troops.

The hero is shown learning how to read. The difficulties he encounters not being able to read signs, are vividly illustrated. However, this interesting plot thread is unfortunately dropped midway in the film.


Walsh movies are full of anti-alcohol messages. In Dark Command, the promise of liquor is used by the villain, to recruit men to join his sinister guerillas.

Meanwhile, the hero defends his occasional drunkenness as "his only bad habit".

There is also humor about alcohol being used to kill pain in dentistry. We see a tea-totaler woman.

Vertical Environments

The hero and villain give election speeches, from a balcony in town. During the finale, the balcony becomes a scene of action.

The hero has to drive his wagon off a cliff, to escape pursuit. He becomes one of several Walsh heroes who wind up in the water.


Dark Command has a few circular forms:

Camera Movement

A track follows the heroine into her house.

Other tracks are of a familiar Walsh kind, following characters walking through environments:

They Drive by Night

This discussion is full of SPOILERS. Please see the movie first, before reading.

The First Half: Truck Drivers

They Drive by Night (1940) opens with a relentless look at the problems of working class truck drivers. It shows how these men are exploited by their bosses, and face atrocious working conditions and endless financial hardships. The film is filled with detail about their profession, and virtually serves as a documentary about an industry. The extreme poverty of the characters reminds one that Walsh was a disciple of D. W. Griffith, and regularly made films about the poor. These men are not slum dwellers or members of an underclass, however: they are working class people at their most financially desperate.

They Drive by Night also anticipates The Naked and the Dead (1958), in that it shows an all-powerful system driving like a juggernaut over the lives of ordinary people trapped within it. In The Naked and the Dead, the system is modern warfare; here it is the exploitative system of contract truckers. Both movies are constructed almost like documentaries, giving a systematic exposition of the social systems they describe.

They Drive by Night also shares a subject with The Naked and the Dead: exhaustion. The night-driving truck drivers are in a constant state of exhaustion, and are desperate throughout for a good night's sleep. The film builds up a hypnotic mood, with the characters' near-sleep, hypnagogic state being evoked by the film's mise-en-scène. Exhaustion also plays a key role in the finale of The Naked and the Dead, where the characters struggle heroically against it.

Many of the exteriors in They Drive by Night are shot on location, on California highways. Such rural California locales will return in High Sierra. In both films, these locations look desolate and even downright primitive. The locales seem sinister, menacing, and full of danger for the heroes. There is little about them that is friendly or consoling, unlike many artists who find the countryside uplifting.

The attempts to board moving trucks from other vehicles recall the train robbery in Colorado Territory. These action sequences usually have Walsh moving with his camera along side vehicles, often at high speeds.

The Second Half: A Variation on The Postman Always Rings Twice

The look at the problems of contract truckers takes up the entire first half of They Drive by Night, the first 45 minutes. After this, the second half switches gears entirely, and becomes virtually a second movie. The second half is a crime melodrama.

It is a strange variation on James M. Cain's novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934). In Cain's novel, the young wife of a rich older man seduces a macho young drifter, a working class mechanic, and murder ensues. This film looks at the same basic set-up, but at what might have happened if the young man had rejected the seduction, and been not interested in the wife. Here the young mechanic is replaced by the young truck driver lead of the film, George Raft. Both works deal with road material, with trucks, and highway-side cafes. The whole idea is interesting. It takes a popular, much filmed novel, and develops a "what if" variation on its famous plot, showing how a different set of choices might have resulted in a different path in the characters' lives. The whole "what if" concept anticipates the Imaginary Stories that will be developed in the 1950's and 1960's in Superman comic books. It also anticipates the multi-path movies of contemporary cinema, such as Tom Tykwer's Lola Rennt / Run, Lola, Run (1998). It is also probably the only film version of The Postman Always Rings Twice not to have run into censorship trouble, because no adultery actually occurs. Walsh is not the only director to have created variants on Postman. Michelangelo Antonioni's Il Grido (1957) seems like variations on the subject matter and style of Luchino Visconti's Postman adaptation, Ossessione (1942). And Tay Garnett's 1946 film version of The Postman Always Rings Twice makes significant changes to the original novel.

They Drive by Night is far from my favorite Walsh movie. It is relentlessly downbeat and grim. It also shows less visual pizzazz that some Walsh movies. I certainly do not want to inflict any film this downbeat on my readers, who are hereby warned! However, the storytelling is gripping throughout. It takes one into its world, and moves along like a dream within it.


Both halves of the film show Walsh's interest in technology. The first half is filled with long-distance telephone calls. These are among the many sound-oriented communication devices in Walsh, such as the radio and walkie-talkies in his later military pictures. Walsh even includes a split-screen shot, showing Raft on the phone on one side of the frame, his girlfriend on the phone in another, and a shot of a telephone pole in between them. The pole and its wires represents the sound communications technology linking the two characters. This pole anticipates the power lines of Walsh's Manpower (1941).

It seems a little odd, to see 1940 truck drivers without the Citizen Band radios that are such a feature of modern day movies and TV shows about truckers. The film shows how hard it is for the truckers to function, when their only communication mechanism is long distance phone calls from road side truck stop cafes. By the way, these cafes seem relentlessly cheap and grungy. They are some of the dumpiest lunch counters anywhere in old film.

We also briefly see an intercom in Hale's office, treated as a brand new invention. Dialogue emphasizes that the characters are living in an age of invention; similar remarks are made about the electric eye.

Bogart's hand signals during the negotiation with the fruit dealer, are another form of communication.

The second half also has a high tech feature, but one not related to sound communication. These are automatic doors operated by electric eyes. They are a photogenic piece of technology, and Walsh gets considerable mileage out of them. At the time, they were probably fairly new. They used to fascinate me as a kid in grocery stores. A prose mystery short story that centers on an electric eye is Frederick Irving Anderson's "Gulf Stream Green" (1929), in his collection Book of Murder.

The reporters at the end, phone in the story to their newspapers.

Gas and Alcohol

The murder involves carbon monoxide, one of several kinds of sinister gas that run through Walsh films. In The Thief of Bagdad, the heroine is attacked by fumes from a poisoned rose, and later by drugged fumes from a brazier. There is also the dental gas in The Strawberry Blonde. More benevolently, the pilots in Fighter Squadron keep breathing oxygen.

Gas and fumes appeared in comic book stories of the era, especially those scripted by Gardner Fox. Please see the article on the Golden Age super-hero The Flash, and such Fox-scripted tales as the origin story "The Flash" (1940), "The Olympic Adventure" (1940), "Crime's Birthday Party" (1942) and "Topsy Turvy Town" (1944).

In They Drive by Night, Alan Hale would not be vulnerable to the carbon monoxide or the murder plot, if he were not such a drunk. It is part of the film's anti-alcohol theme.

Much is made of the hero's refusing drink. He is opposed to alcohol.

We also see him drinking non-alcoholic soda pop at the gas station. Perhaps this is an orange drink: there is a Dad's Orange Drink logo on the side of the cooler from which he takes the soda bottle. This recalls the pineapple soda the hero likes in Big Brown Eyes.

Coffee is drunk repeatedly by the truck drivers, to stay awake. One also likes coffee with sugar, another sweet drink.

There is also a prominent water cooler at the truck company: they try to give water to Lupino after she faints.

Huge dairy trucks are brought in by the honest hero, as a money-making scheme. They form a contrast with The Roaring Twenties, and that film's gangster hero's transport of booze.

The Accidents: Weather, Heights, Fire

The truck drivers move through night and rain, at one point. Dialogue warns about mud. This recalls The Big Trail, in which the wagons have to move forward through bad weather.

The accident has the truck going over a small cliff. Heights are a major image in Walsh.

The first accident results in a disastrous fire, also a major Walsh image. The fire climaxes in an explosion, like the fires in many Walsh films.


They Drive by Night constantly underlines class. Nearly every setting is either working class or upper class. The working class areas are squalid and filled with grinding, Depression era poverty. The homes and businesses of the upper class are gleaming and filled with luxury.

There will soon be a similar visual exploration of class in High Sierra. The two films have much in common: stars (Bogart and Lupino), California road settings.

George Raft comes to the party in They Drive by Night in his business suit, while everyone else is in evening clothes. The suit proclaims that he works for a living. Similarly, in High Sierra, Bogart shows up at the luxury resort in his suit, when everyone else there is in upper class sports wear. In many Walsh films, working class men get to dress up in the clothes of the upper classes. By contrast, in They Drive by Night and High Sierra, the working men are conspicuously restricted to suits, which separates them from the fancy clothes worn by the upper classes to indicate their leisure life styles.

Early in the film, Lupino keeps upbraiding her now-rich husband, because he has not abandoned his working class ways. This was the main premise of the comic strip by George McManus, Bringing Up Father (started 1913, and still hugely popular in 1940). Both in the comic strip and They Drive by Night, the audience is probably unsympathetic to the socially climbing wife. But also in both works, there is regret that the husband is such a boor: he could definitely try a little better to please his wife. However, the loyal wife Maggie in Bringing Up Father is a much finer person than Lupino's definitive Evil Woman in They Drive by Night. While Alan Hale bears a strong resemblance to husband Jiggs in the strip, Lupino's wife is quite different.

A Failure of the Court System

Several Walsh films show law courts failing to provide justice. In They Drive by Night, the District Attorney is idiotically gullible, about everything rich widow Lupino says. He believes her lying stories twice, and acts on them. Only a chance happening at the end prevents a failure of justice. There is perhaps an undercurrent, that suggests the court system is just the agent of rich people like Lupino.

The loan shark keeps emphasizing that the law is on his side. He shows up with the police, at one point. As a working class truck driver points out, this means "we need an awful lot of new laws".


The pinball machine lights up spectacularly. I only recall a few scenes like this in Walsh: the electric sign in Artists and Models, the drive-in theater sign in White Heat. There are the scenes showing radar in Walsh's Fighter Squadron. By contrast, light art-machines are common in the films of James Whale and Vincente Minnelli, and dramatic changes of light are used to tell the story in Edgar G. Ulmer.


Walsh films are full of pet animals. We hear Bogart's dog barking when he comes home, then see the dog standing guard in his wife's bedroom.


They Drive by Night is full of circles: The mansion yard is especially filled with circles: The many kinds of geometric patterns in Hale's mansion yard, make it one of the geometric environments that run through Walsh. It also has a conspicuously rectilinear swimming pool, and twin geometric trellises by the door.

The gas station at Barney's has the name "Blue Circle" - one of several Walsh businesses with "round" names. There is also a circle logo on the sign on top:

There are spheres on the top of the gas pumps. Between the circles at the gas station itself, and the circles on the hero's truck, the gas station is also a geometric environment.

Diamond Lozenges

They Drive by Night has some diamond lozenge shapes: There is also a relief in an octagonal frame on the wall.


The head trucking office near the start has numerous maps on the walls.


The truck drivers at Carlsen's are men who dress alike, in common uniforms. They wear peaked caps with visors.

Lupino is first seen in a blouse full of flowers (maybe carnations). She is one of many Walsh women associated with flowers - although usually these are heroines.

Lupino is in metal clothes. This is a kind of costume that will later be associated with Walsh men.

Color in the Dialogue

They Drive by Night is a black-and-white film. But color is mentioned frequently:

High Sierra

Crime and Justice

High Sierra (1941) tells the story of a robber. It is one of several Walsh films with a thief hero. At the start, he is seen leaving prison, also a Walsh image. The pardon he has bought from a crooked governor is an example of another Walsh film showing the legal system failing.

On the Road

High Sierra shows Americans On the Road. Bogart moves from the Midwest to California, to take part in a robbery; he meets a poor family driving a broken down car, also to California. When he gets to California, much of the action is at tourist locales, such as a cabin in the woods and a fancy resort. All of this shows a new mobile United States. Walsh's previous film, They Drive by Night, showed honest truckers driving all over California, as part of their job. High Sierra shows other kinds of people on the road: crooks, the poor, tourists, bus travelers, the idle rich. Several Walsh films are structured around "people visiting several locales". In High Sierra, this approach is merged with a sociological portrait of America on the road.

John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1939) showed desperately poor farmers migrating from Oklahoma to California. The poor family in High Sierra is not quite that catastrophically bad off. But High Sierra still depicts something of the same phenomenon, of people on the move to California.

Links to Other Walsh Films

High Sierra anticipates White Heat: When Bogart intervenes to help out Leslie, it is like a bitter parody of the plot of Regeneration. Both films have a gang leader, working to aid honest poor people.


High Sierra is relentlessly bitter, in its look at social class. The idle rich have never looked so idle or insolent as they do at this elite California resort. They seem absolutely confident about their ability to laze around.

Bogart takes off his suit jacket, to blend in. The film underscores that these rich people are not working, and that a man wearing work clothes like a suit would be out of place. Bogart also picks up a tennis racket, in 1941 a sport associated with upper class leisure. Although Bogart is a crook casing the joint, the visual effect suggests a working man, undercover at a resort for the idle rich.

The mean well-to-driver underscores the vengeful, petty approach taken by the rich to the poor.

The corrupt Governor at the start has a large, fairly lavish office decorated in a tasteful upper class style. He seems like a representative of upper class power.

The Night Sky

The memorable scene where the hero talks about the stars and planets, recalls The Thief of Bagdad and how a message is spelled out in words among the stars.

Sound Equipment

Walsh loved sound equipment, and it plays a role in the finale of High Sierra. Lupino hears a broadcast from a public loudspeaker while on the bus. This anticipates the loudspeaker outside the music store and its public announcements at the end of The Enforcer, also heard by the heroine.

The radio broadcaster on the rocks at the end is prominent. He is treated as a person of glamour: radio was vastly important in 1941, both in the public eye, and also, one suspects, in Walsh's. The broadcaster is the best dressed man in the film. He is neither in the sports clothes of the idle rich, worn by the mean car driver and the well-to-do at the resort, nor is he in the poverty stricken clothes of the working people. Instead, he is a really good trenchcoat, suit and tie. He looks like the social ideal of the period, a man with a constructive, highly admired job.

The police manhunt at the end, uses both police radio, and long distance calls. A montage includes images of switchboard operators. It also shows other, harder-to-identify, high tech police communication equipment. During the chase, we also hear a police siren.

There is an echo in the mountains.


Like other Walsh, High Sierra is full of negative warnings about alcohol: Some of these scenes associate alcohol with sinister elites: men beating women, the idle rich, the "hip" crowd who drink at Leslie's, and for whom she rejects Bogart.

Walsh's usual alternative to alcohol, sweet non-alcoholic drinks, are present: Bogart spoons lots of sugar into his coffee, like the hero of Me and My Gal. A sign in the office of the cabins offers soft drinks for sale. Sweets involve food too: Bogart puts lots of jelly on his breakfast pancakes, at the cabin.


A sleazy couple at Leslie's final party, are sitting in each other's lap. This suggests sexual looseness and corruption. Lap-sitting is hardly that serious in real life. But it might have been all that the censor would allow the film to show, to indicate loose morals.

Later Walsh films, such as Fighter Squadron and White Heat, will have more unusual, less conventionally heterosexual couples, sitting in each others' lap.


The finale of High Sierra is an archetypal Walsh scene involving heights. Like several others, it centers on Walsh's beloved mountains. The scene is constructed to form a vertical environment: we see straight down from the sharpshooter, to Bogart below.


There is a foot bridge at the cabins. Later, during the final car chase, both Bogart and the police drive over a small road bridge.

When Bogart holds up the store near the end, we see out through the store's huge window to the street. Such shots will become fairly common in film noir.


The hotel robbery is planned by the crooks, using a map of the hotel lobby. This use of a map-to-plan-a-robbery is common in film history, although it also reflects the large numbers of maps in Walsh films. But this map is uneasily detailed and realistic, for such a film map. It is a complete scale floor plan, of the kind that might be used by an architect. It shows every curve of the lobby, features such as elevators, links to other rooms. When combined with the actual lobby itself, the viewer is in the unusual position of having a double knowledge of the lobby: a room both seen directly, and known through its floor plan.

Bogart is handed a packet with route information, near the start.

A sign indicates the California border.


Several locales are symbolized by trees:


High Sierra is full of circles: Circles show up in the dialogue, as they do in some Walsh films. The hero talks about Earth spinning like a ball in space. And a sign shows the hero and heroine staying at the "Circle Auto Court" after the robbery. The words "Circle Auto Court" are everywhere, along with the Court's circle logo.

The revolving objects in Walsh are featured:

Spirals appear: Both the hotel lobby, and the sick man's fancy apartment, are so full of geometric design, that they qualify as some of Walsh's geometric worlds.

High Sierra includes the use of a circular iris. When the police are discussing Bogart's flight at the end, the camera first shows a map of where he is traveling. Then a circular iris gradually closes down over the location on the map. By 1941, Walsh could not include circular masks in High Sierra, the way he did in silent films like Regeneration (1915). But he can use an element of film grammar in favor in 1941, the iris. It enables him to build a circular frame about an image, again.

Geometry: Diamond Lozenges

In addition to circles, another geometric figure runs through High Sierra, the diamond lozenge: The sick man also has an octagonal table near his bedside.

Camera Movement

Several camera movements follow a walking character, a standard Walsh approach: An elaborate shot at the Circle Auto Court, follows the manager over to the window of the gas station, where we see Bogart inside on the phone.

A vertical camera movement travels down a tree, in the park near the film's start.


When dressed up for the big robbery, Babe wears a leather jacket, white dress shirt and tie. He looks great. However, wearing such a jacket seems unusual for 1941. Most fashion histories suggest that leather jackets only became common a few years later, after they were popularized by World War II flyers. Babe is a young man, as suggested by his nickname Babe, and leather jackets will emerge as clothes for young men who do not want to dress up in suits, the grown man's costume.

Babe's clothes echo the police who appear late in High Sierra, some of who wear leather police jackets.

Similarly, a rich man at Bogart's first visit to the resort, is wearing polished riding boots. He is part of the arrogance of the rich. His boots also anticipate those of several policemen at the end of the film. He seems to be carrying some sort of pith helmet, maybe for polo.

Both leather jackets and boots, will be part of hero Robert Stack's image as a flyer in Fighter Squadron.

White Suits

Cornel Wilde wears a white double-breasted suit, as part of his hotel clerk's job. Wilde plays an unsympathetic character. Clerks in fancy hotels were often despised as "lackeys of the rich" in old movies. His white suit conveys a sort of gigolo-like ostentation.

However, at the end of Glory Alley, Walsh will have his hero Ralph Meeker in a similar white double-breasted suit. There it will symbolize his hero's admirable success.

The bellboys are more of Walsh's "sympathetic men servants in cream-colored clothes".

Influence of High Sierra

High Sierra might be an influence on Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1949). Both films: High Sierra might also be an influence on later film noir, on films that contrast urban tough guys and bucolic country settings: Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947), Nightfall (Tourneur, 1956), On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1951).

High Sierra is a Road Movie, with the characters traveling a lot around California, and encountering the California State Police. In this, it anticipates Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945).

The Strawberry Blonde

The Strawberry Blonde (1941) is a nostalgic comedy, with some serious undertones.


The hero is framed for a crime: one of many Walsh heroes who face a miscarriage of justice. This injustice is less closely linked to the court system, than is typical of Walsh. Instead, it seems to come pure and simple from a crooked businessman, one who has many ties to the political machine known as Tammany Hall.

While being sent to prison, the hero bids farewell to his wife. This scene has many elements in common with the farewell to come in They Died with Their Boots On.

The hero eventually becomes one of Walsh's many sympathetic ex-cons. As in other Walsh films, the hero's release from prison is a major story event.

The bad guy is one of many rich men who exploit ordinary people in Walsh.


The film tracks such innovations as dental gas, electric light, the telephone, and the horseless carriage. Contrasting electric light, is the park worker lighting all the gas lights in the park. He is viewed nostalgically. But his hand methods also seem inefficient.

A horse-drawn milk truck also appears, also perhaps nostalgia.

The Night Sky

The heroine talks about what a beautiful evening it is. Although the dialogue does not mention the sky at this point, she looks up at the night sky.

Later in the film, there is a similar discussion, this time about the moon. Cagney even mentions that the moon has come up "right on time". This is one of several Walsh films that evoke the night sky.

The Barber Shop

Barber shops appear in several Walsh films. It is a major setting in The Strawberry Blonde, and the barber is the hero's best friend. We get a full scale nostalgic portrait of such an old-fashioned barbershop, complete with the singing in male groups Walsh likes.

We also see the hero cleaning up on his back porch, which contains a sink.


There are not too many scenes involving heights, compared to other Walsh films:

The Collapse

The construction site collapses on Hale, recalling the collapsing trench in What Price Glory. The collapse in What Price Glory is underground, but the one in The Strawberry Blonde is not.

The collapse also recalls Walsh films in which people crash through the sets - although Hale does not actually go through.

Later, Carson will actually be socked through a glass door: an actual "crash through the set" scene.

Camera Movement

There is a track down the row of singers in the barbershop. This is a familiar Walsh "track down a row of standing men", although the men are a bit more on a diagonal than is typical.

The turn of the century street gets a track, following the man carrying beer pails on a pole.

Tilted Camera Angle

Early on, there are shots of a man speaking on a telephone. The camera is slightly tilted, for no apparent storytelling reason (it's not a montage sequence, or flashback).


The Strawberry Blonde has circles, like other Walsh films: There are also some rotating forms: There are arched doors: There are heart symbols, in the final title cards for the sing along.


Both Cagney and Carson wear flowers in their lapel, like many other Walsh heroes of the 1940's. Haworth twice has flowers on her dress.

Carson gets into white tie and tails, but not Cagney: a rare Walsh film in which the villain gets this outfit, rather than the hero.

Walsh liked comic stripes on silly costumes. The Yale man at the start wears comically dated striped pants, with his Yale sweatshirt. And many men wear exaggeratedly striped shirts with their suits and ties.


A Working Man Film

Manpower (1941) is a film about power line repairmen. It is one of many sympathetic films Warner Brothers produced about working class Americans.

Its subject matter recalls Edward L. Cahn's film Bad Guy (1937), which was also about men who do dangerous repair work on lines. The heights at which these characters work, and the danger they face, recall Frank Borzage's outstanding film about bridge builders, Stranded (1935).

Manpower re-uses plot ideas from an earlier Warners working man film, Other Men's Women (William Wellman, 1931). Both films develop a love triangle, between a man, his wife, and the man's best friend and co-worker, who is staying with the couple in their house. Other Men's Women is also full of photogenic footage of the trains where the men work, emphasizing danger on the job. I'm not real fond of Other Men's Women: it's depressing, in a way that Manpower is not. Other Men's Women is best with its train footage, and in a dynamic supporting role from early James Cagney.

Manpower has some links to They Drive by Night:

The counterman's comedy routine concludes triumphantly with him shouting out "The Grapes of Wrath". This likely refers to John Steinbeck's 1939 novel. Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was a famous left wing book about the problems of poor people. This suggests that Manpower is trying to situate itself in a left-wing tradition of working class fiction. Walsh's previous film High Sierra perhaps shows a Steinbeck influence.

The Opening: Male Bonding and Common Clothes

The excellent opening sequence of Manpower recapitulates many Walsh themes. It has a portrait of men in groups, here the team of repairmen. Like many such idealized groups in Walsh, the men are all dressed alike, here in sharp black slickers during a rainstorm. These are very macho and glamorized clothes. Like other Walsh groups, all of these men share a common profession. They are deeply friendly to each other.

Within the larger group, there is an idealized male bonding between George Raft and Edward G. Robinson. One of the men even tells the other that he loves him, something that is very rare in film dialogue. Walsh develops a dramatic plot, that underscores the two men's deep affection for each other.

The clothes in Manpower are by Milo Anderson, Warner Brothers' specialist in making male stars glamorous. Anderson had previously used shiny black slickers in the rain-drenched finale of William Clemens' Once a Doctor (1937), where they were similarly effective.

Later, there will be a scene that recurs in many Walsh films: a rescue of an injured comrade. It too evokes male bonding.

The Opening: Male Bonding and a Truck Ride

The men all ride to the scene of the power line accident in the back of a truck. This anticipates the men in the oil truck at the end of White Heat. Both are some of Walsh's containers with men inside.

The Opening: Electrical Equipment - and a Geometric World

The power lines themselves recall the many scenes of electrical equipment in Walsh' work. Often times, such equipment deals with sound transmission, but here it does not.

Walsh uses the power lines and the poles that support them to make many brilliant compositions on the screen. The sequence is a symphony of straight lines, running at many different angles on screen. It takes us to a purely geometric world, like other climactic sequences in Walsh.

Later, there is an unusual lamp, in the shape of a woman holding a torch. It is perhaps symbolically linked to the electrical power theme.

Sound Technology

The opening shows the switchboard at the Bureau of Power and Light. It is full of hard-working Warners men, taking emergency calls about damaged power lines. Immediately after, a radio dispatcher sends out crews.

Later we see a long distance telephone call. There is also a telegram.

Both a harmonica and a piano are played.


The scenes with power lines are archetypal examples of Walsh's interest in heights.

More modestly, the front porch at Robinson's house is fairly high, and an angled staircase leads down from it to the yard.

Inside, Alan Hale slides down the banister of a staircase.


When the characters leave the front door of the hospital after a visit, we see the architecture. It includes big windows, and glass brick.


Later we see ex-con Marlene Dietrich leaving prison, and her first re-entry into the outside world. This resembles the scene where Humphrey Bogart leaves prison at the start of Walsh's High Sierra (1941). Walsh always shows sympathies with prisoners in his films.

Dietrich wears roses in her hat, at the wedding reception. She is one of many Walsh heroines linked to roses. The men in the wedding party all wear flowers in their lapel: such men-wearing-flowers also being common in Walsh. (Earlier, roses are brought to an injured man in the hospital.)

Manpower is full of Walsh's trademark raucous comedy. Once again, this is done both by a group of men, and by a tough, resourceful woman who can hold her own with them (Marlene Dietrich).

Manpower has Alan Hale doing comedy relief. 1930's and 1940's scenarios often had one or two characters whose job was to add comedy to what was otherwise a fairly serious themed movie, such as a whodunit or adventure story like Manpower. These characters will clown relentlessly throughout the movie, while everyone else will behave more seriously. This convention now seems to have disappeared from film construction. These characters often seem oddly disconnected from everything around them. The comic relief character, like Alan Hale's line repairman here, tends to be gainfully employed and respectable. He is definitely not a low life or a bum, like many comic characters in modern films.

Manpower partly has the "vignettes of characters in a group" structure, sometimes found in Walsh.

George Raft plays baseball with the neighborhood kids. He is one of several Walsh heroes seen with groups of kids.

Show Biz

Manpower has some interpolated show-biz-like scenes:

The Drug Store

Dietrich buys a large amount of make-up, at a well-equipped drugstore. The perfumes on the display counter, remind one of similar displays that open Big Brown Eyes.

The drugstore owner has spot remover, which he uses on Dietrich. The store is a whole place where people can spruce up their appearance. It relates to other such locales in Walsh, such as the beauty shop in Big Brown Eyes. Often times, such locales cater to men in Walsh. Here it is sprucing up a woman, instead.

The men have a locker room at work, where they change clothes. That is perhaps the male equivalent in Manpower.

Soft Drink vs. Alcohol

Manpower is another Walsh film with a negative portrayal of alcohol: By contrast, good guy Raft gets a root beer in the drug store. He is one of many Walsh heroes who like soda pop or other sweet drinks.

Robinson has six sugars in his coffee, pushing sweet drinks to an extreme! He also raves about the gooseberry pies his wife bakes him: more sweet foods in Walsh.

Walsh heroes often drink water:

Dietrich uses coffee, to sober Robinson up. This is explicitly depicted as better than a beer, as a morning cure for a hangover.

Hale has a series of comedy bets, while sitting on the floor. One involves a drink poured on the floor. This is perhaps linked to a series of slapstick about drinks and fluids, in other Walsh.

Breathing and Gasses

A lineman is electrocuted by a power line, then has trouble resuming breathing. Scenes in Walsh where characters breathe gasses are common. Here the lineman is trying to breathe regular air, the most important gas of all.

Soon, the lineman will be given ammonia to breathe, to help his revival.


Manpower is one of several Walsh films, in which the hero briefly takes on a new identity. Here Raft briefly impersonates Dietrich's husband, on the phone and in the police station.

Map and Models

There are no maps in Manpower (as far as I can see). But geographical information is used by the repair organization: This knowledge about geographical information by an organization, recalls Fritz Lang films like M (1931). In M, burglar alarms at the office building are connected to a series of floor plans of buildings on index cards. Manpower similarly has files of cards on employees, telling where relatives live.

Manpower has other geographic references:

Walsh loves 3-dimensional models, typically of geographical information. There is a spectacular model in Manpower: the pylons and power line on top of the wedding cake. However, this is somewhat atypical for Walsh in that this model doesn't represent a map or geographical knowledge.

Fritz Lang also sometimes used models: see in M the circles drawn on the map by the police, surrounding a model of the searched crime scene.

Manpower has a Lang-like feel:


Manpower has circles, like other Walsh films: The jail has an arched door, one of many in Walsh.

A spinning can wheel is used to symbolize a car trip. This is one of the rotating objects in Walsh.

Like some other Walsh films, there is circular imagery in the dialogue:

There is a Point of View shot, showing a character looking through two glasses. Walsh films often shoot through telescopes or other circular masking regions. This shot is a variant.

Hale has a dressing gown, filled with triangles.

They Died with Their Boots On


They Died with Their Boots On (1941) is a biopic about General Custer. In real life, Custer was a monstrous enemy of Native Americans. The left-wing film changes this, so that Custer is a friend and supporter of Native American rights. As history it's wrong; as a political support for Native Americans, it is admirable. The depiction of the Native Americans throughout is full of dignity, and admiration for their skill. It emphasizes the justice of their claims.

The war mongering in They Died with Their Boots On is hard to take. Custer keeps finding "glory" - at the expense of his men's lives.

They Died with Their Boots On is full of black servants. The servants are portrayed in a way that is dated, with dialect and a servile manner. Hattie McDaniel is in full Mammy mode, following her performance two years previously in Gone With the Wind. While one can't defend this, one has to point out that all of the servants are hard-working, articulate, intelligent and good at their jobs. There are none of the negative stereotypes about black people's abilities, character or behavior that are frequently seen in old books and films.

Lawyers' tricks bar the hero's testimony to a Congressional committee. This is much like the law courts that run through the rest of Walsh. These courts are often shown to be social failures at dispensing justice. In They Died with Their Boots On this courtroom-like committee meeting is a similar failure, due to legal tricks and objections.

At the end, the hero becomes one of the Walsh characters who succeed in changing society. He is aided by his wife.

The Sergeant who greets Flynn at the opening seems impressed with him. He later makes a speech on Flynn's behalf. There is perhaps, or perhaps not, an element of a gay crush. The Sergeant is much more macho appearing than the many sympathetic gender outsiders who run through Walsh's films, however. The Sergeant is a notably good guy, who upbraids villain Arthur Kennedy for his hazing of the new recruits.


Walsh movies are full of anti-alcohol messages. They Died with Their Boots On has ferocious imagery on the subject. We see the hero's battle against alcoholism, aided by his wife. And his battle against the Cavalry fort's saloon. The scene where he wrecks the saloon's bottles is especially strong - perhaps one of Walsh's ultimate statements on this topic.

The hero is one of many Walsh leads who drink water. Here, the water-drinking is part of an explicit anti-alcohol message. The hero refuses a drink, and makes a toast in water instead. The water drinking is part of a systematic policy, we learn, for the Seventh Cavalry.

Onions cause the heroine to cry, with tears running down her cheeks. Perhaps this is distantly related to the gasses or fumes that attack characters in other Walsh films.

Class and Clothes

We never see the hero before his admission to West Point, or any of his people. Dialogue twice suggests he came from a modest financial background. He may or may not be working class.

By contrast, the villain (Arthur Kennedy) is the son of a well-to-do businessman. He values class privilege, and wishes there were more of it at West Point. The behavior of his father and him throughout offers a critique of the business class.

The spectacular uniform the hero wears at the start, might be an example of a Walsh image: "working class men dressing up in the clothes of the upper classes". It is not a pure example: the uniform is far from what the upper classes actually wear. Instead, it is a working stiff's fantasy of such clothes. It is one of the most entertaining things in the movie.

The hero goes out of uniform at the end, when he dons his buckskin jacket. Buckskins run through Walsh. His new costume marks a turning point in the film: it is associated only with the finale. It is a visual signal to the audience, that the story has changed.


The heroine and hero use real detective reasoning, to unravel the villains' hidden scheme. Their discussion on the train is a model of reasoning. Women often perform detective reasoning in Walsh.


Sheridan's war room has a telegraph. We hear it clicking away: it is emphasized on the soundtrack. It is also in the foreground of several shots, making it conspicuous, like its sound.

Both bugles and owl sounds are used for communication.

The tea-leaves allegedly generate images of the hero, that Hattie McDaniel can somehow "see in her mind's eye". This seems to be a supernatural version, of the "long distance vision" that runs through Walsh (more often done by telescopes). There was also the crystal ball in The Thief of Bagdad.

Maps and Models

Sheridan's war room also has a map. Other Walsh films will have either literal war rooms with maps (Fighter Squadron), or police headquarters with maps, that function much like war rooms used by the military (White Heat).

A second map appears later, when the hero sets out for the Dakotas.

The helmets worn by the West Point cadets, have what looks like a small model image of West Point buildings on the front.

The heroine first meets the hero, asking for directions. She is lost around West Point.


The hero climbs the heroine's balcony, as in College Swing. As in College Swing, this is a large set, with a integral view of space and architecture. During part of the scene, we see the whole house, yard and balcony in a single shot. We always know where the characters are later, as they move around the set or climb the balcony.


They Died with Their Boots On has a few circles: Other geometric shapes: Walsh's use of optical devices to mask the image returns, when the hero sees the heroine's father through a stereoscope. He is seen twice, a bit of a joke. Each image is masked.

In This Our Life

In This Our Life (1942) is a melodrama. It is credited to director John Huston. However, there are reports that some of the film was actually directed by Raoul Walsh.

Themes and Story

The last scenes of In This Our Life show a policeman using a radio phone in a patrol car, talking with a central reception room at police headquarters. This links to Walsh's theme of sound communication technology. There are similarities between the last sections of In This Our Life and They Drive by Night. Both involve an evil woman who plots a nefarious crime. In both, the woman gets pressured emotionally, hysterically collapses under the weight, and confesses the truth. These are bravura performances by Ida Lupino in They Drive by Night and Bette Davis in In This Our Life. In This Our Life also has the road accidents of They Drive by Night.

In This Our Life is an early film that offers a dignified, non-stereotyped treatment of black people. It is one of the most pro-black films of its era.

The black man can be seen as one of Walsh's working class characters. Bette Davis can be seen as one of Walsh's upper class characters who exploit working people as objects.

George Brent is a Walsh hero who sticks up for the weak.

The concerns over drunk driving, can be linked to Walsh's negative views of alcohol.

When actor Powers Boothe played a villain, he gave an interview, in which he said he tried to look for the humanity in the villain's character, and bring it out. As he put it, he tried not to portray the villain as "the second cousin of Satan". Well, Bette Davis in In This Our Life takes the opposite approach. Her character is really, really evil. She really does play her as "the second cousin of Satan".

Sound Technology

The last scenes of In This Our Life show a policeman using a radio phone in a patrol car, talking with a central reception room at police headquarters. This links to Walsh's theme of sound communication technology.


One can see a few circles:

Desperate Journey

Desperate Journey (1942) is a thriller about Allied airmen attacking Nazi targets.

Desperate Journey is a Walsh film that visits numerous locales: many cities in Germany and Holland.


Nazi villains impersonate good guys. This is close to the Walsh theme, of villains with respectable secret identities.


The Allied flyers show concern with their wounded.

By contrast, we learn that the Nazis are concealing their wounded, shipping them away on blacked-out train cars.


There are numerous scenes of spectacular fires, a Walsh tradition:


The less than sympathetic portrayal of dogs in Walsh, has another example with the hounds used by the Nazis to hunt the heroes. This anticipates Band of Angels.

Joining the Team

The very young British flyer, is another young man in Walsh who wants to be part of a team of grown-up men. These young men often experience great trouble, and this flyer is no exception.

The heroine is another strong Walsh woman who succeeds in a world of men.

Flynn is another Walsh protagonist who believes in recklessly disobeying orders. Unlike Custer in They Died with Their Boots On, his conduct is criticized. We see the costs of such actions.

Containers for Men

Both the truck transporting the flyers, and the airplane, are Walsh containers for men.

Sound and Communication

Desperate Journey is full of Walsh's interest in sound communication technology: In addition, the Polish partisan at the start uses a carrier pigeon to send messages.

Perhaps linked, is the use of gibberish by the Allied airmen:

The Allied code room is also seen briefly.


There are many of Walsh's maps. Some are non-diegetic (not part of the action or story): Other maps are diegetic (part of the story): Navigator Arthur Kennedy is a major figure throughout: a sign of Walsh's interest in navigation. At the start, Kennedy talks of using a "Star Sight" to plot a course. This is one of several references to the night time sky in Walsh.


Walsh heroes drinking water is a common motif, often in opposition to alcohol. But in Desperate Journey, drinking water takes on new aspects: Both of these ideas take Walsh's interest in water to new levels.

The heroes also wind up in the water, like the stars of other Walsh films. They wade through swamps, and have conflicts in rivers.

We see a rainstorm, with the heroes marching in it: echoing scenes of weather elsewhere in Walsh.

And the heroes free a car stuck in the mud, recalling the covered wagon in The Big Trail.

The heroes use a boat.

The spitting seed used by Hale, are perhaps a variant of the jokes about drinks elsewhere in Walsh. They perhaps anticipate Aldo Ray's spitting out his drink in The Naked and the Dead.


Several scenes show bridges, with the heroes hiding underneath them.

A suspense scene at the end takes place on the roofs of buildings in Munster. Someone falls off, a Walsh tradition.


Flynn crashes through a cellar window, to rescue his fellows. The Nazi factories about which the heroes learn key evidence, are underground. However, they are talked about but never shown in the film.

Crashing Through Sets

Flynn crashes through a window.


Desperate Journey is full of circles: The arched doorways frequent in Walsh recur in Desperate Journey: Spirals are on: One of the bridges is full of triangular side walls.

Some doors have diamond lozenge motifs in their centers.

There is so much geometry in some locales, that they qualify as Walsh geometric locations:


The Allied heroes wear glamorous black leather flight jackets: examples of Walsh heroes who dress alike. By contrast, none of the Nazi villains ever wear leather. Even their boots are not emphasized.

The heroes get cleaned up, in the bathroom of the railroad car. We only see the after effects of this, and not the bathroom itself. This perhaps relates to the many barbershop scenes in Walsh, in which the heroes get well-groomed.

Camera Movement

When the heroes are hanging from the bridge, Walsh moves his camera along them. Such movements down a row of men are a Walsh standard. This shot in unusual in Walsh in that the men are not standing. Instead, it combines with another Walsh interest, suspense involving heights (hanging from the side of the bridge).

When the men sneak up on plane at the end, Walsh tracks them through the bush with camera movements. This shot is repeated at least four times: twice moving towards the plane through the shrubs, twice moving away from in along the reverse path.

Gentleman Jim

Gentleman Jim (1942) is the story of real life boxing champion Jim Corbett. It is an engaging comedy-drama. It is one of Walsh's most beloved and most joyous films.

Immigration and Minorities

Gentleman Jim is one of several Walsh films, showing Irish-Americans. It offers a sympathetic picture of these immigrants.

The Irish were the most "socially acceptable" of immigrant groups during this era. Countless books and films had Irish-American heroes. They stood in for all immigrant groups, symbolically. Such works had a strong pro-immigrant subtext, celebrating these groups and their contribution to America.

Anti-Catholic prejudice was still rife in 1942, although perhaps not as virulent as during the 1920's and the horrific rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The sympathetic priest in Gentleman Jim is in part there to counteract anti-Catholic prejudice, and present a positive image for Roman Catholics. Many immigrant groups were largely Catholic: the Irish, Poles, Lithuanians, Hungarians, French and Hispanics.

Gentleman Jim shows Irish immigrants trying to assimilate in America. In part, this is an attempt to move up the class hierarchy. The Corbett parents are working class, running a livery stable. Jim Corbett becomes middle class, working in a bank and wearing a suit to work. Then the film shows him trying to break into the WASP upper class, represented by the rich men at the Olympic Club. All of this is played for comedy. But it reflects deep underlying realities of the story of immigrants in America.

Black servants are treated with dignity in Gentleman Jim. None are caricatured or shown as shuffling stereotypes.

The play about the lumberjack is satirized as old-fashioned hokum. It includes a character in blackface. The use of blackface is being satirized, shown as something old-fashioned and dated. This is a progressive attitude.

Geometric Worlds

The Olympic Club hosts an exhibition match with a British boxer. The Club is one of Walsh's geometric worlds. There is a square ring, with wires, posts, and spheres on top of the posts. Paired flags are sticking up on diagonals around the ring. The walls have both rectangular flags, and some of the semi-circular flag bunting that will recur in the homecoming scene in Pursued.

At the end, the oval hat is strikingly geometric. It comes in a hatbox, that seems to be an oval cylinder-like shape. The hatbox's lid has a curved rim, further adding to the geometric complexity. The hat is one of a series of unusual hats that run through Walsh. The chef's hats on the men standing next to the father (Alan Hale) at the boxing match are other examples.

John L. Sullivan has a star on his dressing room door. He wears stars on his belt during the climactic match.

The bank has an octagon on its door.


The Olympic Club foyer has a geometric staircase, a circular landing at its top, circular steps at the door, and cylindrical pillars.

When we see men playing in the Olympic Club card room, they have a circular table, circular coins and drinks on top, and are under a spectacular chandelier with several concentric rings of glass hangings.

The jail at the start has arched doorways. And so does the Olympic Club.

The hero's sister has a spherical ball of yarn, which Flynn helps her wind.

The bell at the wharf boxing match is a narrow cylinder; the bell at the climactic fight is flat and round. It seems "modern".

The bunting during the climactic match is semi-circular. The posts on the boxing ring are cylindrical.


Spirals appear throughout the film:


During the exhibition match with the British boxer, the upper class spectators are seated at ground level, while the working class viewers are in a balcony above. Walsh includes shots looking down from the balcony, to the ring below. Heights, a common Walsh theme, are here linked to another Walsh concern, class.

During the boxing match at the wharf, many spectators are high up on a boat. During the raid, some jump off. Flynn falls from the ring into the water. Earlier, government officials trying to shut down the match are thrown into the water.

At the end, Flynn addresses the crowd from a balcony.

Both the Olympic Club foyer and the mansion facade at the end have high platforms, with huge tall staircases reaching from them to the ground. Both of these regions anticipate the patio in Band of Angels: they are all regions with a platform or balcony at the top, stairs reaching down to the ground, and ornamental grillwork on both the balcony and stairs. Walsh just loves these visually spectacular regions.


Walsh loved sound-based communication systems in his historical films: The telegraph is used to keep the nation informed during the climactic fight. We get a look at a whole communications infrastructure, with the telegraph being sent to several locations.

Public speaking includes brief speeches before the fights. There are also the plays in which the boxers appear.

Photos of the boxers are traded by kids. This too is a form of mass communication.

Walsh often included folk dancing in his films. The Irish dance in the hotel, is one of the best scenes in the movie.


Walsh movies are full of anti-alcohol messages: The hero drinks water out a pitcher when he wakes up in the Salt Lake City hotel room: one of many Walsh heroes shown drinking water.

Gentleman Jim has comedy scenes of spitting, like several Walsh films:


Gentleman Jim is full of animals, like other Walsh films. The family takes its goats with them when they move. A friendly dog is underfoot at the first boxing match, an follows the characters to jail.


John L. Sullivan is surrounded by happy, hero-worshipping kids, in the street. This recalls the hero and heroine of Regeneration, after they have rescued the kids from the boat.


Walsh excelled at staging elaborate crowd scenes, with the members moving in choreographed fashion. The crowds at two early outdoor boxing matches are good examples: one at the start, and later at the wharf. Both crowds flee when the matches are raided. They move in complex ways.

The party at the club is full of people. Large groups of spectators are everywhere in the film.


Unlike many Walsh films, Gentleman Jim does not use maps. But it is another Walsh film in which characters travel all over, from city to city.

A neat comic scene has the heroes trying to figure out where they are, when they wake up in a strange hotel room after a bender. First they try to match the cityscape seen from their window, to their own geographical knowledge of San Francisco. Finally they see a sign telling them they are in a different town: Salt Lake City. Such "signs with geographical information" run through Walsh.

Camera Movement

Walsh uses a tracking shot, to show the British boxer entering the ring. It is beautifully designed. It is a kind of track one associates with camera movement stylists: a near-lateral track, with objects in the foreground masking the boxer as he walks. Walsh has a geometrically rich spiral staircase mask the boxer; then various audience members, and finally the ropes of the ring. The graceful visual style helps convey the gentility of this British boxer. This is more like a handsome, noble hero making a public appearance, than any sort of aggressive pugilist.

Hero Errol Flynn soon makes a parallel entrance. He gets a pan, rather than a track, as he moves behind the spiral staircase. He then gets a brief tracking shot, as he moves in front of some spectators.

Walsh adds further visual contrasts: the British boxer and his manager are in white, Flynn and his friend Jack Carson in dark clothes. The British boxer is shirtless, and his manager is in white athletic gear; Flynn has his chest draped, and friend Carson is in a business suit. This gives plenty of visual variety to the two entrances. It is a whole spectacle, with both different kinds of camera movement and costumes.

After the fight is over, Walsh includes a track-in, on Flynn's sponsors.

A camera movement racks down a bar, showing a close-up of the refreshments there.

When the heroine meets John L. Sullivan in the street, the camera tracks along with her as she walks. This is a familiar kind of Walsh track, through city architecture.

When Flynn tries on the giant oval hat at the end, Walsh pans, following Flynn's journey to the mirror.

Staging: Mirrors and Depth

At the end, the hero first sees John L. Sullivan, deep in the mirror. This shot combines depth staging and mirror staging. It suggests that Sullivan is emerging from a deep obscurity, to become the center of attention.

When Sullivan leaves after their talk, we see his back retreating in the mirror, again.


Gentleman Jim is the definitive Walsh film, in which the hero and nearly everyone else wears white tie and tails. It is also the center of another Walsh tradition: a working class man who gets dressed up in the clothes of the upper classes.

The roughneck boxers in striped shirts, recall the hilarious photo of Edmund Lowe in a striped 1890's swimsuit in In Old Arizona.

During the police raids, the officers are all swinging nightsticks, especially at the boxers. This is somehow very comic. It recalls the police drill with their nightsticks in Regeneration.

Gentleman Jim shows Flynn in tasteful boxing gear. He differs from the historical Jim Corbett, who wore startlingly skimpy and racy boxing outfits, perhaps to attract female fans.

The Real Jim Corbett - and the Early Film Industry

Boxing films of the real Jim Corbett were enormously popular in real life. An example is included in the fascinating documentary Before the Nickelodeon: The Cinema of Edwin S. Porter (Charles Musser, 1982). Musser gives a vivid account of the early US film industry.

A history of the important role boxing films played in the development and rise to popularity of the film industry, is found in Dan Streible's book Fight Pictures: A History of Boxing and Early Cinema (2008). Even though I am not much of a boxing or sports fan, I found both Before the Nickelodeon and Fight Pictures packed with interesting information. Anyone with an interest in early films and how the film industry started in the United States, can learn a lot from both works.

Background to Danger

Background to Danger (1943) is a spy drama, set in the neutral country of Turkey. It is one of those Walsh films which travels to many cities and locales in the course of its story.

Background to Danger is inoffensive, but it is one of the dullest films made by the normally exciting and superb story-teller Raoul Walsh. The story mainly consists of various spies all trying to obtain a MacGuffin. This has no narrative drive or excitement. Walsh motifs occasionally appear, such as heights, but usually in subdued, damped-down forms. It does have some better scenes:

Many of the understandably negative comments on Background to Danger at the IMDB criticize George Raft's performance, and blame him for the film's boring qualities. Raft admittedly is not much. It is hard to understand how Raft became a big star. His acting talent is limited, his looks are ordinary, and he was reportedly impossible to work with. Still, Walsh made a major movie with Raft starring in They Drive by Night, and Manpower is sometimes inspired too. The problems of Background to Danger are more likely caused by inadequately developed story, characters and style.


Background to Danger has less violent politics than do many war or spy films. The Nazi villains are trying to drag neutral, peaceful Turkey into World War II; the good guys including American hero Raft are trying to prevent this. This means the film actually has a pro-peace attitude.

Also notable: at the end, hero George Raft refuses to dispense "justice" himself, vigilante style. Instead he turns the Nazi villain over to the authorities. He explicitly cites "International Law". This concern with law is heartening.

The scenes at the Nazi villain's villa, where hero Raft is threatened by torture, convey the horror of torture. This is commendable. Unfortunately, the film spoils this later on, when the hero himself threatens a bad guy with death from a moving car, unless he speaks up.

The Eric Ambler novel reportedly has much sympathy for the Soviet agents in the story. The film undercuts this. American hero Raft explicitly says that he is working with them, solely because America is at war, and Russia is America's ally. Consequently, Background to Danger avoids anything that resembles Communist propaganda. There is a tribute to the Russians' determination in fighting - something that is also appropriate in a war ally.

The gifted Sydney Greenstreet gives the film's best performance, as the Nazi villain. His speeches offer many anti-Nazi observations, delivered with all of Greenstreet's oratorical talents. Greenstreet and the screenwriters create a devastating anti-Nazi satire. The screenwriters also work in a sly dig at Mussolini that is a hoot.

A character recites Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. This celebration of democracy makes clear where the film's political sympathies lie.

Background to Danger is also careful never to criticize the Turkish people or government: the villains are foreign, non-Turkish spies. Instead, the film includes a Turkish Good Guy, played by handsome Turhan Bey, a popular actor of the era of Turkish descent.


The hero refuses a drink of vodka, and says he never uses the stuff. This is one of many anti-alcohol passages in Walsh.


Heights, usually in mild forms, play roles in Background to Danger: Background to Danger also has one of Walsh's underground chambers: the cellars at the Nazi villa used for torture. These are really sinister.

Sound Equipment and Communication

One scene has Raft hearing voices then music. He walks into the room where they came from, and the room turns out to be empty with a radio playing instead. This is mildly eerie. Greenstreet soon points out the strange atmosphere caused by the light-hearted Strauss waltz pouring from the radio during an otherwise sinister encounter.

There is an intercom in the newspaper office.

The newspaper office has a printing press, and we see a page of type made up. This is communication technology, even if it is not sound-based.


There is some decent detective work, in the scene at the tobacco shop, and immediately following at Lorre's apartment. This involves correlating knowledge between various good guys, and between various kinds of records: photos, addresses, license plate numbers.

The goal of the detection is identifying a bad guy (the spy Igor), a kind of mystery that occasionally appears in Walsh. However, unlike some Walsh villains, Igor does not have a secret or mysterious identity. He is simply an "unknown" bad guy. People also want to understand his role in the scheme of things: who he is working for.


Background to Danger opens with a startling map, showing countries burning on the map if they are involved with World War II. This scene also has one of those Walsh narrators setting the historical background. This whole scene might be the work of montage creators Don Siegel and James Leicester. (A much later transition will also include a non-diegetic map, this time of Turkey.)

But soon, a second map plays a role in a part of Background to Danger directed by Walsh. Greenstreet's office has a map on a stand: an intriguing variation on a wall map. Greenstreet points out things on the map, as part of his strategy. This echoes the map rooms and map briefings found in Walsh war movies.

The film's MacGuffin is a series of photographs, mainly of annotated maps, but also of text documents. Everyone will spend the film trying to obtain this collection of photos.

There are many signs indicating cities, countries and street addresses. One of the most interesting is a sign marking the border of Syria and Turkey. This is like a cross-roads sign, with the names of the two countries on different bands. This sign is a bit like a 3D "model" showing the two countries. Walsh will later use street signs in the Marine camp in Battle Cry.

Camera Movement

A standard Walsh camera movement occurs, when he tracks down a row of passengers seated on the second train.

Another kind of popular Walsh shot follows people walking down an urban street. In Background to Danger this includes:

Other camera movements follow the characters. Two large ones follow our first view of Sydney Greenstreet, inside the Berlin building.


Background to Danger has circles: The film has one of Walsh's revolving objects: a revolving door at the train depot.

It also has some of Walsh's arched doorways:

None of these are quite the standard "Walsh room with many arched doors or windows".


The train compartment seats at the start have diamond lozenge shapes embroidered on them. The cafe at Istanbul has lower walls full of lozenge patterns.

A door has an octagonal panel on its bottom half. There is also an octagonal light fixture on an outside wall at Igor's house.

The buildings are full of geometric ornament, designed to create a Turkish atmosphere.


The sinister Nazi diplomats in Turkey, are examples of Walsh men with a common profession who dress alike. They are all in formal day wear. Soon, a row of German soldiers in identical black uniforms will all salute Greenstreet in a Berlin street. Much later, the guards on the second train are in identical uniforms, seen when they stand on the outside ledge of the train.

The spy trailing the woman at the hotel, stops to buy a flower for his lapel. Many Walsh men wear them. The scene also perhaps conveys his fondness for flowers, something shared by some Walsh men. This scene also has an interesting mirror shot, as the spy watches the woman in one.

George Raft gets three well-tailored long coats. These are spiffy. The first one looks like a simplified trench coat, with the flaps, but without epaulettes or straps: a visually interesting design. But underneath his coats, he wears the most ordinary suits imaginable. His dowdy look is perhaps intended to convey that he is just a regular guy.

Good guy Turhan Bey gets the film's spiffiest suit, that more often would be worn by the hero. This is pinstriped and double-breasted, and recalls the suits worn by film noir heroes in US-set crime dramas.

The hero orders a new hat and coat at one point, and Bey helps him determine his size. Bey is not a tailor, but this episode otherwise recalls the scenes in Walsh films in which the hero gets new clothes from a tailor.

The woman on the train wears a black slicker raincoat, a costume more often associated with men in Walsh.

Northern Pursuit


Northern Pursuit (1943) is a war drama, set in the North of Canada.

Northern Pursuit reverses the situation of Desperate Journey. In that film, an Allied bomber crew behind the lines in Germany committed sabotage, and were opposed by local Nazis. In Northern Pursuit, Nazi saboteurs and flyers have sneaked into Canada, and are opposed by local Canadian Mounties.

Blowing things up is treated as fun, or at least as exciting, in Desperate Journey, when it is done by the Good Guys. But it is considered as a perverted pleasure in Northern Pursuit. The head Nazi's dialogue suggests he takes a sick pleasure in it.

In both films, Nazis try to attack Allied water works. In Desperate Journey, their target was Britain's Battersea Waterworks. In Northern Pursuit, they go after "waterways, locks and canals" between the US and Canada - the film never says exactly where. Both targets perhaps reflect Walsh's interest in water.

The POW Camp: a Variation on Walsh Prisons

Northern Pursuit echoes Walsh's interest in prisons, but with a twist. Here it is the Nazis who are locked up, in a POW camp in Canada. Walsh emphasizes the way the Nazis maintain a sinister military discipline in the Camp. They are shown as obsessed with militarism: a historically accurate criticism, if there ever was one! This reaches a peak during the startling camp dinner sequence, one that forms a vivid contrast to the famous prison meal in White Heat.

The POW camp is also one of Walsh Geometric Environments, with a mainly rectilinear architecture modified by a conspicuous circular spotlight.

Lockhart: Exhaustion and the Injured

Gene Lockhart is too frail to march, but his Nazi bosses force him anyway. In part, this is designed to show Nazi perfidy and lack of humanity: The Nazis will even turn on their own allies. It also echoes two Walsh themes: Flynn helps Lockhart using rabbit skins. Walsh generally likes animals, such as the dogs who pull the sled. But rabbits come in for negative treatment in his films.


There are many snowstorms in Northern Pursuit, echoing storm sequences in other Walsh films.


Northern Pursuit contains some of Walsh's favorite high locales:

Sound and Communication

The Mounties use radio. We see a portable radio station, too, which they take into the field. Later, the Nazis force the hero to destroy such a station.

The Mounties use long distance phone calls.

An escape causes a siren to sound at the POW camp.

Wolf calls are used by Mounties as secret signals in the field, anticipating Distant Drums.

The father plays bagpipes at the wedding. Other Walsh films have organs at home. Bagpipes and organs have somewhat similar sound, involving air in pipes.

The film includes a group of reporters, echoing Going Hollywood.


A non-diegetic map of Canada is shown at the start, and soon repeated.

Later, the head Mountie uses a wall map, to plot the course of the men.

The head Nazi is shown at the end, using maps on a table to plot his own course.

Flynn does much navigation in the film, of paths used by the sledders. He is an example of the navigator characters that run through Walsh films. A hand-held compass assists in navigation.

A landscape containing the mine is seen in the distance, towards the end.


Northern Pursuit contains circles: Circles sometimes include light, a Walsh tradition: The airplane propellor at the end is one of Walsh's revolving objects. There are many shots too of its circular base.


The Nazi submariners at the start wear leather uniforms.

Later, the Nazis at the end suddenly don dark leather flight uniforms. These include not just leather jackets, but also leather pants. In a tradition that appears in many films, lead Errol Flynn immediately disguises himself in such a suit as well: the lead always gets the best clothes.

The Nazis also wear non-uniforms, such as the white snow suits they all don for the long march. They are examples of Walsh's "men dressed alike".

Uncertain Glory

Uncertain Glory (1944) is a film set in Nazi-occupied France. Like several Walsh films, it mixes genres, both being a crime film and a war drama.


Flynn is one of many thief heroes in Walsh. He is also charged with murder, but we never learn if he is actually guilty of such a crime. He escapes from prison, becoming one of many ex-convict characters in Walsh.

There are two of Walsh's beloved priest characters in Uncertain Glory.


Like Desperate Journey, this is a film about Allied saboteurs, blowing up vital military targets in Nazi-occupied Europe.

The real saboteur is picked up by the English airplane. This is a mild example of a Walsh character getting rescued.


Flynn impersonates the saboteur. He is one of several Walsh characters who develop new or secret identities. He is also the subject of a frame-up, trying to force him into a new identity. This plot goes oddly nowhere.


Uncertain Glory is full of Walsh's sound communication devices: Aside from the phone call, these are surprisingly low tech. Modern-day Walsh films tend to be full of high tech, advanced sound equipment - while in his Westerns and historical films Walsh is seemingly forced to settle for ancient, traditional sound machines, like bells. Uncertain Glory concentrates on showing traditional French life, often in provincial areas. Perhaps because of this, the sound equipment is also traditional. The film has a bit of a feel of a historical drama about traditional France, even though it is set in modern times.

We see German soldiers photographing each other in Paris, as if they were tourists.

Landscapes and Models

We see an overhead view of a landscape. These often occur in Walsh Westerns, showing a town in the distance. In Uncertain Glory, we get instead a view of a railroad bridge and the buildings nearby.

We see a kilometer stone on the road, marked 15xs.


The horse Celeste is a beloved farm animal, compared by her owner to France itself.


Hero Flynn drinks alcohol in a number of scenes, atypically for a Walsh hero (he is really something of a bad guy). But he does tell a cautionary tall tale, about a drunk who perishes from spontaneous combustion. This story is another bit of Walsh fantasy, in an otherwise realistic film.

The occupied French are suffering through fake coffee. There is a comic dialogue about this. It perhaps relates to the jokes about soft drinks in other Walsh films.

In several Walsh films, waiters carrying trays are subjects of pranks. Here the reverse happens: a waiter lures the hero into getting arrested and handcuffed.


The heroine works as a female clerk, recalling the woman with the cigarette stand in High Sierra. However she is sympathetic, unlike the over-charging cigarette woman.

Towards the end, the heroine puts a vase of flowers on the table, making her another Walsh heroine linked to flowers. Lukas also has a geranium in a pot outside his hotel window, but he does not seem to be closely associated with it.


The good guys go fishing by a brook. Here and elsewhere, there are small bridges. But the heroes never get into the water, unlike other Walsh films.

Camera Movement

Walsh provide plenty of shots, in which a moving camera follows characters as they "walk and talk" (to use David Bordwell's term): There is also a camera movement following Lukas, as he walks behind the fountain. Camera movements and a fountain occur in Murnau's Sunrise (1928).


Flynn gets dressed early on in a suit, dark shirt and lighter colored tie. He anticipates the cliched gangster look Walsh used comically for Steve Cochran in White Heat.

Later on, Flynn gets in a much dressier outfit: a pinstripe suit and a white dress shirt. This partly indicates he is reforming, perhaps, and it also perhaps follows the convention of Hollywood films, that the hero gets more and more dressed up as the film progresses. We never learn where he gets these clothes, a plot point evaded by the film!

The French motorcycle cops (Guard mobile) get spectacular black leather uniforms. These cops are not shown doing anything more than riding around and escorting more sinister bigwigs. They are another Walsh group of men with a common profession who dress alike.


Uncertain Glory has circles: There are also many of Walsh's trademark rounded arches on doors and elsewhere:

Objective, Burma!

Objective, Burma! (1945) is a war film, about the Burma campaign. It is nightmarish, and one of the Walsh films I like the least. I don't think war ought to be presented as fun. The film also suffers seriously from racist comments about the Japanese.

Map and Models

The early scenes are full of maps: Later, both the American and Japanese troops use maps in the jungle. Most radio discussions between the US troops in the field and the commanders at the camp, center around maps.

The overhead shots showing the whole layout of the radar station complex, have a map-like feel. These often are pans, showing men moving among the buildings and landscape.

Most unusual are the discussions about the city of Schenectady. This offers a verbal portrait of the layout of the city, almost a "map in words". This turns into a metaphor to discuss the world political situation and war. It is an important "image" in the film. Later, the dog tags will have an address in Schenectady: one of many objects in Walsh that contain geographical information (most commonly, street signs or milestones).

Several Walsh films have the heroes visiting many locations. Objective, Burma! and its loose remake Distant Drums are a bit different. In both, the heroes set off on a journey to an enemy installation, then try to get back home. These are "journey films", but essentially only to the two locations and points in-between.

The Early Scenes: Comedy

The early scenes contain comedy vignettes, that reflect Walsh traditions:


Walsh films are full of often suspenseful scenes involving heights. The parachute sequence is an example. Men often fall from such heights in Walsh - and dozens of men parachute here.

The Plane Interior: Circles and Containers

The plane is another of Walsh's rounded containers for men. The plane interior is also full of circles, and is one of Walsh's geometric environments.

At the end, the cargo planes open their fronts, and vehicles with men drive out. These too are containers for men. (The Walsh-produced Come September will show a civilian version of such a plane, under Walsh's name in the credits.)

Communication Technology

Walsh films are filled with communication technology: A Japanese leader at the radar station, beats a cylinder of bamboo as a sort of drum. This summons the men.

There is also a war correspondent, covering everything.

Hero Flynn gives a public speech, encouraging his men when they are exhausted. (And exhaustion is also a Walsh theme.)


Walsh films are full of scenes advocating water, soft drinks or milk, and attacking alcohol. Objective, Burma! has a key Walsh scene about drinking water. Hero Flynn shares his precious water purification pill, so that one of his men can drink swamp water without getting ill. Water is used to signal male bonding, and caring about others.

A couple of scenes show men fantasizing about having alcohol - but they don't, since it is not available in the jungle. More unusual, a fantasy about a glass of beer, is followed by one about an old woman back home with a pitcher of milk in each hand.

Tracking Shots

A camera movement goes through a wall, at the film lab near the start.

There are numerous camera movements, tracking past the lined-up men of the troop. Such tracks past a row of motionless people are standard in Walsh. These show:

Objective, Burma! is one of the Walsh films richest in such movements. We often see "the group" in such shots.

There are a pair of linked tracking shots, showing the hero and the reporter walking through the camp, near the start. In other Walsh films, such tracks often occur in cities. Perhaps the camp is closest to such an urban environment, in the jungle world of Objective, Burma!.

Later, outside the temple where the battle occurs, there is a simple shot (maybe a pan) of Flynn going up the shallow steps and walking along the porch.

Salty O'Rourke

Salty O'Rourke (1945) is about horse racing. Its grim tone results from a lying anti-hero (played by star Alan Ladd) and vicious mobsters threatening everyone over gambling.


The hero finds out the heroine's address, by looking at a package she sends.

A US map is in front of the classroom. It is not used for navigation in the film.


Salty O'Rourke has circles:

The Horn Blows at Midnight

The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) is a strange fantasy-comedy, with Jack Benny as an angel sent to Earth.

Sound equipment

The Horn Blows at Midnight shows Walsh's interest in sound equipment. The plot centers around Benny's trumpet, and another scene shows Reginald Gardner conducting an orchestra, that is later revealed to be playing on record only. There are also scenes that show a radio broadcast and control booth.


The cylindrical rocket ship in which both the Rocket Man and Benny ride is another of Walsh's "cylindrical containers for men."

The orchestra in Heaven, consists of a series of huge, concentric circles in which the players sit. Its vast panorama is the ultimate expression in Walsh of people forming concentric circles, an idea that goes back to the dancing kids in Regeneration (1915).

There are other circular control mechanisms, including the circular indicator above the hotel elevator, and the globe used to symbolize Earth.

The Hotel Lobby

The hotel lobby here recalls the train depot in Going Hollywood. Both are large scale, public places, full of well dressed, affluent travelers in constant motion. One can feel the energy pulsing off the screen from these vigorous beehives of activity. They are positive places in Walsh. The motion of their denizens is vigorous throughout. Both also have substantial staircases, and huge, high ceilings.

Finale: Height and a Geometric World

The finale, with its roof, skyscraper wall, and elaborate coffeepot mechanism, is another of Walsh's elaborate, purely geometrical worlds. This one is quite complex. These worlds tend to be large, and allow people to wander around in them. Like the power lines in Manpower, they are at an elevated height, further adding to their otherworldly quality. The coffee items are almost totally geometrized. Walsh's films often have finales involving danger at heights. These are often trips to high mountainous areas outdoors. In The Naked and the Dead, one of the characters has a tragic fall off a mountain pass at the end; here Jack Benny suffers comic falls from a skyscraper at the finale.


The skyscraper scenes recall those in Harold Lloyd's silent comedies. In general, there are some slapstick elements that recall silent comedy in general. Walsh's sound films are full of comedy, but they rarely venture into full-blown slapstick, the way The Horn Blows at Midnight does. One wonders if there are some slapstick oriented silent movies in Walsh's huge catalogue of little-seen silent films.

A Fantastic Film

The Horn Blows at Midnight is one of a series of religion-based fantasies that Hollywood made at this time. These tend to show Heaven, Hell, angels, devils, and ordinary humans making moral choices. These include Alexander Hall's Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Ernst Lubitsch's Heaven Can Wait (1943), Archie Mayo's Angel on My Shoulder (1946) and Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946). There is also the strange short film, Inflation (1942), made by soon to be blacklisted Communist director Cy Endfield. This features Edward Arnold as Satan, trying to cause inflation on Earth. Edward Arnold often played evil capitalists, so there is clearly some Marxist propaganda in Inflation! Like most Hollywood films of this type, The Horn Blows at Midnight is completely non-denominational. It follows a universalized religious framework that should be acceptable to members of many different religious faiths. At one point, however, Jack Benny's character uses the Roman Catholic religious term "mortal sin". One is perhaps seeing a sign of Walsh's own Catholicism here.

The dream framework of this film recalls The Wizard of Oz (1939). In both movies, ordinary people seen in the non-dream framework that opens and closes the movie, take on new and fantastic roles in the dream sequence that makes up the bulk of the film.

Another fantastic element: the Heaven sequences here have a title stating they take place in 1945-1946. Seeing a range of years like this is odd. It is unclear about why these two years are here. One possible explanation: the filmmakers thought the film might still be playing in 1946, so they put both years on the movie. This is similar to the unusual dates in Going Hollywood, where the year given in the film's dialogue is different from the film's release date. A less likely explanation: the film is supposed to be set in the near future, a few months beyond the film's release year of 1945. There are no signs of any futuristic elements in the movie, however.


Jack Benny plays an angel, who is sent to Earth and has to deal with a nest of crooks. Like the hero of The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, Benny plays a naïve, idealistic outsider, who moves into a strange environment filled with dangerous criminals. Both of these films are Walsh comedies, and the hero's ignorance of his new environment in both is played for laughs. Alexis Smith's heroine is one of a long line of Walsh heroines who are highly competent, strong, and who fit in well into a world of men. Both within the dream sequence and outside of it, Smith plays a sympathetic working woman here. She seems quite different in her characterization here than in Walsh's Gentleman Jim; this is typical of the protean nature of Walsh's actresses, who often seem to be just playing themselves, but who are wildly different from film to film.

The casting here is different from Walsh's usual macho men. Jack Benny, Reginald Gardiner, Allyn Joslyn and Guy Kibbee are all distinctly non-macho types. They do show Walsh's typical gusto and enthusiasm. The casting of Franklin Pangborn, Hollywood's most conspicuous effeminate male, fits in well with all of these players. Walsh does not mock Pangborn, or deal with homophobic stereotypes. All of Pangborn's comedy relates to his role in the plot, and he is treated with dignity throughout.

Dolores Moran plays a comic femme fatale. Her character has much in common with Virginia Mayo's dangerous lady to come in White Heat. Mayo's character is also full of comic exaggeration.

The group of young boys out for an outing at the New Jersey park, recalls the kids out for the boat excursion in Regeneration.

The Man I Love

A Musical & Soap Opera combination

The Man I Love (1947) is a combination jazz musical and romantic soap opera. (Such soap operas are sometimes known as "melodramas" today, a more dignified name).

The Man I Love is also often seen as being a film noir. This last identification is somewhat problematic. It has the moody atmosphere of noir. But until the finale, it lacks the crime elements of true noir.

Star Ida Lupino went on to a long career as director. Two of the actors in The Man I Love, Don McGuire and Warren Douglas, went on to develop (separate) careers as screenwriters. Jimmie Dodd became a songwriter.

Links to Other Walsh Films

The Man I Love has settings that recall The Roaring Twenties: Some supporting characters and situations recall They Drive by Night: The Man I Love has the gritty atmosphere of some other Walsh musicals, such as Glory Alley and parts of Going Hollywood.

Parts recall In This Our Life:

A lecherous man giving a woman a fancy dress as part of a scheme to pressure their relationship, anticipates The Tall Men.

The Hospital Visit

The hospital visit embodies several Walsh traditions:

The Night Sky

The final dialogue about looking up at the stars, recall the scenes running through Walsh of looking at the night sky.


The Man I Love shares Walsh's concern over alcohol. The heroine and hero have a big discussion, about how alcohol does not help solve problems.

The dialogue also stresses how coffee is the "best drink", as opposed to booze. The hero is seen ladling sugar into his coffee: Walsh heroes like sweet (but non-alcoholic) drinks.

A Mystery of Identity

Lupino figures out the hero's identity, which he has been concealing. This is a harmless act of modesty on the hero's part. But it recalls Walsh crime films, in which characters conceal their identities, and take on new personas.

Quite a few Walsh mystery films have the heroine doing detective work, and solving the mystery. In a modest way, Lupino in The Man I Love solves the mystery of the hero's identity. This has no crime elements - but it's a mystery all the same.

Sound Equipment

Phones play a role, with Lupino hearing her boyfriend playing the piano over the phone.

Jazz records are discussed.

The night club at the opening is full of musical instruments. Pianos run through the film.

Noise makers appear in the New Year's Eve celebration.

Alda refuses to introduce the heroine to the night club crowd, when she sings her first song. This laziness is viewed as bad, one of a series of his indifference to proper social norms. It also marks him as lesser than the many Walsh characters who are good public speakers.


There is not much staging on heights, through most of the film: But during the finale, The Man I Love erupts into some mild stagings using heights:

Mirrors and Grooming

Nicky grooms himself in mirrors: Shaving and grooming scenes are common in Walsh films. (They often occur in barbershops, something not found in The Man I Love).

The heroine and her sister say goodbye to each other at the end, in a shot staged with a mirror. Other farewells at the end involve that film noir image, the staircase; this farewell centers on another film noir staple, a mirror.

Camera Movement

During the New Year's Eve celebration, the camera moves down the nightclub, showing different celebrating patrons. The shot ends on stars Lupino and Alda. This is close to being one of Walsh's camera movements along a row of people. Like such movements, it is a track past a group of stationary characters. It differs, in that:


The Italian restaurant is one of Walsh's geometric environments: Oddly, the restaurant only appears in one scene (towards the start). It does help establish a working class tone to the film, with its emphasis on its hard-working waitresses.

The exterior of the 39 Club at the start is also highly geometric. It recalls a bit another facade, the giant cup at the end of The Horn Blows at Midnight.

The Man I Love is full of circles:


The apartment has an octagonal table, with an octagonal doillie on top.

Costumes and Flowers

Ida Lupino wears gorgeous clothes throughout. She has a necklace of leaf-shaped metal, and later, a gown with flower shapes embroidered on it. This makes her one of many Walsh heroines associated with flowers.

Both Robert Alda and his assistant Alan Hale are Walsh men who wear flowers on their lapels. They are among the last Walsh men to do so: this seems to be a pre-war figure of style, going out of fashion after 1945. One suspects Walsh regrets this style change - flowers are a major Walsh motif.

Lupino has a metallic blouse, recalling her earlier metallic clothes in They Drive by Night.

The bartender and customers wear funny "party hats" on New Year's Eve: some of Walsh's strange hats. The bartender wears an identical Hawaiian shirt as another bartender: some of Walsh's men in a common profession dressed alike.

When the hero is dressed as a sailor at the end, he has a high-peaked cap with a large visor, a favorite item of Walsh for men. The delivery man also wears a peaked cap.


A Western & Mystery combination

Cheyenne (1947) is a Western, that also has elements of mystery. The mystery is light-hearted and full of comedy, much more like a traditional screen whodunit, than any sort of film noir. There is indeed the mystery of a crook's identity. The crook is a thief, not a murderer. But otherwise, the search for his identity is formally somewhat similar to a whodunit mystery.

Unfortunately, the identity of the crook is revealed half-way through, without any detective work leading to it. But later, some real detective work is performed by both the hero and heroine, of a variety of different kinds (not discussed further to avoid spoilers).


Both the hero and heroine refuse drinks, on the early stagecoach ride. They are among a long line of Walsh good guys who don't drink. Later, we also see the hero drinking water out of a ladle: one of several Walsh heroes who seem to find water refreshing.


Cheyenne is full of circles:

Map and Circles

Walsh loves maps. Delightfully, Cheyenne combines two Walsh favorites, by having a map covered with circles as indicators.

Diamond Lozenges

That Walsh favorite, diamond lozenge shapes, shows up in:

The Star Clue

The hero recognizes a bad guy who he had previously encountered masked, due to a star tattoo on the bad guy's hand. The star is another one of Walsh's geometric figures.

It also recalls the "scar on thumb" clue to the villain's identity in another Walsh detective story, Big Brown Eyes. Both involve marks on hands; both are clues that establish villains' identities.

Geometrical Environments - and the Bath Tub

In some ways, all the curves at the big saloon and the Wells Fargo office make them that Walsh favorite, geometrical environments.

The town exteriors in the city of Cheyenne have some geometrical features, including a cubical street lamp. Some rectilinear zig-zag steps leading up to a corner sidewalk in front of a building, are also striking.

The bath room near the start is also geometrical. It has a strikingly rectangular tub, one of the most rectilinear in film history. There is also a folding screen. The attendant carries cylindrical pails. This is not a barbershop scene, but it is related, as a place where men get polished up. Edmund Lowe takes a bath at the barber shop in In Old Arizona.

The heroine seems to be carrying this portable bath tub with her through the West, as Jane Russell later will in The Tall Men.


The opening credits pan over mountains. Nearly all the big outdoor sequences in the film, take place against cliffs or mountains in the background. However, there are no scenes staged on mountain heights, unlike some Walsh films.

Cities in Vistas

When people are on the outskirts of towns, we see panoramas of the town buildings in the background of landscapes. I don't know if these "towns" are models, or if we are seeing vistas of actual sets in the distance. Walsh does something similar in The Lawless Breed.

Tracks and Pans

The entrance into both saloons, are in big sweeping shots that combines tracks and pans.

The singer walks down the bar, while the camera tracks with her and shoots through her legs. This is exuberant.

There are several tracks where characters walk through a city, a Walsh standard. These are geometrically beautiful.

Walsh also includes some pans, especially in the scene where the hero is tailing the crooks through town. The same skillful pan is seen twice, as first the villains then the hero, round a street corner.

There are also tracks to and from the city to the mine.

An Ancestor to Maverick?

Cheyenne has several features in common with the later television series Maverick (created 1957): Maverick is more of a con artist than the hero of Cheyenne, although the latter winds up telling some whoppers during his adventures.

Debonair, sophisticated heroes also show up in other Walsh films, in roles in which macho-men are more traditional: cop Cary Grant in Big Brown Eyes, British light leading man Kenneth More as the title character in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw.

One wonders if the hero's nickname for Janis Paige's character, "Brown Eyes", is a homage to Big Brown Eyes.

As best I can tell, Walsh's film Cheyenne, and the later Warner Brothers TV Western series Cheyenne with Clint Walker, have nothing in common except their name.


A Western & Film noir combination

Pursued (1947) is a Western, that is also constructed as a film noir thriller. It has such noir features as suspense, mystery and crime. The paranoia that flows through much film noir is the dominant emotion in Pursued. Pursued also has noir features such as a flashback construction, a hero with amnesia, dream imagery, and psychologically obsessed characters.

Pursued seems to make a pair with High Sierra in Walsh's work. Both are moody, downbeat works, rich in atmosphere. Both are fables of sorts. In High Sierra, everything points the way towards the hero's fast-approaching death. In Pursued, everything deals with the unreasoning hatred other people have for the hero, and their attempts to kill him. High Sierra deals with a morally guilty hero, whose actions cause his own problems. Pursued has a morally innocent hero, whose persecution comes from outside forces.

A Lack of Plausibility

Nothing in the story of Pursued, including the final revelations, ever builds up realistic motives that would account for this terrible persecution. Yet the story somehow seems emotionally compelling - even if it is never believable or realistic.

The first half of Pursued is largely plausible. The story loses credible motivation halfway through, beginning with the big fight between the hero and Adam. The motivations for Adam's ferocious hatred are not made clear. This hatred had never been displayed earlier in the film: all we saw was some routine friction or jealousy between Adam and the hero.

Furthermore, the heroine and the mother seem to blandly accept this hatred, not being shocked by it, nor demanding any explanation. Their acceptance is even more amazing, because Adam's hatred is likely to interfere with the heroine's getting married. This is something that in real life would cause most women and their mothers to treat as a major crisis.

From this point on, many of the characters are engulfed in equally unreasoning hatred of the hero. For example, the mother and the sister refuse to believe the hero's truthful account of the killing - even though it seems plausible based on the known facts. This doesn't make sense. All of this unreasoning, unmotivated hatred divorces Pursued from realism or plausibility.

One doesn't want to be a nitpicker, or over-emphasize plausibility. Lots of good books and movies depend on coincidence or improbably exciting or relevant events, or contain a plot-hole or two. Still, I find it hard fully to relate to the second half of Pursued, where both the plot events and the characters' feelings often seemed divorced from logic.

It also makes it hard to analyze the film's second half, or offer interpretations of it. It is hard to claim that Pursued makes a coherent statement on The Family or Sexuality or Society, if one cannot understand the film's events and feelings on a literal level.

A Failed Legal System

One part of the "persecution of the hero" reflects Walsh traditions. Walsh films often show failed legal systems. The hero of Pursued is stalked by a malevolent, personally biased county prosecutor, who uses his office to conduct a vendetta against the innocent hero. This personal vendetta is indeed a failure of the legal system.


The early childhood scenes have circles: The boots visualized by the hero have complex curvilinear designs on them.

The Army drum is circular, outdoors in the start of the recruitment scene.

Prentice's general store has some circular pans high up on the wall.

In the coin tossing scene at the ranch, over who goes to war:

There are other circles. During the hero's homecoming from war (a kind of scene that runs through Walsh), we see the round bell of a tuba. The brass band musicians wear round caps, with round erect decorations on front (some of Walsh's strange hats, worn by men dressed alike). Semi-circular bunting is everywhere. The hero is lassoed, with coils of rope. The bar we soon see inside is curved. And this saloon has a circular chandelier.

The music box has a cylinder inside. The ranch kitchen has circular pots, bowls and decorations on the stove.

After the hero's visit midway to his old ranch, he confronts Judith Anderson and asks her for the truth. The scene is full of circles:

When Adam washes up after his fight with the hero, he uses a round pan in the sink.

The dance hall backroom where villain Grant and innocent clerk Prentice McComber talk, has the "doors with rounded arched tops" that run through Walsh.

Circles also show up in the dialogue, as they do in some Walsh films. Alan Hale runs the "Honest Wheel", a gambling palace. The name "Honest Wheel" and the circular wheel logo appear on the sign. This recalls the Circle Auto Court and its sign with its circle logo in High Sierra. Inside the Honest Wheel, the gambling equipment is full of circles: a wheel of fortune, roulette wheel, tables, chips, the dial on the safe. The circular coin that has played such a role in the plot, makes its final appearance in the Honest Wheel.

Geometry: Diamond Lozenges

Mitchum's jacket has diamond lozenge decorations on the back. The diamond patterns look somewhat Native American in style. They recall the Native American blanket over Bogart's bed in High Sierra.

There is a diamond lozenge hat rack on the door of Judith Anderson's ranch, near the start.

The grillwork around the desk in Prentice's store is diamond shaped.

Geometry: The Hero's Old Ranch

The hero's old ranch has several purely geometric features. It is not as geometric as some of the sets and scenes that run through Walsh. But it approaches this kind of set:

The Trap-Door: A Container for Men

Walsh films are full of "large objects that contain men inside". The trap door at the old ranch is an example of this. It is much smaller than most Walsh containers. And it has a small boy inside, not a grown man, as in most Walsh. Also a bit atypical: many Walsh containers are round, but the trap-door is purely rectilinear.

The trap-door also recalls the trap-doors that contain the tigers in The Thief of Bagdad.

When he leaves to go to war, the hero rides through the gates of the ranch.

The hospital tent can be interpreted as a "large container with men inside", although this is perhaps a stretch.

Mental Imagery

Pursued is rich in shots in which we see mental images flitting through the hero's brain.

In the first scene, the camera visualizes the hero's vision of one of the riders pursuing the hero. This recalls The Thief of Bagdad, the scene in which the hero imagines the hermit encouraging him on his quest. In both films, a man who the hero is imagining in his mind's eye, materializes on screen, by dissolving in.

More persistently throughout Pursued, we see the hero's memories of a man's boots and spurs.

The hero's memories of a man's boots and spurs, are displayed by a number of psychological and story-telling mechanisms. All of these mechanisms appear in other Walsh films as well:

In other Walsh films, the above kinds of story-telling mechanisms are also sometimes linked to soldiers in war: Boots run through Walsh films. They often have symbolic meanings and weight, as they do in Pursued.

War Film

The episode about the Spanish-American War, is like a miniature war movie embedded in Pursued.

A blackboard outside the recruiting center shows both the town's quota, and the number achieved so far. War is conducted by quotas and numerical goals, and the men in it are turned into numerical abstractions. This point of view in Pursued is looked at more deeply in The Naked and the Dead, where the sinister general meets his war goals, and treats the men he gets killed and injured as just numbers. War is seen as a social machine that chews up individual men who get caught up in its meshes. What is exposed in depth as the sinister nature of war in The Naked and the Dead, is merely hinted at in the more restrained Pursued.

Pursued also includes the rush job used to high pressure the hero into enlisting. It shows the mass processing of the other recruits, with their group taking of their oath. These aspects underscore the machine-like nature of war.

The recruits are drilled, right in the general store used as the recruitment center. They are still in their inexpensive looking Western working gear. They carry their own Western rifles, which they use for drill. Drill occasionally appears on Walsh films, and typically with phallic objects like these rifles. The drill symbolizes the military fever that has gripped these men. And the way the recruiters use glamorous activities like drill and marching, to lure men into the Army and war. Their civilian clothes and rifles emphasize how little the recruits actually know about the real Army or war.

Mitchum has to edge his way around these recruits, with difficulty, to get out of the store. It symbolizes the way the recruiters have "crowded" him, pressuring him to enlist.

Mitchum's war scenes emphasize lush jungle vegetation, anticipating The Naked and the Dead. After he is injured, more vegetation is seen through the walls of the hospital tent.

In Pursued, the look at the hero injured in war relates to a Walsh theme: soldiers taking care of their wounded is a subject in many Walsh films. Pursued shows the hero's concerned, supportive Army doctor talking to the injured hero. In the background, we see more medics tending other duties.

For all the critique of war in Pursued, we get a full scale "homecoming of the hero after the war", also a Walsh tradition. Such scenes can be taken as a glorification of war. The hero is even given the most prestigious US medal, the Medal of Honor. While I am not expert on such things, I suspect that in real life, a soldier wounded during a charge, Mitchum's activity in Pursued, would be given a medal, but not the top reward for heroism that is the Medal of Honor. Giving the hero such a medal exaggerates the amount of glorification a "typical" soldier is likely to receive on his homecoming.

Despite my skepticism about "coming home from war" scenes, one has to recognize that the episode in Pursued is a really gratifying fantasy. Having the hero cheered by his townspeople is a wonderful thing, whatever its cause. Especially good: the way the cowboys throw their lassos around Mitchum. This is about as joyous and touching expression of men's love for another man, as one will find anywhere in the cinema. Interestingly, this causes the normally stoical Mitchum to break out in big smiles. By contrast, the hero expresses his disinterest in the medal, right after getting it.

The Spanish-American War is not a "central war" in American popular culture. It is far from sacred, and can be critiqued without much controversy, in ways that the so-called Good War, World War II, cannot. One suspects that a 1947 film that critiqued World War II recruitment as sinister, would have caused a huge public furor, for example. Setting such a critique in the Spanish-American War avoided such controversy.

An episode of The Virginian Western TV series Riff-Raff (Bernard Girard, 1962) also gets its cowboy heroes as recruits into the Spanish-American War. It mixes anti-war elements such as satire on the recruitment process and scorn for an ambitious officer trying to exploit the war for career advancement, with pro-war depictions of the cowboys as war heroes. This is a bit like the mix of anti-war and pro-war elements in Pursued.

Time Frame

Both Pursued and The Virginian can bring in the 1898 Spanish-American War, because they are set much later than many other Westerns. Walsh liked films set in the 1890's, and Pursued is a Western example. In Old Arizona is another Walsh Western set in the 1890's, and it too mentions the Spanish-American War. As the article on In Old Arizona discusses, there are also plot similarities in In Old Arizona and Pursued.

The 1898 Spanish-American War in Pursued is a flashback. The frame story of Pursued is set at the turn of the century, as an opening title tells us: 1900. One Sunday Afternoon will also move its characters from the 1890's into 1900.

The Cliffs and Panning Shots

Some striking looking cliffs appear right in the opening titles. Then they recur as a refrain, at dramatic moments throughout the film. Unlike most of the "vertical environments" in Walsh, nothing ever happens on these cliffs. No one ever climbs them. People simply ride past them on horses, while the camera pans, almost always from left-to-right. They are poetic. And possibly also symbolic of the psychological mysteries of the film.

The high hill where the hero is attacked is different. A spectacular pan shows the hero riding at the base of the steep hill, and a mysterious pursuer at the top. This very much leads to action. The contrast between the top and bottom of the ridge is dramatic and original in its staging. These pans are right-to-left, which is often a sign of difficulty or effort on the part of characters.

After the confrontation, the hero rides into town. He is shown in a pair of right-to-left pans, moving through the city streets.

Deep Focus

Pursued has two striking deep focus shots. One shows the aftermath of the encounter with Adam, back in town; the second shows the fight in the alley with Prentice McComber. Both scenes are deeply tragic. Both have a claustrophobic, "shooting in a tunnel" effect, with characters seen at the far end. The two shots echo each other.

Deep focus shots are associated with modern day film nor crime thrillers. Their presence in Pursued seems almost designed to evoke the noir crime thrillers of the era. A reminder to the audience that we are not seeing a conventional Western.

Maps and Navigation

The amnesiac hero finds it startlingly easy to find his way to the out-of-the-way ranch. He has subconscious memories of the route. This perhaps relates to the Walsh subject of navigation. In most Walsh films on this subject however, a character is a technically skilled navigator, expert at plotting courses and determining locations. Pursued is different: the hero is not skilled at navigation, but relying on subconscious memories.

The Music Box

The music box is an example of the sound machines that run through Walsh. These are usually in his modern day films, and high tech. But here we have an example of sound machines that existed in a historical period.

As in other Walsh historical films, there are some low-tech sound devices used for communication:

Folk Music

The music box plays the Londonderry Air, a traditional Irish folk tune. Refreshingly, it is not linked to the maudlin lyrics of "Danny Boy", modern words with which the Air is sometimes afflicted. Instead, the film uses a different set of lyrics, ones that stress male bonding. The hero and Adam sing it as a duet, another Walsh scene of men singing together.

Also playing a key role in the story: the traditional Western folk song The Streets of Laredo. This is first heard in the gambling palace, on the piano. It is the background to the scene where Jake Dingle (Alan Hale) offers the hero a partnership. It is not the typical sort of music heard on saloon pianos in Westerns (the two most popular numbers in most Westerns seem to be Camptown Races and O Dem Golden Slippers). I was therefore somewhat startled to hear it. But soon, the hero is singing it as he rides. Then frighteningly, it returns in the tragic story of the clerk.

Pursued is soaked in folk culture. The dance has several kinds of traditional folk dances. Such folk dancing will recur in The World in His Arms. The homecoming from war is played out against When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Rally Round the Flag Boys.

The Night Sky

The hero and heroine talk about a full moon being in the night sky, during a romantic scene.


Alcohol is not as condemned in Pursued, as it is in some Walsh films. We learn that the ranch family has no hard liquor on the premises, only wine, which they use only on holidays and special occasions. The three wine scenes in the film reek with tension.

By contrast, the jury episode is one of the few scenes in Walsh that can be construed as pro-alcohol.

Male Bonding vs. Family

Everything bad that happens to the hero, comes from his extended family, or from the heterosexual courting of the heroine by clerk.

By contrast, everything good that happens to the hero, comes from male bonding. His war heroism, his warm reception home as a hero, his enthusiastic support from Alan Hale, and his treatment by an all-male jury, all come from men who have zero family ties with the hero.

Male bonding is a traditional Walsh subject, usually seen in positive terms. But it is not always seen in such stark opposition to the family and heterosexuality, as it is in Pursued.

It is hard to understand what motivates Jake Dingle's support of the hero. It is as irrational and divorced from realism, as the hatred that so many of the other characters feel for the hero. One wonders if Jake Dingle is a gay man in love with the hero. Walsh films are consistent in their support for gay characters. However, this might be going too far. Jake Dingle's positive qualities might simply be an echo of everyone else's negative qualities, in the strange world of Pursued.

Prentice McComber

Young clerk Prentice McComber runs through the story. When first seen, he is a young man who wants to go to war, but whose family won't let him. He is perhaps an example of a Walsh type, "the young man who wants to join the team". He resembles a bit Bryan Forbes in The World in His Arms, a young man who also works in his father's business, but who wants to join the hero's crew. However, there is no on-screen team in Pursued, as there is in so many Walsh films. McComber's desire is simply to join the US Army.

McComber also gets in over his head, in his fight with the hero. In this he resembles a bit the swaggering young men in Walsh, who think they are better than they are, and who come to a bad end. However, McComber is far from swaggering and overconfident. He is shy and innocent. His desire to get into a fight is one of the many inadequately motivated acts of hatred that run through Pursued.

McComber is played by Harry Carey, Jr., who would go on to be a key supporting player in many John Ford and Joseph H. Lewis films.

Silver River


Silver River (1948) has an epic sweep, like such Walsh films as Band of Angels.

The sinister hero tries to transform the country, just as the good hero of The World in His Arms will do.

Silver River can seem like two movies. The first half sticks to many Western film subjects. The second half, however, is as much an epic story of business, as it is a conventional Western.


Silver River perhaps influenced Belle Le Grand (Allan Dwan, 1951). Both have a setting in mining towns out west, both look at financial manipulations, both have scenes in stock markets, both have mobs of upset, disgruntled workers protesting in the street calmed by the hero.

Silver River also anticipates the pilot of the Maverick TV show, War of the Silver Kings (Budd Boetticher, 1957). Once again, we get mine owners as major characters, we have an outsider manipulating them, we have crowds of unhappy workers in the street, placated by the hero's speeches and actions. This show also shares a political election with a reformed drunk as candidate with Silver River.

A Thief Hero - and Justice

Silver River (1948) is another Walsh film with a thief hero.

He also becomes another Walsh hero to become a victim of a miscarriage of justice in a courtroom, during his court martial. Walsh often depicts the legal system as flawed.

The hero will burlesque military discipline during his early raid. This recalls They Died With Their Boots On.


The heroes set fire to the pay wagon, at the start. This is big in terms of what they burn up. But is smaller in physical scale than the fire scenes in other Walsh films.


Silver River shares a hearse with other Walsh films. The funeral is full of irony - but it is not out-and-out comic as are some later Western hearse scenes in Walsh.

Sound and Communication

Silver River has a few sound communication devices: It has more non-sound communication devices: Public speaking runs through Walsh. Businessman Flynn, his opponent Sweeny, and politician Mitchell all give important speeches to large crowds.


Flynn conspicuously drinks milk at one point, when the other characters are drinking alcohol.

And President Grant also turns down an offer of punch, at the reception.

Mitchell has a tremendous struggle with alcoholism throughout the film. There is a big scene with him putting a bottle back in a drawer, changing his life.


Both hero and heroine have maps in the offices. The hero's map plays a role in the scene where he persuades Bennett to go on a trip.

Early on, there is a signpost reading "Gettysburg, 6 Miles"


Heights play a smaller role in Silver River than in many Walsh films:


Circles appear in Silver River: Arched windows and doors run through Silver River:

Camera Movement

There is a highly unusual camera movement, in the shot where the words "Mrs. Moore" are suddenly sounded. It is hard to tell, but there might be a small zoom at this point.

Flynn crosses the "run on the bank", in two dramatic camera moves that show his pushing his way through the agitated crowd.


The men repeatedly don white tie and tails.

We see tailors create new clothes for the hero, as in The World in His Arms.

Fighter Squadron


Fighter Squadron (1948) is a story of American bomber pilots in 1943-1944 World War II Europe.

The IMDB is full of expert "user comments", about the planes and authentic combat footage that have been incorporated into this movie. Airplane buffs will likely find plenty of interest in Fighter Squadron, all in color: very unusual for old-time Hollywood war movies. But for the rest of us, this film is not much. It lacks a story - it is just a succession of bombing raids. The characters and relationships are barely developed.

Sound Equipment

Walsh loved sound equipment. His war films are full of radios, and Fighter Squadron is no exception. We see many scenes of the control room on the ground, talking with the pilots in the air. Later, infantry units in the D-Day sequence also use radio equipment. One of the few lively plot twists comes, when German radio operators pretend to be Americans, and give phony orders to the pilots.

Loudspeakers are also prominent, as in High Sierra and The Enforcer.

There is also some humor about a stolen hearing aid. This IS unexpected.

There is also some non-sound communication technology. The officers are shown watching film footage: a movie within the movie. And a teletype transmits text.

Religious Tolerance

A key scene shows the men having prayers with Chaplains, before setting off on a mission. The scene ends with a Jewish pilot praying with a rabbi. Walsh's films repeatedly emphasize religious tolerance, and respect for all religions. His films show a consistent opposition to Anti-Semitism.

Camera Movement Through a Wall

A tracking shot seemingly moves through a wall, in the Quonset hut.


The airplane tips are open circles. Each has been painted with a ring in bright primary colors: red, yellow or blue. The circles are enormously conspicuous. Walsh sometimes shows a whole row of planes lined up, each with a circle in its own color. Revolving propellers in the centers of these circles, add to the round imagery.

As in some other Walsh films, there is circular imagery in the dialogue: some of the pilots are said to have been "born with propellers in their mouths".

A circular speaker in the radio room, announces the start of D-Day.

A radar screen is also circular.

Some of the architecture is curvilinear, too. Much of the action takes place in a Quonset hut. Its rounded walls are prominently featured. One early shot directs our attention to a series of signs on the wall - which also highlights the curved wall itself. The whole hut is one of Walsh's circular containers for men.

The men's bedroom has a large, rounded ceiling arch. This forms a circular arc over some of the compositions. Within this arch, we see the bedroom door, which also has a rounded arched top. Walsh likes arched doorways, which run through his films.

Outside, while the airmen are waiting for D-Day, they are in front of another arched doorway, and near another overhead arch, much like the ones in their bedroom.

The end of the film is full of circular parachutes.

Geometric Worlds

Like many World War II movies, Fighter Squadron contains a Map Room, where strategists push markers over a huge horizontal map to track events. The map is a giant octagon. Hemispherical light fixtures hang overhead. This is another of Walsh's geometrical environments.

An Officers' Clubroom has a polygonal bar, supported by cylindrical barrels. In the background, is an angular, polygonal staircase. It is as angled as the underground ramp in the boxing arena in Glory Alley.

Costumes and Color

The dominant color in Fighter Squadron is brown. The men's uniforms are always brown, whether they are cloth dress uniforms or leather jackets and gloves for flying. They are color harmonized with endless brown wooden walls. Brown is a color signifying sexual and social repression and gloom in The World in His Arms. Frankly, it is not especially cheerful in Fighter Squadron. Since all these men have been forbidden to have sexual relationships with women, as the plot constantly emphasizes, there is perhaps a hidden symbolism of repression in their brown clothes.

On the other hand, one might note that brown leather flyers' jackets were a big fashion item among ordinary American men in this period. So the flyers in the film had a high fashion look. Brown leather jackets appear in several Walsh films, worn by both pilots and regular civilian American men.

Dashing Robert Stack wears a red scarf around his neck. This anticipates the red turtleneck the hero of The World in His Arms wears under his shirt. The splash of red at the neck of both men is striking. Stack is also notable for his boots, which are frequently referenced in the plot as his trademark.

Walsh films often have a group of men in a profession all dressed in common clothes. Fighter Squadron is no exception - although since all these men are simply wearing Army uniforms, their common clothes are none too surprising. The scenes of the men sitting around their quarters, talking or playing dice, form an idealized image of male camaraderie.

Admittedly, these uniforms are sharp. One wonders if the costume designer has "heightened" them, making them more dramatic than actual Army uniforms.

The uniforms are full of small flashes of color. These come from the ribbons men wear on their chests, and from shoulder patches. One is not used to seeing uniforms of the era in color films, rather than black-and-white. The very bright color provided by the ribbons is striking.

The bar at the Officers' Clubroom has liquor bottles filled with a bright yellow liquid. The hotel party bar in The World in His Arms will be full of bottles of red liquor. In both films, this adds color to the composition. We also see a bright green pitcher. The red dice used by the gamblers also are some of Walsh's small brightly-colored objects.

A wall map gets some welcome blue into the images. The map perhaps functions like the murals in some other Walsh films.

An outdoor scene at the airfield (early in the film) is designed in red-and-green. Green foliage and trucks contrast with a red fire engine, and other touches of red. The green of the trucks is notably subdued, and the whole color harmony is less intense than in many other directors' films in red-and-green.

Jack Larson

Fighter Squadron is the debut of Jack Larson, later to gain fame by playing Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen on TV. Larson plays an archetypal Raoul Walsh role: a very young man who wants to join a team of fully adult men.

Male Bonding


The pilots played by Edmond O'Brien and Robert Stack are clearly the two leading characters of the film. They are the only two men to have distinctive clothes: O'Brien's Flying Tiger jacket, Stack's scarf and boots. The two also male bond.

Stack shows his devotion to O'Brien - maybe love - in the scene where he rescues O'Brien from the Nazis. This is the most involving scene in the film.

The scene ends with one of Walsh's more startling images: O'Brien sitting in Stack's lap, in Stack's plane. The scene is "justified" by the plot: the two men would not be able to escape in the single-seat plane, otherwise. But the scene also gets its bit of homoerotic-joking dialogue, that underscores its sexual implications. Earlier in The Roaring Twenties, there is joking dialogue about Cagney sitting in Bogart's lap on the hot seat. In Fighter Squadron this image is literalized.

Soon, Walsh will include a shot of James Cagney sitting in his mother's lap in White Heat. This scene will be played entirely for psychological implications, unlike the one in Fighter Squadron. The White Heat image is one of the most famous in all of Walsh, while the Fighter Squadron scene is forgotten.

Unfortunately, unappealing plot developments in Fighter Squadron undercut the dignity of the O'Brien-Stack relationship. Soon, we are in a melodrama over whether Stack's marriage to a woman will destroy his effectiveness as a pilot. This whole subplot is simply misogynous. It also offers false analogues to the real-life situation of "gay man leaving his boyfriend to marry a woman". The film makes clear that Stack is both sexually attracted to his fiancée, and strongly in love with her. This is far from any sort of bowing to social pressure to get married: the common situation of gay men. The whole subplot does not work. It does, however, offer a sort of male analogue to The Red Shoes of the same year, in which a woman is forbidden to marry because it will allegedly destroy her ability as a ballerina.

One Sunday Afternoon

A Remake

One Sunday Afternoon (1948) is a musical remake of Walsh's non-musical comedy The Strawberry Blonde (1941).

Star Dennis Morgan and supporting actress Janet Paige, had previously appeared in Walsh's Cheyenne.

The woman barber's dialogue while shaving Ben Blue, talks about news items that recall previous Walsh movies:


One Sunday Afternoon includes a song predicting that future women will take on a wide range of jobs then restricted to men. It is ardently feminist, and so is the dialogue in the scene surrounding it. Oddly, this number seems little known. Walsh will make another little-known comedy advocating feminism and job equality for women, A Private's Affair.

The heroine is a nurse, in both One Sunday Afternoon and The Strawberry Blonde. Her seriousness about her work is a feminist element in both films.

Later, we see the heroine working as a commercial artist. We see her trying to deal with customers.

One Sunday Afternoon goes further, in introducing a woman barber. She is not linked explicitly to feminist ideas. But she is indeed an example of a woman in a "man's profession". She has just graduated from Barber College, and is breaking into her first job. Later we see four women working at the barber shop, and the front window advertises "Lady Barbers". It is like a whole historical process, in which we see women breaking into a profession and then rising to mass acceptance and participation.

As an extra touch, the male kid who turns the barber pole has been replaced by a female kid.

Workers and Exploitation

Villain DeFore is shown to be a mean boss, in two scenes where he chews out the sign painter who works for him. Although it is not the sign painter's fault, DeFore believes he is working too slowly. We also learn the unbelievably low wage the painter is getting: 15 cents per hour! This is partly a humorous look back at how cheap everything was around 1900. But is also shows financial exploitation of the working class. (In The Roaring Twenties, a flophouse bed is 15 cents, also an indication of low price in the past.)

SPOILER. The sign painter quits in disgust at the end of this encounter. This scene might be a variant of the more common scenes in Walsh films, that show workers negotiating deals with employers. It is not quite such a negotiation, but it does involve rates of pay and speed of work.

These comic scenes with the sign painter, echo the more serious exploitation of the hero by DeFore, when Defore lures the hero into going to work for him.

Musical Numbers in Vehicles

Walsh films sometimes include scenes of people singing while riding vehicles. Such scenes are especially common in Walsh musicals. One Sunday Afternoon has:

Mental Imagery

When Ben Blue is shaved by the woman barber, he gets choked by her, then burned by a hot towel. As a comedy gag, bright colored lights are shined in his face: blue for the choking, red for the hot towel. These lights are completely non-realistic.

How best to describe what is happening in this scene? A guess: Walsh films occasionally show mental imagery, making it visible to the audience. This imagery is typically verbal, but it can also be aural, like the zany Strange Interlude burlesque in Me and My Gal. The light represents what Ben Blue is feeling: his senses of heat and touch. They represent a kind of mental sensory imagery.


There are few maps or models in One Sunday Afternoon. But geography is sometimes discussed:


One Sunday Afternoon is full of scenes of people painting: Painting as an activity is not that common in other Walsh films.

When the well-to-do man calls up the hero to hire him as a dentist (near the film's start), a painted screen is seen behind him. This recalls the murals in other Walsh films.

Alcohol and Gas

The saloon scenes prominent in The Strawberry Blonde have been cut from One Sunday Afternoon. Instead we see an ice cream-candy store in the background, and plot events emphasize ice cream. The hero offers to buy Janis Paige an ice cream soda.

The sinister deal at DeFore's mansion is celebrated by a drink: perhaps a sign of how bad it is. This is perhaps an anti-alcohol point of view.

More comedy has been added about dental gas.

Dialogue talks about how the atmosphere is made up of oxygen and nitrogen.


One Sunday Afternoon has scenes involving heights, that it inherited from The Strawberry Blonde. These include the opening back porch off which the hero jumps, and the garden wall a neighbor climbs.

But it adds some comedy scenes for Ben Blue, that have no equivalent in The Strawberry Blonde:

Like many other Walsh films with heights, these have a character falling.

DeFore is thrown off the boat, from the high rail down to the water. This scene also embodies that Walsh favorite, a man who winds up in the water.

The jealous hero wishes that rival DeFore will fall into Niagara Falls, on his honeymoon.

Camera Movement

One Sunday Afternoon has elaborately staged shots, where the camera seems to move through the walls of the hero and heroine's apartment. The shot where the hero is arrested is especially complex.

Walsh's previous film Fighter Squadron also had a "through the wall" camera movement.

The musical number with the tandem bikes, concludes with a long take that follows the bikes down the street. The shot is overhead, and moves steadily along with the cyclists. It seems a bit like a modified version of a more common type of Walsh camera movement, a shot that follows a man walking down a street.

The hero and heroine leave the park, after they are reunited when the hero gets out of prison. The final shot of this scene is dramatic and stylized. It is also the final shot of the huge flashback that makes up the bulk of One Sunday Afternoon. The camera movement in the shot is mainly a pull-back, in which the camera keeps moving towards the viewer. The shot portrays the hero and heroine walking, and seems like an odd, non-standard version of Walsh shots which "follow a man walking". Such Walsh shots most typically have the camera moving sideways along with the walking man. A pull-back as in One Sunday Afternoon is different.


One Sunday Afternoon has circular forms: Some rotating objects were added to One Sunday Afternoon, that have no equivalent in The Strawberry Blonde: Rotary motion is used for polishing: The road on which the heroes drive the car in the park is circular. It brings them back to the heroines, as they drive around it.

Some Walsh films have circles in the dialogue. The Irish reel on the boat says to "give your girl a whirl".


The hero's fancy business office is in a color scheme that runs through Walsh: interiors mainly in green, but with a touch of red. Here the red is provided by a painting on the wall, 'which is partly orange-red.

Some brightly colored small objects appear: also a Walsh tradition.


One Sunday Afternoon has that Walsh favorite, groups of men dressing alike: The dusters are that Walsh favorite, long coats for men. And when the hero meets his wife after his release from prison, he is in a coat that is very long.

With their dusters the men wear a a variant of the peaked caps often favored by Walsh men. These look terrific.

Comic relief characters Ben Blue and Alan Hale are in brown suits, in their (separate) scenes introducing their characters. They are not negative characters, the way men in brown sometimes are in Walsh. But both are distinctly non-heroic.

DeFore often gets flashier or more expensive looking clothes than the hero. DeFore's gray business suit when he opens his construction business, is especially classy.

DeFore's white tie outfit is not as dressy as standard white tie and tails: it has a black vest. It just doesn't look as good as the tails in other Walsh films, which are often worn by the hero rather than a villain like DeFore.

When the hero is pedaling the two women home on the tandem bike, both are in that Walsh favorite for women, a mixture of red and white. There are some variations here on this Walsh standard. In other Walsh films, such clothes are often red with touches of white. But the outfits in One Sunday Afternoon are white with accents of red, such as a vest or tie. Also, the white is not a pure white in One Sunday Afternoon, but an off white, or maybe even the faintest or palest of light blue.

When the heroine goes to the park to give the stood-up hero the bad news about Virginia, she is in a fancy pink outfit with many touches of red, plus some white around the collar. This extends the color scheme.

Colorado Territory

A Remake

Colorado Territory (1949) is a Western remake of Walsh's contemporary crime film High Sierra (1941). The film shows Walsh's persistent interest in mixing genres, with the crime elements blended into a Western.

The plot of Colorado Territory is at once faithful to High Sierra, and completely transformed. Every character, setting and event has been subtly altered. Quite a lot of ingenuity has clearly gone into the effort. It is systematic and far from incidental.

Most of the modern-day settings of High Sierra have been turned into Western equivalents in Colorado Territory. While the locales and events in High Sierra often had sociological significance, showing 1940's America "on the road", this has been stripped away from Colorado Territory. For example:

While the stagecoach, ghost town and train have no sociological meaning, as storytelling they make fascinating settings, part of the world of the Old West.

Western ruins, like the ghost town in Colorado Territory, are a persistent Walsh subject.

Joel McCrea seems much nobler than Humphrey Bogart's crook in High Sierra. Bogart was best known in 1941 for playing tough mobsters in The Petrified Forest (Archie Mayo, 1936), Dead End (William Wyler, 1937) and Walsh's own The Roaring Twenties (1939). He seems like one tough, hard core criminal in High Sierra. By contrast, while Joel McCrea is just as much of a robber in Colorado Territory, McCrea's heroic good guy image from his other films softens his hard edges. Plus, viewers tend to be far more indulgent morally of Western train robbers like McCrea, than of modern day bank robbers like Bogart in High Sierra. It is hard to justify this indulgence through any moral reasoning - but it is a part of most audience response all the same, whether rightly or wrongly.

In High Sierra, the convict hero buys a pardon from a crooked governor; in Colorado Territory the hero escapes from jail. Oddly, this escape in Colorado Territory seems more "honest": the hero is no longer involved with civic corruption. Both films show Walsh's interest in, and often sympathy for, men who have been in prison.

Crime and Noir

The elaborate staging in a mirror (in the dead man's bedroom) perhaps recalls film noir more than a typical Western. Although Walsh often included mirror sequences in comedies.

The rope-and-string aspects of the jail break, recall plot ideas in a famous prose mystery short story, "The Problem of Cell 13" (1905) by Jacques Futrelle.

McCrea is one of several Walsh heroes how briefly take on new identities: pretending to be an ordinary, non-outlaw to the rancher and daughter.

The fake aunt at the beginning is a crook pretending to have a respectable identity, also a Walsh tradition.


A running motif in Colorado Territory involves people informing on crooks for the money. The film views informing with particular abhorrence. This motif persists right to the end of the film, where both heroines are offered chances to inform on the hero.

The film never gives this any political dimension. But in real-life, investigations would soon be soliciting informers against Hollywood Communists. One wonders if Colorado Territory is offering a negative commentary about such informing. On the other hand, perhaps 1949 is too early to be such a commentary: most of the real-life informing and "naming names" I've been able to find took place in the 1950's.

Colorado Territory does not include any left wing commentaries about economics, as far as I can tell. And Raoul Walsh was never the subject of blacklisting, as far as I can determine, either.

Water vs. Alcohol

Walsh films often contain pro-water, anti-alcohol messages. In Colorado Territory, the farmer's economic problems stem from a lack of water. The hero gives him money to dig wells. Walsh's war films Desperate Journey, Northern Pursuit look at the importance of water works in modern life; this Western does something similar on a smaller scale.

The three bad guys drink alcohol. It soon leads to a fight among themselves: one carrying a bottle of booze tries to kill another.

At the finale, the hero stops to drink from a water hole. This is a life-affirming moment. It shows a man doing a fundamental, life-supporting activity, shortly before his tragic end. Later, the unsympathetic lawmen will pass by the water hole, but not stop to drink.

Bells - and other Sound Communication

Walsh loved sound communication devices. Colorado Territory is full of Walsh's beloved bells: A triangle is rung to summon people to dinner: a Western tradition.

The hero uses animal sounds to communicate with the old man, a common image in Walsh.

The Native Americans sing songs of mourning twice, once by the women, the second by a group of men. Walsh liked groups of men singing together.


Colorado Territory shows Walsh's fondness for circles: The Walsh tradition of arched doorways appears - often linked to the sacred in Colorado Territory: The ghost town is one of Walsh's geometric environments: an area rich in pure geometric forms.

The heroine wears hoop earrings in the final ghost town scene, like several Walsh characters. However, the hoops do not seem to be pure circles, unlike most such earrings in Walsh.

There also also diamond shapes:

The Train Robbery: A Geometric World Full of Machinery

The train robbery echoes the one that opens White Heat. It takes place in an abstract world, full of complex, moving machinery: a Walsh tradition. The geometric forms of the trains and tracks embody Walsh's love for such geometric, mechanical worlds. McCrea winds up on top of the train: part of Walsh's fondness for having his performers climb up onto machinery and buildings.

The train robbery also shows inventiveness with camera movement. There are scenes in which men ride up to the train on horseback, and then jump aboard. Walsh's camera moves with them. A dynamic sense of movement is created.


The City of the Moon sequence at the end is an archetypal Walsh image of heights, mountains and cliffs. A shooter climbs to the top of the cliffs.

The ghost town is full of ladders, leading high up on the buildings.

The train robbery involves the hero on top of the moving cars.

The train robbers force men to jump off the train, down a steep embankment. This recalls a similar jump by the hero in Background to Danger.


The hero draws a map in the ground.

A sign points to a town. Earlier, McCrea saw the same town name in a fake inscription in a book. Geographical information is sometimes conveyed in unusual sources in Walsh (see the dog tags with addresses in Objective, Burma!).

The courthouse at the beginning has a sign on it giving its location.

The ranch has a border marker on a cattle skull. The skull conveys the drought and failure of the ranch.

Some Walsh films have map-like landscape views, showing Western towns or other locales in the background. Colorado Territory approaches this, with views of the ghost town and the City of the Moon. However, these views seem less purely map-like than those in some other Walsh films.

The plot at the end, depends on whether there are back entrances to the City of the Moon. This is elaborated into a complex scheme.


Two buzzards hover over the hero at the end, waiting for him to die. Walsh films are full of pets, and also scenes of animals attacking humans. These buzzards are wild, untamed, and nobody's pets. A number of Walsh films show dogs hunting humans. The buzzards are also hunting men.

Night and Day

Walsh gets visual variety, by showing the same settings during both night and day: the ranch house, the ghost town. Similarly, the chemical plant finale of White Heat starts out during the daytime, but extends after the fall of night.


When McCrea escapes from prison, there is a remarkable overhead pan, showing him running through a corn field. The pan moves in several different directions, following McCrea's progress through different sections of the field. The shot is remarkably varied in showing different kinds of structure to the field, and different directions of camera movement. Fields of plants occur in a number of Walsh films. A second, eye-level shot shows McCrea leaving the field.

Pans in the Finale

The finale is full of panning shots. These are usually used to underscore motion. They often show riders, following them as they move across a landscape. Sometimes they show people on foot, also in motion. Most of the pans are at eye level; a few show events from above.

There are also four full moving camera shots, accompanying riders, probably taken from a moving car. These are edited in after a series of pans of the riders. The moving shots seem intended to show the riders attaining high speed and riding intently.


The only unusual thing about the hero's modest costume, is that he wears his boots outside of his pants. So does the rancher, and one of the crooks in the train robbery. The hero calls attention to his boots, by casually lighting a match on them. Walsh frequently uses boots in his films, often as symbolic imagery that indicates something about the characters or their world.

After the train robbery, one of the crooks will get tied up by McCrea, with the ties going around his boots.

The final image of the crooks is a chilling echo of the earlier match-and-boot image. This is a fully symbolic image. The match also echoes the other smoke imagery in Colorado Territory, such as the treatment of McCrea's arm injury, or the smoke that spells doom for the couple at the end.

White Heat

Traditions and Humor

White Heat (1949) is a synthesis of many different film genres: These all seem like virtually separate movies. It is not surprising that White Heat takes so much longer than many crime films of its era - almost two hours. It is virtually four or five films rolled into one.

There is a sense of humor to the use of these conventions, almost a tongue in cheek quality. For example, going undercover in Anthony Mann's T-Men (1947) was a tragic experience. Here it is played for laughs, with Edmond O'Brien glibly reciting all his undercover roles, and making jokes about them. It has become almost routine. The film is gently poking fun at what was once a radical, daring experience for a protagonist. By the way, the agents in this film are actually called "T-Men" by the bad guys, the only other use of this term in film history, as far as I know.

Similarly, Mayo's femme fatale goes into her routines the way most people go to the grocery store to by a loaf of bread. The film gives a rich treatment to these scenes - they are fully developed and with good acting. But there is also a spoof quality to them. Especially her last attempt, at the refinery with the police, is played for laughs. The audience is thinking, doesn't this woman ever quit with her villainy? People clearly enjoy seeing anyone with such gusto and determination. Mayo really gives it all she's got. However, what was terrifying in Double Indemnity is now standard operating procedure. The film seems to suggest that femme fataling has become industrialized.

Steve Cochran's gangster also has elements of self-parody. He is playing a character who is really dumb. Many actors would be afraid to play a guy this gullible. Not Cochran. His gangster is all brute instinct, easily led around by whatever desires he has. Cochran throws himself in this role with the gusto of all of Walsh's best actors. The audience is probably snickering at this gangster part of the time. They are also probably wishing that they could give such direct vent to their feelings as he does. He is clearly having fun. There are certainly elements of wish fulfillment fantasy here, as there are with nearly all of Walsh's leading men. His clothes are at once spectacular and also ridiculous, with the black shirts that are only worn by gangsters in the movies.

The relationship between undercover O'Brien and gang leader Cagney resembles that in William Keighley's The Street With No Name (1948). However, while Cagney and O'Brien say the dialogue, they do not really express the vulnerable feelings of that work. Both men are far too emotionally resilient and dynamic. They are a couple of forces of nature, out to have an adventure and a really good time. This too slightly burlesques the feelings of the earlier film.

Finale: Semi-Documentary Traditions

The finale recalls somewhat the factory climax of The Street With No Name. But it is even closer to the water tower ending of Richard Fleischer's Follow Me Quietly (1948). Both films have good guys chasing bad guys up huge, fluid containing towers in outdoor industrial regions. These industrial finales are traditions in semi-docs. Please see my chart showing the history of the semi-documentary film, and its industrial finales, shot in areas full of machinery and architectural construction.

The chase to high places also recalls the climb up the Williamsburg Bridge at the finale of Jules Dassin's The Naked City (1948).

White Heat is less close to the storm drain finale of Anthony Mann's He Walked by Night (1948). Or to the train yard climax of John Sturges' Mystery Street (1950).

White Heat looks as if it set out to have the biggest such industrial climax ever filmed. Its refinery is much bigger in area than any previous finale location - it stretches on for blocks. And its explosive climax sets a new and probably untoppable standard for such scenes. Once again, there is an undercurrent of humor. Walsh is developing everything with his usual gusto.

Virginia Mayo

Virginia Mayo is a better actress than her current lack of fame would suggest. She gave two of her best performances in Walsh films: White Heat and Captain Horatio Hornblower. Her character comes across as completely different in both films, so much so that she seems like two different people. She is definitely not playing some version of "herself" in these films. She does not employ a star persona which follows her from film to film, being elaborated into her current character. Instead, she and Walsh construct a new character for her in each film out of whole cloth. She acts these characters with tremendous conviction. Whenever one sees the films, one is convinced that one is seeing the real Virginia Mayo, that she is expressing her natural personality. It is only when one compares the two films that one is startled by how different her performances are.

Both Mayo characters have the high energy and spirit of the typical Walsh heroine. Like other Walsh heroines, both are gutsy people who thrive in a man's world. Her heroine in Captain Horatio Hornblower gives a moral center to the film, however, while her femme fatale in White Heat is utterly lacking in scruples.

This is one of the few Walsh films with a female villain, along with They Drive by Night. Most of Walsh's actresses play good women, not bad ones. Even here, this femme fatale is practicing her wiles not on good, innocent men, as such vamps usually do in film noir, but on a bunch of vicious gangsters. She might not be anywhere as bad morally as they are. She is a full femme fatale, with tremendous allure and determination, but she is not a figure dedicated to the destruction of innocent males. Her character has comic, tongue in cheek qualities.

The Open Image

There is an open quality to Walsh's imagery. This is achieved by a number of means. First, Walsh often has open areas in his outdoor scenes, stretching off to the horizon. A rectangular area on screen will contain a distant background, showing trees, houses, grass. Even when the shot concentrates on people and machines in the foreground, such a region will be available on screen.

Secondly, the objects on screen often continue off screen to the right and left of the frame. For example, we will see part of a long truck. The rest of the truck will extend off screen to the right. This gives the viewer a sense that there is plenty of space to the right and left of the screen. The viewer is not hemmed in or caught by the frame of the screen. Rather, what we are seeing continues a long way in both directions. The viewer could easily walk to the left of the right. They are not enclosed or trapped.

Walsh often explores a set or location with his camera before settling down to a fixed shot or frame in one region of it. This too helps create the feeling that there is a lot of open space on both sides of the frame. The viewer has seen all this before, and knows what is there on both sides of the shot. Walsh's frequent pans help with this.

Finally, Walsh rarely shoots so that his frame boundaries correspond with any natural boundaries in the set or location. There are just free, continuing objects and backgrounds at both the left and right of the shot. There are no boundaries here.

All of this gives the viewer a great sense of freedom and openness in Walsh. It is the exact opposite of the trapped feeling one sometimes gets in Fritz Lang.

The Well

Walsh often uses a pair of vertical lines on screen to frame his heroes. I call this "the well". This technique is not limited to Walsh. It is a fairly common practice of staging among Hollywood directors. But Walsh employs it with great consistency in White Heat.

For example, Cagney might be standing between a window and the fireplace. The frame of the window forms on strong vertical line, the fireplace mantel another. There will simply be blank wall behind Cagney, with nothing but empty space behind him. Other parts of the shot will be quite full of detail. But the region that contains Cagney will be a fairly empty region bounded by strong verticals.

Walsh employs some variations on this. Instead of a well, sometimes an actor is tied to a single strong vertical line. The actor can be standing immediately along the line, or somewhat to one side of it, a little bit to the left or right.

In both cases. the actor on screen is linked to the vertical lines in the composition. The background lines and the actor reinforce each other. They make powerful, pleasant lines in the composition.


During the silent days, masking was popular. Vertical masks were often employed. A mask would blot out part of the screen. One popular mask shape was two vertical lines, with a well like band between them. Nothing would be visible to the left or right.

Walsh's employment of wells has formal similarities to the silent era use of masks. In both cases, an actor's vertical body is linked to two vertical boundary lines on either side.

Walsh cannot employ masks in 1949. They were long since absolutely taboo, and were never employed in the sound era in Hollywood films, as far as I know. (They do show up in Max Ophuls' French film, Lola Montès (1955).) They are still never found in contemporary movies, and I wonder why. But Walsh's use of wells often has a similar effect.

Walsh comes very close to masking in White Heat, in the scene where Edmond O'Brien is seen underneath the truck between two circular truck components. These are big, framing areas on screen. Only a small open area in between them allows us to see open space. We see O'Brien's body in this area. The truck parts form a mask. This sort of mask was legitimate: it is formed from real objects, not black regions employed by the photographer.


The truck "mask" consists of a series of large, circular arcs. Walsh loves circles, and they frequently appear in his compositions. These include: Circles frequently pop up in other Walsh films. He seems to just find them, and in the unlikeliest places. They are virtually a signature of his visual style.

Walsh also likes doorways with rounded arch tops. The train tunnel at the start has such a shape.

The Millbank Motel, with its suggestion of a water mill, is another Walsh location with something circular about its name.

Rounded Objects and Constructivism

In addition to circles, Walsh also loves rounded objects. These especially include car windows, tops of cars, and hoods. These objects are not purely circular, but they have strong rounded components. Walsh often puts such rounded regions at the top of his compositions. They form frames that surround the characters. For example, he likes to shoot people through car windows. The rounded top of the window will be at the top of the screen. It will form an arch through which we see the characters. It makes a very graceful climax to the composition. It will be the most visible and emphasized part of the composition. It adds a note of visual gracefulness and beauty to the proceedings. Walsh always wants everything to look beautiful. There is a sense of elegance and joy, an attempt to give pleasure to the audience.

Walsh employs his own Hollywood version of Constructivism in his shots. Everywhere, there are numerous geometric objects in Walsh's images. These include rectangular regions, circles and rounded objects. Walsh will also include cones and pyramids. For example, at the gas station, we see a conical extension going off the rear portion of the truck cab. It is quite prominent in the composition. So is the truck's circular side mirror. In the background, a building with a pyramidal roof is prominently featured. Such geometric objects are the key building blocks of Walsh's image.

Other geometric objects: the truncated cone used to track radio broadcasts in cars. This is a neat cone, with another circle below it, and an arched arrow going up the side of the cone. It is one of Walsh's most complex geometric features.

As in other Walsh films, a number of locales are so geometric in their shapes, that they form geometric environments:

Street corners in chase scenes tend to be rounded. This is true both of city streets, and the factory at the end. As cars squeal around these corners, they move smoothly around round corners - they do not make sharp right-angled turns.

Jutting Into Space

Walsh's geometric objects are often jutting out into empty space. At the gas station, both the mirror and the cone simply extend out into otherwise empty regions of the screen. This jutting has a number of purposes. It makes the objects easy to see. It emphasizes the objects. They are the only objects sticking out into vast regions of empty space. It is also a compositional technique. Walsh builds his compositions by including objects jutting into regions of empty space.

At the gas station, the truck objects jut horizontally. But more often, Walsh has his objects jut vertically. They will all be attached to the bottom of the screen, and they will jut vertically into open space at the top of the image. The radio set is a good example of this. It consists of a series of pure geometric shapes: cylinders, rectangular blocks. They jut up towards the top of the image, in open space. They are arranged to make an open, pleasing, and beautiful geometric pattern. The openness of the space into which the object juts, is related in feel to the other kinds of openness in Walsh's images. There is always a sense of freedom in Walsh's images. Even his jutting geometric objects have plenty of room.

Walsh's objects can also jut downwards. For example, the truncated cone of the direction finder extends straight downward from the roof of the car. Once again, it juts into empty space in the car's interior.

Horizontal Bands

Walsh's compositions frequently have horizontal lines in them. These are formed by naturally occurring lines in the background of the image. These lines can consist of the lower edge of car windows, roof edges or telegraph lines. Inside houses, they often are formed by window sills, or by lines in the architecture. Walsh often finds two such lines, and forms a whole band across the screen. These horizontal bands make a pleasing contrast and complement to the vertical lines of his wells and actors. Often, Walsh aligns key parts of the actors' bodies with such lines. An actor's head might exactly align with a horizontal line on the screen. Or an actor's chest will fall naturally within a band.

Another common technique: a two part composition. One region of the screen will have a high rising component, such as the truck cab. Other parts of the screen will all be bounded above by a lower, horizontal line, such as the truck bed. This gives a graceful sense of variety to the image.


Walsh frequently pans in White Heat. These pans are very fast. They tend to come at the beginning and end of scenes, and often show the characters in motion. Walsh's pans are graceful. But they do not seem to have the elaborate qualities of "compositions in motion" that one sometimes finds in other directors. Walsh's pans are fast, fast, fast. They tend to be designed to add a sense of motion and dynamism to a scene. They also are good at explaining the layout of a room or outdoor location to the viewer. The viewer comes to know what the whole scene looks like. Then, when Walsh cuts to a static, long held shot, the shot has the quality of "openness" we have discussed. The viewer knows all about what lies to the left and the right of the screen. The previous pan has made everything clear.

The long pan around the empty house where Mayo and Cochran are hiding out, is especially notable.


Walsh employs tracking shots in the prison, that echo two kinds of standard tracks in his films. He follows a walking character, when Cagney walks behind the grills in the visiting room. Many such scenes in other Walsh are on city streets. Here, there is a nod to noir stylistics, with Cagney seen behind the grill-work.

Walsh tracks down a row of stationary characters, in the famous shot where Cagney gets news of his mother. The camera first tracks to the left, then back to the right to Cagney again.

Abandoning the Injured

Walsh war films emphasize good guy soldiers taking care of their wounded, and carrying them back to safety. By contrast, bad guy soldiers, such as Nazis, abandon their wounded. White Heat has similar themes in a non-military setting, with gangster Cagney abandoning his injured accomplice. This is shocking. It is contrasted with a gang member who tries to help the injured man.

The police and government officials who discover the corpse of the abandoned man, never express any human sympathy. They just analyze the corpse for clues. These government agents seem horribly cold. Although there is nothing practical they could do to help this guy - he is long dead when they find him - their attitude seems almost as inhuman as bad guy Cagney's. These scenes seem designed to draw an unsympathetic view of what are supposed to be the film's "good guys". They are soon followed by the agents undercover plans, which also exploit Cagney's feelings in a way which seems deeply cold and inhuman.

The Courtroom and Injustice

Walsh films often show injustice being perpetrated by a failed or corrupt justice system, including courts. The courtroom scene in White Heat shows first gangster Cagney, then the Feds and O'Brien, running fake cases through the courtroom. This is not corruption, as in other Walsh films, but it gives an eerie picture of a courtroom judge handing down sentences that have nothing to do with reality or real justice. This judge seems so serious, too, just like the idealized judges in other directors' films: but he's a complete patsy.


White Heat is full of the heights loved by Walsh: Walsh likes bridges, and a small one is seen whenever the characters drive away from the motel. Unlike some Walsh films, this is not used for heights. It resembles the small footbridge near the cabin in High Sierra. The bridge in White Heat adds visual interest to the shots of the car driving away, help making the shots more vivid.

Fire and Storm

Huge, disastrous fires are an image that run through Walsh. The finale of White Heat is the archetypal example.

Early in the film, the steam that comes out of the engine prefigures this finale.

When the crooks leave their frozen hideout near the start, a wind storm is in progress. Stormy weather runs through Walsh.


White Heat is especially full of the sound technology Walsh loves: Low-tech sound equipment is used too: Cochran rigs up a door bell as an alarm. Such low-tech sound devices as bells often appear in Walsh's historical films.

Non-sound communication is also used: the lights flashing inside the oil truck.

There is other electrical equipment, unrelated to sound:

The police use spectrographic analysis.

Alcohol and Gas

Walsh films often contain anti-alcohol messages. Cagney's headache treatment at the start ends with his mother handing him a drink. Alcohol is seen as part of a pathology.

The tear gas at the end is an example of the fumes and gasses that play a role in Walsh: always substances that affect people.

Walsh characters like sweet drinks, sometimes fruit-flavored (pineapple soda in Big Brown Eyes, orange drink in They Drive by Night). Although the strawberries are not used for a drink, perhaps they are related.

Maps and Models

White Heat is full of the maps used by Walsh:


In the prison visiting room, Cagney's mother and Cagney figure out that there is a murder plot against him. They use reasoning from evidence to do so. Detection is Walsh films is often performed by women, or by women taking the lead in discussions between female-male couples. This scene recalls the train conversation between heroine and hero in They Died with Their Boots On, where they figure out the villains' scheme to grab the Native Americans' land in the Black Hills.


The government agents in the finale are often blandly good-looking men, in expensive fashionable business suits. One of the men marking up the directional map is even in sharp but tasteful pinstripes, like a young banker. They look well-dressed, and are a marked contrast to the working class looking crooks, with their simple, old-fashioned cheap clothes. There is an element of class resentment: the audience is going to disapprove of well-to-do members of the Establishment hunting down working class stiffs like animals.

Real-life government agents, such as the FBI, made a major issue out of being well-dressed. It was part of an official, intimidating image. White Heat is reflecting that well-understood public image. But White Heat is also suggesting that these men are unfair, and putting down working class men.

Cagney in the finale is in a brown leather jacket. This was an outfit that had working class glamour associated with it. It also had bad boy implications by 1949. The man Cagney sets out as night watchman in an earlier scene is also in a brown leather jacket. Such jackets run through Walsh. There are also cops in black leather jackets, recalling the flight jackets in some Walsh war movies.

Other Walsh films sometimes show likable servants in cream-colored clothes. The drive-in movie attendants, in their white uniforms, are perhaps linked to this tradition. They too seem like pleasant, helpful good guys.

The Enforcer

The Enforcer (1951) is credited to director Bretaigne Windust, but Walsh reportedly directed most of it, taking over from an ill Windust. There are some Walsh-like aspects.

Sound Equipment

The finale, which uses sound equipment to broadcast police warnings on the downtown streets of a typical city, seems especially personal for Walsh. This fits in with Walsh's interest in high tech sound devices. The heroine also goes to a phone booth, in the finale.

The head hitman gets his contracts by phone.

The police listen to tape recordings they made of testimony.

Bogart hears some of Walsh's beloved bells, telling him the time.

At one point, we hear police whistles and sirens.


The opening, involving dangerous heights on exteriors of buildings, relates to Walsh traditions.

Water, Coffee and Alcohol

Several scenes have that Walsh favorite, people drinking water: We also see a suspect drinking what is probably coffee.

One of the crooks is an alcoholic; another crook eventually smashes his bottle of booze.

When the police quiz the first hitman, he is so unhinged that they ask him whether he is drunk. This is not quite an anti-alcohol message, but it is quite negative all the same.

Dark Versions of Walsh Imagery

Walsh films often include scenes where sympathetic workers negotiate deals with employers. The scene where the hitmen try to get the best jobs from their leader, seems like a dark parody of this.

Also twisted: barbershops in Walsh are usually happy locales where men get duded up. But in The Enforcer, one is a scene of a murder. And at the start, a lavatory wash basin is not a scene of male grooming; instead it hosts a disastrous fight.

Walsh films often have containers with men inside, always living men. The Enforcer has a laundry basket with two dead bodies, and a submerged car with a corpse.

Walsh films are full of jails and prisons; the jail in The Enforcer leads to a particularly bad end for crook Duke Malloy.

Some of the The Enforcer is sick. The hit men shown in the film are severely psychologically disturbed. And looking at the gut wrenching fear they inspire in their victims is also a distressing experience.

Maps and Geography

There is a map, apparently of New York and neighboring states, on Bogart's office wall.

The police report has an address on it: "Bell Street Station"; we flash back to a sign that also shows the locale.

The police get an address off a steering wheel (the place where car registrations used to be).

Geometric Worlds and Circles

Several locales in The Enforcer are examples of Walsh's highly geometric environments: The back room at Olga's is full of circular forms: We see some of Walsh's arched doorways: Walsh films like circles of light: There is that Walsh favorite, a shot through a round telescope, producing a circular-masked image.

The courtyard at the start is mainly rectilinear, but it has two lamps that make circles, when the camera points straight down the courtyard.

There are other circular forms:

The blotter in Olga's back room is irregularly octagonal.

Captain Horatio Hornblower

A Sea Adventure

Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951) is a naval adventure story, set in the time of Napoleon.

Social Themes

The heroine is one of Walsh's strong women, who function well in a world of men. She impresses the hero with her work as a nurse.

Some of the sailors are convict labor, people who Walsh regards with sympathy. They recall the ex-cons employed by Cagney in The Roaring Twenties.

The heroes refuse to abandon the wounded officer at the end, and carry him with them. This anticipates the finale of The Naked and the Dead.

A sinister warlord is the villain in the first half, recalling the evil warlord in The Thief of Bagdad.

The hero shows an unpleasant willingness to sacrifice his men, to achieve victory. It is only in later films that Walsh will start to question this sinister approach.

Midshipman Longley is one of several young men in Walsh, who want to be part of the team-of-grown-up-men. Walsh brings out some negative consequences of this.


The ships are full of circular forms: The Central American palace is full of archways, a Walsh favorite. (It also has a circular window.) The Spanish ship also has an arched doorway. The bridge at the end is supported on three giant arches.

The characters play backgammon, with circular counters. The hero's home has circular plates in the dining room.

The telescope is used to create circular masked shots, a Walsh favorite.


Walsh's historical films emphasize the sound communication technology of their eras. In Captain Horatio Hornblower, we see the use of ship's bells, whistles, piping and drums, to communicate on ship. There are also standard, well-understood commands, which are shouted out. Much of the rhythm and mise-en-scène of the ship board episodes centers around such sounds.

Bells are rung at the end, to celebrate the hero's arrival on land.

Non-sound communication is also shown. A heliograph (mirrors flashing light) is used. So are signal flags.


Walsh films often contain maps. Captain Hornblower has naval charts. He uses them to achieve an astonishing feat of navigation, in the film's first episode. He is also shown teaching the heroine how to use naval charts, later.

The hero tells the heroine, that he navigates "from star to star". This is another example in Walsh of discussions of the night sky.

The narrator also uses a map near the start, to show us the progress of Hornblower's ship.

Towards the end, a map of France and Spain is employed by the naval officers, to discuss strategy. There is also a map on a table, in a second scene.

The hero records latitude and longitude in his ship's log: one of several objects in Walsh with geographic information on them.

A milestone by the road, tells us we are in the Department of the Loire.

Collapsing Sets

There are a number of comedy scenes in other Walsh films, where the heroes have the sets collapse on them. The hero of Cheyenne crashes through a screen the heroine tips over on him. The huge rigging that falls on the sailors during battle scenes in Captain Horatio Hornblower seems like a serious, large scale version of this.


Scenes have people climbing the ship sides, which are moderately high: Heights are in the background in some scenes:


Storms, including wind storms, play a role in several Walsh films. The scene where the sailors wait suspensefully for the slightest signs of wind, are perhaps a variation on this.


The heroine wears pink roses on her hat: one of many Walsh heroines associated with roses. She also kisses the hero at the end in a garden, like the garden romance scenes in College Swing. The garden contains pink tulips.


The first ship is full of reddish wood. This is often contrasted with the officers' blue uniforms. The red sometimes matches red uniforms, and the heroine's reddish clothes.

The second ship is largely green, with some occasional red flags. Green interiors with touches of red will return in The Lawless Breed.


The heroine is frequently seen in red and white clothes, or pink-and-white. This is a common color scheme for glamorous women in Walsh. The painting of the heroine's wife, our only view of her, also shows her in this color scheme.

The green Dutch uniforms assumed by the men at the end, include the long coats for men that Walsh favors.

The gold epaulettes recall the metallic vests for men in other Walsh films.

The villainous warlord's arrogance is symbolized by his boots and spurs. None of the good guys' uniforms include boots. The warlord's overdone uniform is in magenta and gold. This is close to the complementary colors of purple and yellow: a fairly popular color scheme in some artists and filmmakers, but one which rarely shows up in Walsh. Purple-and-yellow is sometimes used in real life for boxers; in Vincente Minnelli, it is associated with virile men and athletes. Perhaps the warlord's uniform is intended to suggest an overdone masculinity. Please see my list of purple-and-yellow costumes in film and comic books.

The heroes wear blue uniforms throughout. Blue will return as the hero's main color in The World in His Arms.

The French officer near the end, is in a spectacular white dress uniform, with red and gold trim. The Russians (also a rival nationality to the hero) in The World in His Arms, will also wear white dress uniforms.

Along the Great Divide

This discussion is full of SPOILERS.

Genre: A Mix of Western and Film Noir

Along the Great Divide (1951) is a Western. It also has film noir elements: Walsh had previously combined the Western with the film noir in Pursued, a film also loaded with mystery and psychological obsession.

A Political Film: The Attack on Democracy

At first, the father who wants the lynching seems driven by grief. This can generate some sympathy for him. But gradually, we realize that he has more sinister motives: he regards himself as "boss" of a large territory. His son regards himself as heir to this dictatorship. He is involved in a long running attack on democracy. He anticipates the coup attempt in A Lion Is in the Streets.

All that stands in his way is a Federal marshal (Kirk Douglas) and his deputy (John Agar). They represent both the rule of law, and an elected government.

The boss and his men launch a violent armed attack on the marshals. They are warned against this by other local ranchers - and they fully know what they are doing.

The town marshal and circuit judge in Santa Loma give Douglas only the most token support. The judge even frees the boss' son on bail. Their actions are appalling. Nor does the local jury give Douglas any support either, ignoring his statement to the jury. None of these people have any sense of democracy or the rule of law. They want to pursue a cattlemen versus rustlers agenda, and they care nothing about the rule of law in their area.

"Failed legal systems and courtroom trials" are a major theme of Walsh. Along the Great Divide is an example, one that pursues the subject through the entire picture, rather just in isolated scenes like several other Walsh films.


Water is a motif that runs through Walsh. He frequently has his heroes drinking it, partly as an alternative to alcohol, partly as a basic need to quench thirst. In Along the Great Divide, the heroes are fleeing across the desert. As the hero explains, their most important need is water.

Much is made of the water bags the heroes use to transport their supply of water. The boss' son deliberately attacks these bags, as part of his strategy to attack the heroes and establish lynch law. There is something horrible about this. It seems completely below norms of decent behavior. Anyone who would deny water to other human beings is violating standards of civilization. It recalls the Nazi's attack on Allied countries' water works in Desperate Journey, Northern Pursuit. This is our first big clue, that there is something monstrous about the boss' son.

The heroine and hero wind up in a stream. "Characters who walk in shallow water" are a Walsh image.


The hero functions as a detective: The hero is the only person in Along the Great Divide who takes an interest in the world about him. The other characters, good, bad or in-between, are focussed on narrow goals. The marshal hero thinks about the rule of law, and what society as a whole should be like. His detective work also depends on his observing the world and thinking about it.

The hero learns one important part of the truth, when Brennan refuses to shoot him and escape. This renunciation of violence leads the hero to understand that Brennan is innocent of the murder. This linking of nonviolence and truth is interesting.

A Gay Character

The deputy (John Agar) seems to be in love with the hero. He is a sympathetic, loyal and highly decent man, whose main fault seems to be a lack of caution that gets him killed by the villains. Walsh films have a number of sympathetic men who are quietly-but-not-explicitly marked as "gay".

When Agar is wounded, the hero rides with him on a shared horse. This resembles the "lap sitting" imagery that runs through Walsh, marking close characters, both male-female and male-male (see Fighter Squadron for a man sitting in another man's lap). Agar is also tenderly held by the hero, in an image that recalls a Pieta.


Along the Great Divide opens with a shot of Walsh's beloved mountains.

Otherwise, the main use of heights is seen in the final chase. The bad guy goes up a ladder into a barn loft, then out an exterior door onto a roof, then back down to the ground.

Maps and Geography

Along the Great Divide doesn't emphasize maps. But it does have verbal geographical information: the characters give "directions" for finding things in the desert.

First Brennan's ranch, and later the town of Santa Loma, are seen from a distance in the background of landscapes: a Walsh tradition. Both views involve odd, jerky sorts of zooms, something strange.


Along the Great Divide contains circles:


Warner Bothers produced Along the Great Divide, and like other Warner Brothers films, it was adapted into an episode of Warners' TV Western series Cheyenne. The episode is The Travelers (Richard L. Bare, 1956). It keeps the core story, but eliminates the hero's psychological conflicts. Morris Ankrum replays his role of vengeful father, from the film. The Travelers is OK, but lacks the intensity of Along the Great Divide, perhaps deliberately.

From this point on, Warners TV Westerns like Cheyenne and Maverick constantly had their heroes standing up to lynch mobs, and trying to uphold the rule of law. Sinister powerful men who want to run things, like the "boss" in Along the Great Divide, also were everywhere.

Intense, nasty psychological conflicts between fathers and sons show up in 1950's Westerns, such as The Man from Laramie (Anthony Mann, 1955) and Gunman's Walk (Phil Karlson, 1958). However, Along the Great Divide didn't invent the psychological Western: Mann, for example, was already including family conflicts in Winchester 73 (1950) and The Furies (1950).

Distant Drums

Genre: A Mix of Western and Jungle Adventure

Distant Drums (1951) is a Western, set during the Seminole wars in Florida. It is also full of scenes of traditional jungle movie adventure, as the characters track through the Everglades.

I'm uncomfortable with the politics of Distant Drums. It does nothing to explore the roots of the war with the Seminoles; it treats the Seminoles as bloodthirsty savages; it shows few of the faults of the whites in the war. All of these things make a badly flawed movie.

Distant Drums tries to counterbalance this with sympathetic portraits of Native Americans from other tribes. The hero is involved with these. This is admirable. But it doesn't cover the flaws above.

Distant Drums also has some real virtues. The Florida scenery is beautiful, and all the jungle adventure parts of the movie are well done. The subplot with the heroine also is absorbing.

The way the heroes are threatened by sinister animals (alligators and snakes), recalls The Thief of Bagdad. By contrast, the hero's eagle is one of the many pets that run through Walsh.


Walsh's historical films emphasize the sound communication of their era. The first shot of Distant Drums shows the Native American drums, used for long distance communication in the Everglades. They recall the church bells that open In Old Arizona.

The scout's unusual calls are featured throughout the film. The hero uses animal-like calls, too, although his vocalizings are not as elaborate as the scout's.

The scout calls get an odd comic echo, in the scene where a soldier imitates a chicken.

The heroine and Richard Webb discuss poetry readings in Savannah. Such public readings at that time, played a major role in American culture. They were part of the self-education and self-improvement that were key in American life.

Water and Boats

Distant Drums has beautiful scenes in water, set in the Everglades. These anticipate the pool in The Naked and the Dead. The shot where the hero fishes in a small pool in Distant Drums is especially beautiful.

Like other Walsh films, Distant Drums is full of boats. The largest boat is manned by professional sailors, recalling Captain Horatio Hornblower. The sailors even have British accents, like the men in Captain Horatio Hornblower. British terms like "bosun" are also used.


Walsh has more fire scenes in Distant Drums:


The hero and his men scale the wall of the fort, using ropes. These scenes recall a bit The Thief of Bagdad. So do the bayonets of the guards at the top of the fort.


Animated maps are used throughout, to show the location of the heroes.

Charts are also used within the story itself, at the general's headquarters.


Distant Drums has some circular forms: The arsenal room at the fort is full of arched doorways, a Walsh favorite. Like several other rooms with arched doorways in Walsh, the arsenal is a center of sinister power.

Diamond Lozenges

The hero has a ring of diamond lozenge shapes on his hat. The Seminole leader also wears a tunic full of diamond shapes. This links the two leaders.

Star Shapes

The General's location on the map is shown by a star.

Camera Movement

Distant Drums has that Walsh favorite, tracks past a line of unmoving people: There are also pans, as when the men first emerge from the big boat and move onto land.


The clothes echo Walsh traditions:

The World in His Arms

Genre: A Mix of Western and Swashbuckler

The World in His Arms (1952) is an adventure story, set in 1850 San Francisco and Alaska. It is of the subgenre more-or-less related to the Western, that involves Alaska and sailing, rather than the West and horses.

The San Francisco scenes in the first half, are the most Western-like. Their settings of hotel and saloon are frequently found in Western films. So is the huge comic brawl.

But the second half in Russian-run Sitka, Alaska, more recalls a swashbuckler, like the kinds Michael Curtiz used to make with Errol Flynn. There are dungeons and palaces, a heroine forced into marriage by an aristocratic villain, men in fancy East European uniforms, and a climactic duel between hero and villain. Such swashbucklers tend to be set in the distant past. These scenes are part of a world that was already ancient in 1850. This links to dialogue earlier, in which San Francisco is presented as the Future, whereas Old World cities are viewed as relics of mankind's ugly Past.

The Hero

Peck's Captain is different from many Walsh heroes, in that the film does not show him directly standing up for the weak. Instead, Peck is a social crusader: This is more like the left-wing social crusading done by the heroes of Robin Hood, Scaramouche and other swashbucklers. Such films often had a hero who was the champion of the oppressed, against a corrupt regime. Yet The World in His Arms goes beyond this, with ecological and Civil Rights messages.

The hero's visionary efforts to purchase Alaska, recall the big dreams of the heroes of some historical films, such as the way the hero of Suez (Allan Dwan, 1938) wants to build the Suez Canal.

The Down-Side of Goals: Walsh's Vision of Society

The Russian regime has a goal: it has a quota of seal pelts it wants harvested. The goal is not practical: the seal population is over-harvested, and in decline. Yet this does not deter the Russian government: it proceeds like a juggernaut, and brutally oppresses the Aleuts when they fail to meet the government goal.

This anticipates the sinister goal-oriented warfare in The Naked and the Dead. The general in that film has military goals, and he calmly calculates how many men he needs to send to their death, to achieve those goals. The Naked and the Dead is a shocking look inside "ordinary war", and how it is led and directed.

Both films show societies organized by their leaders around goals, and ordinary people dying to achieve those sinister goals. Walsh has a consistent vision of how society works.

Only the hero has an alternative plan. He wants to change society, and the seal hunt, by buying Alaska for the United States. The World in His Arms has a vision of how society can be improved: by taking big steps, to move to alternative, practical plans.

The vision of social change in The World in His Arms is non-violent. Yet it is not rooted in social protest - although it is not against social protest, either. Instead, it involves big schemes, that are achieved through a mix of planning and financial capital raising.

Civil Rights

The argument for Civil Rights in The World in His Arms is a curious one. It suggests that everyone can benefit from knowing people of many different races, because it adds tremendously to the vitality and joy of life.

This is not the only argument that can be adduced for Civil Rights: many concepts of social justice need also to be set forth. Yet the film's argument, while incomplete, is also a profoundly true one. It is an idea that seems to be in danger of being forgotten today. The film's joyful vision, of many different races and ethnic groups all contributing to American life, is still wonderfully appealing.


At sea, Anthony Quinn looks through a telescope. This provides a circular mask over the image. In the silent era when masks were a popular, standard feature of film grammar, Walsh used to simply frame his images with masks. See the circular masks in Regeneration, for example. Here in The World in His Arms, the use of a mask is instead justified by the plot. This approach recalls a shot in White Heat, where the circular truck at the end is used to "mask off" the image.

The wheels of the sailing ships are circular. Quinn's is painted in bright colors, so it is immediately distinguishable from Peck's.

The coolie seen hurrying by at the start, carries two cylindrical buckets, on a pole.

The small, stacked barrels of fish, in the back room at Shanghai Kelly's, are cylindrical.

Geometric Steep Areas

The dungeon near the end, features steep stairs. First we see the outside, where the stairs are framed by a zigzag banister. This is a huge geometric area, with a large number of right-angled squares. It goes straight down, and is almost as steep as a cliff.

Then we see inside the dungeon, with more steep stairs - only this time, without a banister. In the background, we see some of Walsh's beloved doors with arched tops.

Jutting Objects

During the boat race, the prows of the boats are often shot, so that they are jutting forward into space. Walsh likes such jutting objects.


Characters are regularly introduced in The World in His Arms in panning shots. Shanghai Kelly, businessmen Rhys Williams and son Bryan Forbes, Anthony Quinn, the black musicians, the Aunt, the heroine, the banker's wife - and even the pet seal Louise! - are all first seen in panning shots. This gives their entrances a dynamic, exciting quality. The pans do not always follow these introduced characters. For example, the pan that introduces Bryan Forbes is actually following hero Gregory Peck. The pan accompanies Peck as he enters Forbes' office: Forbes is standing inside.

Two interesting pans show the heroine deciding to join the dance hall women. The first pan shows the heroine, standing pensively on the staircase. The camera pans over, showing what the heroine is watching: the dance hall women entering the hotel. Immediately after, comes a second shot, also a pan. This one follows the now moving heroine, as she descends the staircase, and joins the women. The first shot shows thought, the second shot shows action. The paths of the two pans are nearly identical.

Walsh regularly pans during the dance at the hotel. The panning counterpoints the movement of the dancers. These are the most complex pans in the movie.

When the hero and Quinn have their comic duel, Walsh includes a pan round the circle of spectators, showing their reactions.

A notable pan occurs, after the victim of the near-lynching flees the scene. The camera pans with the victim's cart, as it flees the town. The vigorous pan moves through a large arc, following the speeding cart.


When the guests flee the party after Quinn gets violent, Walsh does not pan. Instead, he bolts down his camera, while the guests flee en masse across the screen. This comic gem is another of Walsh's carefully choreographed crowd shots.

Depth Staging

After the hero is left standing at the altar, he retreats into the depths of the hotel. Walsh shows him, receding slowly from the foreground to the deep background. The hero's dejection is expressed, by the way he seems to get swallowed up by the architecture of the hotel.

Men Dressed Alike

Walsh films often show groups of men dressed alike, who share a common profession. The World in His Arms consistently does this with Peck's crew: The black musicians show up in a dazzling series of tailcoats: all the same shape, but in a series of eye-popping colors. Their clothes convey the same exuberance visually, as their spectacular swing does musically. Once again, these are a group of men who share a profession. One gets a sense that these men virtually personify exuberance and the life force.

The Russian men wear common white dress uniforms at the wedding at the end. Earlier, their uniforms were in different colors: the villain's was black, the sympathetic uncle's was dark green.

The bellboys at the hotel, are in matching cream-colored uniforms. It is a striking color, and most unusual looking. Once again, these are men in a common profession.

When dressed as a sailor, the hero wears a peaked sailing cap. This recalls the peaked caps worn by Cagney and Bogart in The Roaring Twenties, when they are impersonating sailors. Such caps are glamorous. The sympathetic taxi driver in Walsh's next film, Glory Alley, will also wear a peaked cap.

Color Symbolism in Costumes

The hero is often dressed in dark blue. This is a "serious" color, and one traditionally associated with men in the United States. As a sailor, the hero wears a dark blue shirt and blue pants. At his wedding, the hero is in a blue coat, as well as a silver metallic vest and gray pants. Metallic vests are worn by dashing leading men who are not-quite-pure heroes in 1950's Fritz Lang color films: Rancho Notorious (1952) and Moonfleet (1955). Rock and Roll star Elvis Presley would soon wear a gold lamé tuxedo, on the cover of his album 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong (1959). Metal clothes for men were a glamorous possibility, in an otherwise repressed era of menswear design.

There is gold and black on one of the heroine's dresses, later.

The sympathetic Russian characters are frequently in green. The duenna wears a green dress. The heroine wears an avocado green dress, embroidered with red roses with dark green leaves. (These are echoed by the red roses the heroine handles. She is one of several Walsh heroines associated with roses.) Her uncle wears a dark green uniform, when we see him later in the film.

The dance hall women are in various shades of red. The heroine also puts on red, for her night incognito on the town. The hero wears a red turtleneck under his blue shirt, when we first see him, indicating a certain affinity to the sexual world of red.

The banker's wife wears a dress full of magenta and green, as well as black. It suggests fertile possibilities lurking in her. Since she puts up half the money for the purchase of Alaska, she is clearly a source of social change and progress.

Villain Carl Esmond shows up in an all-black military dress uniform, that virtually screams he is an aristocratic villain, in the swashbuckler tradition. Walsh liked to put his bad guys in over the top, tongue in cheek, black villain's costumes: see Steve Cochran's black shirt worn with his gangster's suit in White Heat, William Campbell's cowboy desperado's outfit in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw. All of these clothes look fun to wear.

Hans Conried's hotel clerk is stuck in brownish outfits. The hero wears brown briefly too: after is is rejected at the altar and in a deep depression. Brown is as negative a color in The World in His Arms, as it is in the films of Vincente Minnelli. Brown definitely lacks the positive associations here, that the color has in the films of Joseph H. Lewis. The sourball Russian Army officer who accompanies the heroine is also in brown. None of these characters are evil. But they are repressed, and separated from the joy of life, at least initially. The most sympathetic man in brown is the young office worker (Bryan Forbes), who wants to join the hero's men. When we first see him, he is in a brown suit and reddish-brown tie. This perhaps symbolizes the constraining nature of office work, from which he wants to break free.

The villainous Shanghai Kelly, wears an odd orange-and-green striped shirt. This ugly but striking combination helps characterize him as a dynamic brute. Anthony Quinn also shows up in a green jacket, and a red-and-black striped shirt: another jarring combination. Striped shirts are a traditional sailor's gear, and were often shown on sailors in the American comic books of the era.

The Clerk and the Deacon: Men of Unusual Sexual Orientation

Zany character comedian Hans Conried plays the hotel clerk. His clerk is explicitly defined at the start as a man who has never had sex with a woman. It is unclear if he is supposed to be gay, or rather a heterosexual virgin.

The character is initially treated with less sympathy than Franklin Pangborn's gay clerk in The Horn Blows at Midnight, or the eunuch in Esther and the King. Walsh is often respectful to men who are gay or differently gendered. But here, Conried is mocked by the hero, and lampooned on his introduction. The clerk is also depicted as someone who is racially prejudiced: which, to Walsh's credit, is viewed as a Bad Thing, both in The World in His Arms and throughout Walsh's work.

On the other hand, Conried is gradually accepted into the world of the other characters, and in turn gradually comes to accept them. The plot of The World in His Arms has many disparate ethnic groups coming together, overcoming initial antipathy, and learning to become friends. Conried seems to be part of this process. His character never does anything mean or harmful during the course of the picture. He does demand payment for damages to the hotel, causing some momentary difficulty for the hero, but the film also suggests this is only fair. Conried's clerk does not become a hero, but he does become a regular in a "broadly-accepting world".

The Deacon, the hero's First Mate, also has no interest in women. He speaks out against involvement with them in religious terms. Unlike Conried, no one criticizes the Deacon for this. One wonders if both the Deacon and the Clerk, are men with non-standard sexual orientation.

Russia and Music, Art

Russia is consistently associated with music, throughout The World in His Arms: Walsh heroes often take part in a musical world: a lifestyle in which music is featured prominently. See singer Bing Crosby in Going Hollywood, and the jazz musicians in The Man I Love. Russia is depicted as part of such a musical world. It softens the negative portrait of the Czar's dictatorial regime, found elsewhere in the film - or at least suggests another dimension of Russian heritage.

Russia is also associated with art, especially decorative art. The heroine has roses embroidered on her dress. The Russian restaurant has a huge mural of a peacock.

Folk Dancing

The World in His Arms assumes its audience is interested in folk music and folk dancing. It shows the party, with the main characters taking part in vigorous American traditional folk dancing. And it also shows traditional Russian songs and dancing.

Such folk culture was a part of American life in this period. I entered school in 1958, and my teachers trained my classmates in folk music and square dancing. We regularly performed square dances, Virginia reels, and other dances of the kind seen in The World in His Arms. There were TV shows such as Sing Along With Mitch and Hootenanny which featured folk music. Folk dancing had long been in Western films, such as Lost Canyon (Leslie Selander, 1943) and Fort Apache (John Ford, 1948). But it also appeared in non-Westerns, such as House by the River (Fritz Lang, 1950) and Indiscreet (Stanley Donen, 1958).

An Influence on Cowboy

Cowboy (1958) is a Western directed by Delmer Daves. It has an opening, that recalls the opening half of The World in His Arms (1952). One wonders if there was an influence.

In both films, a rough-looking but decent leading man, hits town with his roughneck crew, after a long hard period working on the road. They head towards a luxury hotel, where they at first look completely out of place. Then the gung ho, macho leading man, gets cleaned up, donning white tie and tails, and soon looks like he owns the joint. His boisterous men carry on a rowdy celebration at the hotel, at his expense. They are now well-dressed men, but still roughnecks in their behavior.

Cowboy centers on the hero taking on a young, inexperienced Easterner under his wing, on the men's next trip out West. The World in His Arms has a similar young man character, played by future director Bryan Forbes, but he plays a less central role in the film's plot.

Glory Alley

Genre: A Mix of Musical and Boxing Film

Glory Alley (1952) is the story of a boxer in New Orleans. The look at boxing is dark and serious, with the boxer's psychological problems stressed. But the film is also a jazz musical. Walsh liked to mix genres. Glory Alley is one of his oddest experiments.

Even considered purely as a musical, Glory Alley is odd. Jazz musicals were rare, in an era that stressed popular songs as the core of stage and film musicals.

Also unusual: most of the musical numbers are presented as actual story events: either dance numbers on stage at a New Orleans night club, or jam sessions at a bar. But towards the end, a big number in the bar suddenly finds the audience bursting into song, in a completely non-naturalistic way. In the jargon of musicals, Glory Alley has suddenly become an integrated musical: a musical in which people sing magically in a way that they do not do in realistic dramas. It is fairly rare to see a musical that is non-integrated, suddenly turn into an integrated musical. Most musicals stick firmly with one approach or the other.

Glory Alley mixes in other genres too:

Filming Dates

Glory Alley was shot immediately after The World in His Arms, according to the AFI database. The World in His Arms was filmed in September and October 1951. Glory Alley was shot in November and December 1951. But Glory Alley was released first, on June 4, 1952, while The World in His Arms premiered June 18, 1952.

The two films are linked by the presence of John McIntire.


Glory Alley is another Walsh film, where the hero "goes on the skids" due to drinking.

A War Film: An Ambiguous Attitude towards Violence

Glory Alley praises the hero's reckless courage in war. Like They Died with Their Boots On, it shows a hero who is insanely risk-taking in battle, and who becomes a celebrated war hero.

But Glory Alley is careful to damp down the violence that was problematic in They Died with Their Boots On. The hero of They Died with Their Boots On is an officer, whose success comes by leading his men recklessly in battle. Lots of them die, to make him a "hero". By contrast, the hero in Glory Alley is an enlisted man, who only risks his own life on his raid. Also, the hero's mission is to blow up a bridge in Glory Alley, not to kill people. We see some enemy soldiers marching towards the bridge as it explodes. It is ambiguous whether they are killed. But mainly, Glory Alley is an attempt to create a "war hero" who is actually not very violent. This approach is unusual, and reflects mixed motives in the film.

Like Retreat, Hell! (Joseph H. Lewis, 1952), another film about the Korean War made while the conflict was still raging, Glory Alley avoids any discussion of the controversial politics of the war. Instead, both films glorify the bravery of soldiers fighting it. This was perhaps seen by Hollywood as a "safe" treatment of the war, that would not offend any of the Americans in favor of the war or against it.

Sound Technology

Walsh's films show a fondness for sound technology. In Glory Alley, the hero puts a microphone up to a doctor examining a boxer with a stethoscope, so everyone in the gym can hear the boxer's heart is sound.

Glory Alley also contains a running gag, about a man making long distance phone calls on a pay phone, by slugging the side of the phone to move coins inside.


The opening titles contain curvilinear forms: we see a curved train trestle, over a rounded auto highway, both elevated. A rounded tower follows. Then a shot of the clock at the Picayune newspaper building.

The hero's big crisis in the boxing ring at the start, is full of circular imagery:

Glory Alley has circles built right into the words of the screenplay: Later, Caron's "St. Louis Blues" number has some circular imagery: The bar has an elaborate light fixture behind it. It has curving lights, that seem to represent flowers on metal "branches". This too can be seen as curvilinear imagery. But it also seems to be related to the murals in other Walsh films. Like the restaurant mural in The World in His Arms, the fixture is used as a background to shots of characters in the bar.

Geometric Worlds

The whole boxing arena is one of Walsh's geometric worlds. The arena is an odd-shaped polygon, and the seats around it are in a complex pattern. The ceiling lights are part of a rectilinear grid of rafters. The tunnel leading down to the dressing room is angled, and has a tilted ceiling. The hero's journey down it resembles a trip to the netherworld: a bit like the shanghaied sailors at the start of The World in His Arms, who are also put down a stairway leading below.

The hero's room also has geometric features. It has a tilted ceiling. And the ceiling contains a multi-paned window, a rectangular grid.


The hero is followed by crowds, after he comes back from war. These big processions recall the choreographed crowd scenes in other Walsh films.

The bar is also often full of crowds.

Costumes and Color

At the boxing match at the start, the hero is in white, while his obnoxious opponent is in black trunks. Walsh employs the traditional black clothes of a bad guy again.

At the finale, when the hero gets his act together, he is wearing a sharp double-breasted white suit. Once again, Walsh is using traditional color symbolism for good guys.

The Hero's Psychological Problems


The hero's emotional problems are resolved towards the end, when he gets at the childhood roots of his psychological trauma. In some ways, this is just more of the dimestore Freud that runs through film noir, including an instant cure. ("Dimestore Freud" is a phrase of Andrew Sarris'.) One recalls Carl Reiner's spoof in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, in which the hero tries to strangle someone every time he hears the words "cleaning woman".

But Glory Alley also hits a real nerve, in rooting the hero's trauma in the death of his mother. This is a personal theme for Walsh: it shows up in Regeneration and White Heat. It is also a genuinely serious problem that would traumatize most people.

The hero of Glory Alley behaves obnoxiously throughout. It is hard to like a man, who so relentlessly throws away his chances. But the hero is also not malicious, unlike the protagonist of White Heat. He never commits a crime, or tries to hurt other people. Glory Alley is a look at a man who is as troubled as the hero of White Heat, but who is honest and essentially decent.

Blackbeard, the Pirate

Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952) is a not-very-interesting swashbuckler. The film seems lifeless, with pointless intrigues.

Blackbeard, the Pirate has a few Walsh personal subjects:

Blackbeard (Robert Newton) is one of the sleaziest pirates in film history: maybe the lowest-brow of them all. Much of the film's energy and running time is devoted to this characterization, and other grim pirate behavior. One suspects that this is what some people are looking for in a pirate film. If so, the film is their cup of rum punch.

One wonders if Blackbeard, the Pirate might have been influenced by Anne of the Indies (Jacques Tourneur1951), a pirate picture of the previous year. Anne of the Indies also shows a rough, low-brow pirate milieu, and amoral pirates. However, rough as it is in social tone, Anne of the Indies is not anywhere as sleazy as the Walsh film.


The hero climbs down the side of the ship, using a rope. Later on in the movie, he hides outside of a window on the side of the ship - much like people hid out on the ledge outside an apartment window in Big Brown Eyes.


As in Captain Horatio Hornblower, there is a ship's bell.

In the background, we hear the pirates singing a song: "We'll Go No More A'Rovin'". Walsh likes men singing together. It is also one of the traditional songs Walsh often favors.

As in other Walsh films, a telescope plays a role.


The dock is one of Walsh's geometric environments. There is a nearly cubical dock, a diagonal ladder, and the arched doorways that run through Walsh.

We also see arched doorways elsewhere in town. A less clearly arched doorway is on the deck of the ship, and another arched door is in the palace.

There are few other round shapes:

The telescope is used to create a circularly masked image, as in other Walsh films.

Sir Henry Morgan is first seen wearing a tunic, with diamond lozenge patterns on it.

Costumes and Color

The heroine is in a whole series of red-and-white outfits, a color scheme used in Walsh for glamorous-but-lowbrow women. Two of her outfits have stylized plant motifs embroidered on them, making her another Walsh heroine associated with flowers.

The hero has the big boots associated with pirates - and also often Walsh heroes.

William Bendix has a striped shirt and cap. This aligns with Walsh characters in other films wearing comically striped clothes.

The Lawless Breed

The Lawless Breed (1952) is a Western. It tells the story of outlaw John Wesley Hardin. The protagonist is thoroughly unpleasant, and the film has only a little merit.


Hardin is one of the reckless heroes that sometimes appear in Walsh. Custer in They Died with Their Boots On is reckless in the way he leads his men into battle. Hardin has a complete disregard of his own safety, and those of the people around him. He thinks it is great to take foolish chances, to gamble, and to pick fights. The "nice gal" offers some strong moral and psychological criticisms of the killing this leads to, before the posse attack. And at the end, the aged hero also wants to move in a new, non-violent direction.

Hardin is also one of the outlaw protagonists that run through Walsh. Most such men are thieves. Hardin is different: he seems to be mainly a gambler. The film indulges in the special pleading for the outlaw, that ran through The Roaring Twenties.

Hardin is one of several Walsh characters seen leaving prison.

The heroines recall those of High Sierra and its remake Colorado Territory. We have a "nice gal", who supposedly represents everything that is decent, but who shows no loyalty to the hero. And we have a "bad gal", who displays genuine love for the hero. The "bad gal" also tends the hero's wounds after the posse attack, like her counterpart in Colorado Territory.

The outlaw heroes of Colorado Territory and The Lawless Breed dream of getting married and settling down on a ranch or farm, although this plot-line is resolved differently in the two films.

The cavalry officer investigating the killing, recalls Edmund Lowe's Cavalry Sergeant, who pursues the outlaw hero of In Old Arizona. Both men are essentially policemen in military uniform. Both are strikingly handsome. The officer only gets a single scene, and never develops into the sort of major character played by Lowe. He is introduced through a close-up of him walking in his boots: boots being an image that runs through Walsh.

The son, in the finale, is one of Walsh's very young men who think they are a lot tougher than they really are. (SPOILERS) The scene of the young man, swaggering around with fancy gun twirling maneuvers, is genuinely frightening. It evokes all the feelings of grown-ups, trying desperately to prevent young people from making serious life style mistakes.

Religious Fanatics

The father is the sort of sick religious fanatic embodied by the reformer in Sadie Thompson. Both men show Walsh's loathing for religious intolerance. Both characters' self-righteousness mask their emotionally disturbed personalities.

When The Law doesn't work

The film is full of scenes, depicting the legal machinery of Post-Civil War Texas, as having completely broken down. Many are left-wing criticisms. (SPOILERS) We see justice only being able to be bought, by hiring high priced lawyers. We also see a bad guy bribing a lawman, to frame and kill an innocent man.

Such failed legal systems appear in other Walsh films, such as Big Brown Eyes and The Roaring Twenties.

Fleeing the Posse

When the hero flees the posse after the attack, aspects recall the hero's jail escape at the start of Colorado Territory: The posse briefly pauses on a small bridge; Walsh liked to accent scenes with bridges, giving them more visual interest.


The Lawless Breed has circular forms: The prison gates at the opening, have the arched doorways, that run through Walsh. So does the Austin Courthouse building exterior near the end. Inside the courtroom, a doorway has a semi-circular fanlight above it.

A telescope at the saloon, is used to create a circular mask around the shots of the dancing women.

A newspaper in the historical montage has a star-shaped logo. Many of the lawmen's badges are also star-shaped, something common in Westerns.

Red and Green

Much of The Lawless Breed is built around the colors of red and green.

Rosie is first seen in the sort of red dresses worn by saloon girls in many Walsh films. A later singer is a saloon is also in a black-and-red dress.

However, later Rosie switches over to green outfits.

And many of the interiors seem designed in "green with touches of red":

The cattle drive features red cattle, red horses contrasted with green vegetation. Part of it is framed against pinkish rocks (sandstone?)

When the heroine rescues the wounded hero after the posse attack, the exterior is also in "green with touches of red". Her green dress and vegetation dominate the scene; the wagon wheels have a pinkish tinge, and the hero's wounds make touches of red.

Heroines and Flowers

Many Walsh heroines are linked to flowers, especially roses. The heroine is named Rosie. She is first seen with red, flower-like decorations in her hair: another Walsh heroine wearing floral decorations on her clothing.

Towards the end, when the hero comes home from prison, the heroine is seen cutting a flower from a bush. It looks like a yellow rose.


There is a wall map in the courtroom, but it plays little role in the plot.

There is a huge vista of a Western town, shortly before the hero is captured and sentenced. This town has a church steeple in the background, like the view of the townscape behind the old man's house in Colorado Territory.


An early shot shows the hero trying to pet first a colt, then a dog.


Two scenes involve weather: Episodes in unusual weather played a role in The Big Trail. The wind scenes also recall the finale of Man in the Saddle (André de Toth, 1951), although they are less intense.


The finale, where the hero meets his son in the barn, includes a brief flashback showing a montage of scenes from the film. Several Walsh films have short flashbacks, showing a scene or image from the hero's life. This one is unusual in showing multiple episodes from the movie.

Sea Devils

Smuggling and Sea Adventure

Sea Devils (1953) is a tale of smugglers and spies in the Napoleonic era: 1800.

Sea Devils gets more interesting and enjoyable as it goes along. A weakness in the opening sections: they center around Rock Hudson's hero, who plays a "dashing smuggler". I confess that smuggling seems like a dull subject. I generally mildly disapprove of smuggling, and find nothing appealing about smugglers. It is a relief that the film's initial apparent subject, smuggling, eventually drops out of the picture, to be replaced by adventure and spy elements. Sea Devils is one of many Walsh films that mix genres: in this case, smuggling tales and spy stories.

It is also a sea movie. It is set in roughly the same era as another Walsh sea adventure, Captain Horatio Hornblower, which took place in 1807 and also featured British good guys battling Napoleon.

The film is careful to depict the hero's smuggling as mild and pretty harmless. He is not violent or destructive, and simply sneaks barrels of liquor past officials in his boat. He is one of several Walsh heroes shown to be a skilled navigator.

Smuggling booze in 1920's America was a subject in Walsh's The Roaring Twenties. That film showed big-time Prohibition gangsters though, while Sea Devils is about a two-bit smuggler with a small boat.

The boating scenes enable a favorite Walsh trope: both hero and heroine become Walsh characters who get into water. Both are shown swimming.

Social Class

Sea Devils creates sympathy for its smuggler hero, by showing that he was a poor fisherman put out of work by the war, and who turned to smuggling as a desperate alternative. The protagonist is thus one of Walsh's working class heroes.

For a time, the hero is under the mistaken impression that the heroine is a countess. The audience knows this is not true. He is briefly put in the situation sometimes occupied by Walsh heroes: being a working class man in love with an upper class woman. However, Sea Devils stresses this idea far less than other Walsh films. The hero fell in love with the heroine before he "learned" she is a countess, while he still thought of her as a woman of modest background. And the hero's false impression that the heroine is a countess eventually gets corrected.

In Walsh films, Rock Hudson plays men who are of more modest background and ambition, than those played by Gregory Peck. Rock Hudson in Sea Devils is not a "leader of men", unlike Peck in earlier Walsh movies.

Social Commentary and Anti-War

The hero's sidekick Willie early on notes that "war's a terrible thing".

Although Sea Devils has a war in the background, there are no war scenes. The film instead concentrates on espionage. (This is in fact a common approach in many Hollywood spy films.)

Fouche's philosophy is to take anything you want. He says that it is his boss Napoleon's too, in invading and taking over any countries he wants. While Fouche likes this, the film condemns it. Having an agent of an evil dictator "condemn himself out of his own mouth" recalls the anti-Nazi satire deftly handled by villain Sydney Greenstreet in Background to Danger.

Napoleon's invasions and conquests recall the "relentless, evil social systems that crush poor characters" in other Walsh films. While we don't actually see poor victims in Sea Devils, Napoleon's invasions have the same quality of vast social systems crushing those in their wake.

A Spy Film

Sea Devils, along with Background to Danger, is a rare Raoul Walsh excursion into the spy film. The two films share some common approaches. Both: The modest heroes of these films are a million miles away from glamorized spies like James Bond.

The Wikipedia article on Background to Danger says that George Raft's hero was originally supposed to be an ordinary non-spy, but that Raft insisted the script be changed to make him a professional spy. If so, that would have been another point of resemblance between the two films: Rock Hudson's hero in Sea Devils is just an average man non-spy who gets involved in events.

Background to Danger is one of Walsh's dullest films. Sea Devils is more likable, a pleasant-but-not-great film. One wonders if Walsh's heart is really in the spy film, as a genre.

The Man in Charge of the Spies

Sea Devils includes that standard character of spy tales, the older male Authority Figure who is in charge of the spies, and who sends them out on their missions. Such characters are usually conspicuously wealthy, members of the upper classes, and clearly representatives of the Establishment and the traditional ruling class. Lethierry in Sea Devils is no exception: he is a typical such member of the Elite.

Maybe I am imagining this, but my impression is that Lethierry is less sympathetic than many such spy characters in other works. He seems like a cold fish, lacking warmth. He has more in common with such later Walsh villains like the General in The Naked and the Dead who sends men to their death to win battles.

Also, unlike many spy tales, the hero of Sea Devils is not a spy, and does not take orders from Lethierry. This IS unusual. In many spy films, the hero is a virile young man, who devotes himself heart and soul to carrying out orders of the spy chief, and by implication, his Nation. When the spy chief gives this young man his blessing, it seems like an official endorsement from The Patriarchy that Runs Society. Nothing like this occurs in Sea Devils.

Adventure and Boats

During 1951-1953 Raoul Walsh made a series of five films combing adventure, boats and water settings: Captain Horatio Hornblower, Distant Drums, The World in His Arms, Blackbeard, the Pirate and Sea Devils. During the same period he made the off-trail Glory Alley. The period marks an odd interlude in his career.

Communication and Sound

The tiny horn used for eavesdropping is ingenious. While consistent with 1800 technology, it functions much like a modern-day bugging device. It shows Walsh's interest in sound technology.

A bell-pull plays a role in the plot. We hear the bell it triggers when the rope is pulled.

Two aspects recall Desperate Journey, a Walsh film with occasional spy elements. Both aspects get a bit more screen time in Sea Devils than they did in Desperate Journey. SPOILERS:


Heights play a smaller role in Sea Devils than in some Walsh films.

Sea Devils opens with a shot of a mountain, like some other Walsh films.

The hero is shown climbing up the large hill outside the castle. This includes an outdoor staircase. He later moves down the hill. Other shots emphasizes hilly regions, whenever Walsh can work them in.

A character talks from an upstairs window of a cafe.

Later a character jumps from an outside upstairs window into the street. This brief scene is the only episode in Sea Devils of action set at an open height.

Staircases are found in many of the sets. Walsh frequently has characters using them. But staging at heights is not emphasized.


Sea Devils contains circular forms: Several circles are part of the architecture: Walsh likes arched doorways. Sea Devils is full of arched doorways, some of the most in any Walsh film. And also hallways with arches on their ceilings: Circles and arches are especially architectural in Sea Devils. They are part of the sets.

A Lion Is in the Streets

A Lion Is in the Streets (1953) is a political drama, very loosely based on the rise and fall of real-life Louisiana politician Huey Long.

Walsh Subjects: The Crusade at the Cotton Gin and in Court

The two key scenes of the hero's crusade are grounded in traditional Walsh subjects: These scenes are the most interesting ones in the movie. They show a man struggling to bring about social changes, also a Walsh subject.

Radio and Communication

A Lion Is in the Streets shows Walsh' interest in high-tech sound communication in general, and radio in particular. There are two radio broadcasts. One is at a radio studio. The other is from location, and shows a radio truck.

The second broadcast shows one of the classy radio broadcasters in Walsh, recalling similar figures in College Swing and High Sierra. This one is a well-dressed young man, who politely reminds everyone of the "fair" way his station has covered the hero's political campaign. These figures embody Walsh's idealized view of radio.


A Lion Is in the Streets is often unsatisfactory in its plotting. It takes an ambiguous look at its hero, sometimes presenting him favorably, other times condemning him.

SPOILERS. Crucially, the hero is partly right, and partly mistaken, in his accusation that the cotton gin owner is swindling poor people with false weights. It turns out that the swindling is going on, but conducted by the company's manager, not its owner. In my judgement, this is not a very significant difference. The hero is correct in his key contention: poor people are being swindled on a massive scale by a rich and powerful company.

However, the film seems to imply that the hero's modest mistake makes him some sort of evil, corrupt demagogue, going around making false statements. I don't agree with this point of view at all.

Two more implications of this situation. Early on, we hear about allegedly honest state inspectors, who have found no trouble with the company's weights. These inspectors must be stupid or crooks, in my opinion. And the Governor, who all the film's spokesperson characters keep describing as an honest man victimized by the demagogic Cagney, employs these inspectors. The Governor must also be crooked or criminally stupid, in my judgment. Consequently, the basic premises of the film's politics make no sense to me: I don't agree with how the film represents Cagney, the corporation, or the Governor.

A different problem with the film's politics: early on, the spokesperson wife says it's a delusion that poverty is caused by rich people stealing from the poor, and that the true causes are elsewhere. But much later on, we learn that the company is in fact stealing from the poor. This means the hero was right about the cause of poverty. But this issue is never revisited in the film.

On the whole, I am a lot more sympathetic to the hero and his beliefs, than many of the "good" spokesperson characters or the film seem to be. Until Cagney takes the crime boss' crooked offer late in the film, he does little that is wrong politically.

To be fair, maybe I am mistaken. Maybe the film wants us to recognize the hero's crusade as fundamentally sound, and sympathize with him, in terms similar to my own attitudes. The hero is such an ambiguous person, with both faults and virtues, that he and the film's attitude are hard to define.

Water Imagery

A Lion Is in the Streets is full of water imagery. This is appropriate, because it takes place in an unnamed state that is a thinly disguised version of Louisiana, a very wet place. The water motifs mainly fall into categories that are common types of images in Walsh films. These standard Walsh categories are given water-linked instances in A Lion Is in the Streets:


Compared to most Walsh films, A Lion Is in the Streets has few scenes involving heights. The jail window with McIntire is on a second floor. This is an unusual location for a jail cell. The only other second story jail one can recall is in Fury (Fritz Lang, 1936), which is also a social commentary drama, like A Lion Is in the Streets.

When we first meet Warner Anderson, he is on a balcony, with Cagney talking to him from down below. We don't actually see the balcony from a long shot, or get any glimpse of it showing height.

Costumes and Color

The wife (Barbara Hale) is another Walsh heroine in red-and-white clothes.

Hale and the school children are in shiny slickers in the opening rain storm, some of them black.

Brown is often seen as a negative color for men's clothes, in US fashion in general. This is also often true for Walsh. Two bad guys in A Lion Is in the Streets wear brown suits: the crooked manager of the gins (James Millican), and the prosecutor at the trial. Both suits are expensive looking and double-breasted, conveying that these villains are representatives of wealth and power.

Gun Fury


Gun Fury (1953) is a little Western film that was originally shown in 3-D. I have only seen the flat, non 3-D version of the film. Occasionally, Walsh has characters throw objects directly at the camera, and the viewer, in a manner that one associates with the later 3-D spaghetti Western Comin' at Ya! (Ferdinando Baldi, 1981), a film that has excellent 3-D technology, but which otherwise is awfully cornball. The TV ad campaign for Comin' at Ya! was a comic gem, showing people exiting into the theater lobby full of flaming arrows stuck into them, echoing the scene where the film seems to shoot these at the audience. Another ad showed an avalanche of rocks pouring out of the theater into the lobby. One hopes these TV ads survive somewhere.

Post-1950 Walsh films often seem to have experimental aspects. The 3-D filming of Gun Fury is an example.

Visual Style: Figures in a Landscape

Gun Fury is full of relatively long shots, that show the action as a whole. The film emphasizes outdoor scenes, set against spectacular Arizona scenery, and this scenery is in full focus in the background of much of the film. In the foreground, Walsh tends to show the characters full figure, or nearly so, along with their horses, stagecoach, Western camps, towns and buildings. The effect is often of "figures in a landscape", a Walsh tradition. Walsh's camera is relatively stable. He tends to find a beautiful, clear, vivid composition for his characters, then sticks with it as they play out their action. When the story moves onto a new action, Walsh moves on to a new shot, and begins the cycle again. The film has a lyrical quality, in part due to the beautiful landscapes which are everywhere. Walsh's compositions always seem to be clean and well organized. They show all the action with great clarity. They also tend to have a poetic feel.

Several scenes feature huge clouds of dust stirred up by horses. These have the same poetic effect as mists in non-Western films. They often fill up and take over the screen.


Walsh occasionally pans within a shot. These pans are often through a fairly small angle, say 30 degrees. They tend to reveal a new area for the action, immediately to the left or right of the locale of the first half of the shot. The camera movement seems to be designed to develop the complexity of the story, adding a new locale to the plot. It does not seem to be present for its kinetic effect, although this is a side benefit.

When Hudson walks through the town in search of the Sheriff, the camera pans along with him. In other films, Walsh often uses a track to follow a character through a town. One wonders if the 3D process was not suited to tracks. Walsh pans relentlessly in Gun Fury.

Point of View camera movement

The most important non-panning camera movements in the film, are shots taken from the point of view of the stagecoach front. They show the coach moving down a twisting, curving road. One wonders what these look like in 3D.

I don't recall many shots like this in other Walsh films. There are Point of View shots of the truck drivers in They Drive by Night, showing the road ahead of them.


Rock Hudson is a mild mannered, good guy hero, who comes up against a band of really vicious bad guys. This is a non-comic treatment of the same theme Walsh would explore in his Western comedy, The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958). The heroes of both films are extremely courageous and gutsy, but they are clearly normal people from a non-action oriented world. Hudson's character is better at making friends, than shooting people or committing violence. This alliance building skill will help him, especially after he makes friends with a Native American who has also been wronged by the bad guys. This Indian character is completely non-stereotyped, and is part of the Civil Rights era attempt by filmmakers to make a sympathetic treatment of Native Americans.

By contrast, the Mexican woman who joins the fight against the bad guys is a cliché Mexican spitfire type. She is a sympathetic character, and definitely not part of the villains, but she is a pretty broad cliché none the less. Still, the fact the Mexican character is on the right side of the struggle here is clearly a sign of good intentions from the director.

The bad guys are a gang of robbers. This is a traditional Walsh choice of villains. As is typical of Walsh, the members of the gang often scheme against each other, and frequently are at loggerheads.

This film is less purely about its hero, than are many Westerns. Walsh films often seem to be about a diverse group of characters, each of which gets plenty of screen time. Nor does a group form a collective hero, as it does in many Howard Hawks films.


The hero makes an impressive speech, in favor of non-violence. This is explicitly anti-war. He also says that negotiation can avoid war. He says the Civil War could have been prevented.

The heroine says that "war is terrible". This echoes a similar speech by the sidekick in Sea Devils.

Hudson repeatedly asks sheriffs and townspeople to help him fight the gang of villains; they all repeatedly refuse him. These scenes echo High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952), which was one of the most celebrated Westerns of its day. Later, at the finale Hudson will have a change of heart speech about how important it is for him to get involved, even after he has rescued his girl friend, and take responsibility for capturing crooks and improving society. This implicitly is a repudiation of his earlier philosophy of nonviolence. None of this ever seems like a very important part of the film; it is all done quietly, and without much emphasis. It is all just treated as another plot incident in the movie, another bit of action for the story. At this level, it works fine, but it hardly converts Gun Fury into a major message movie. Walsh had a tendency to incorporate ideas and conventions from other films into his own work, under playing them and toning them down in the process.

The villain repeatedly justifies his criminal actions and life-style, by claiming that the whole world has degenerated due to the destructive effects of the war. The film is of two minds about this. It certainly opposes the villain's horrendous life of crime and depravity. But the film grants the villain a point: The Civil War was indeed destructive, and caused great harm to many who fought in it. And the war might indeed have let to a moral and social decline in society. This extends the anti-war argument in Gun Fury.

The title Gun Fury seems at first to have little connection with the actual events of the film. This Western is neither more nor less gun battle oriented than other 1950's Westerns. However, there is much discussion of the way the hero refuses to carry a gun, while the vicious bad guy is obsessed with them. This contrasts the hero's philosophy of non-violence with the depraved villain's constant defense of force and violence to take what he wants.

The Future versus The Past

The hero says "I'm interested only in the future."

This contrasts with the villain, who has a morbid interest in the past. The villain is obsessed with his suffering as a Southerner during the Civil War. Much of his villainy is caused, the film implies, by his refusing to let the war go. The violent, amoral way of life he learned during the war is the root of his criminal lifestyle. He's not just a criminal. He's a man who has a lifestyle of people taking what they want, by force and violence.

The South, the Civil War, and Moral Depravity

The villain also wants to resurrect the way of life of the Old South, in its pre-war version. The villain thinks this is good. But the film clearly means this ironically: if this bad guy likes the Old South, then the Old South must be rotten! This is one of several Walsh films that take a deeply skeptical look at the Old South as a way of life.

The bad guy in Gun Fury is one of several Walsh villains who "condemns himself out of his own mouth". These villains express enthusiasm for some evil ideology. Their dialogue is carefully structured so that the audience sees how vile their ideas are.

Leo Gordon complains about the degeneration of the Southern gang's morals and ideals. It is a step by step decline, through less and less idealistic choices of targets for their crimes. This echoes the moral degeneration of the pro-South fighters in Dark Command, who also get worse and worse, without any moral limits.

The heroine is a Southerner. She seems there to show that there are some good people in the South. She also agrees with the villain that the destruction of Southern cities during the Civil War was wrong. This gives the film some "balance". The hero is also very briefly noted to be a Southerner.

Still, the film emphasizes the hero and heroine's Southern background only briefly. By contrast, the villain's endless enthusiasm for the Old South, Confederacy, etc. is present throughout the film. Gun Fury has a critique of the South as a central subject.

Sexual Exploitation of Women

Gun Fury shows the forced sexual exploitation of women. It anticipates Band of Angels, which looks at another exploited heroine. Both films link this exploitation to the Civil War South. The heroine describes her exploited past in Distant Drums. It is perhaps a bit more consensual, but it too is centered on the Old South (Georgia).

Gun Fury shows the heroine being dressed by others, so she will meet the expectations of the man who is using her. The heroine of The Tall Man goes through a similar process - although she is doing it consensually for money, unlike the heroine of Gun Fury.


There is often spectacular mountain scenery behind the action, in the Walsh tradition.

The exchange is staged on a small ravine. The characters start out on top, on either side. Then they move down the slope into the center below. This is a beautiful sequence, with creative use of landscape.

The big fight at the end between hero and villain, is also staged on a sloping hillside.


Sheep bells are heard in the sheep scene. And the building up of a campfire is used as a signal.

The Mexican musicians at the opening saloon play pleasing musical numbers, for the dancers.


Gun Fury has a few circular forms: On the whole, Gun Fury is not rich in circular or geometric forms.

The cantina near the start, has a beautiful screen separating the bar area. The screen is full of curved designs. The screen seems like a variant on the murals in other Walsh films.

The Native American wears a triangle on his arm band. The heroine wears a rectilinear design on her dress. She also wears a diamond-shaped pendant.

Barber Shop and Grooming

The cowardly Sheriff is seen duding up in a barbershop, a common sight in Walsh men. He uses a mirror to groom himself.

The villain grooms himself in a mirror, near the film's start.

The heroine takes a bath in a tub in the brothel.


The bad guys wear fake Cavalry outfits to rob the stage. This recalls gangsters Cagney and Bogart dressing up as sailors in The Roaring Twenties. The bad guys Gun Fury are a group of Walsh men who dress alike. Later, they all change into cowboy clothes together, on-screen.

The stagecoach driver wears buckskins, like the driver in Cheyenne.

Rock Hudson is shown shirtless, just as he was in Sea Devils.

Both the hero and heroine are in green, emphasizing their romantic link.

The three suits sometimes worn by the men, gray for the financially successful, business-like hero, brown for the male-bonding friend (Leo Gordon), and fancy near-black for the villain, also evoke simple color coding for their roles. Gray is the archetypal color for businessmen's suits in America. A long Hollywood history puts bad guys in black.

The hero carefully changes into a suit, for his dinner with the heroine. He is a middle class man, one who observes standards of dress and grooming. He might be taking her to an isolated ranch, but he is not some sort of "primitive". Instead, he is building a middle class life for them, one that will take part in American society and adhere to American norms.


Saskatchewan (1954) is a Western, set in Canada, and with Mountie heroes. Saskatchewan is full of sympathetic political material, that reflects Walsh traditions.

But the film is not heavily stylized. Its look seems less Walsh-like, and has fewer Walsh motifs, than many other Walsh films.

The enthusiastic, non-stereotyped portrayal of the Cree relates to many other pro-Native American films in Walsh. Saskatchewan has a highly unusual ending, that is one of the best parts of this treatment. Walsh would have a comic version of this finale in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw.

The hero becomes one of the Walsh protagonists who change society for the better.

The Mountie heroes are examples of Walsh "policemen in Army uniforms". They are regularly referred to as policemen in the dialogue, in ways that often underscore the paradox of policemen who do not look like policemen.


The real Saskatchewan is a prairie province, flat and covered with grasslands. The movie Saskatchewan is filled with spectacular mountain scenery, actually filmed in the province of Alberta. The IMDB is full of hilarious comments about this. Still, Walsh loved mountains, and they are going to be in any Western he makes, even if it is called Saskatchewan!

Mountain scenery is often in the background, including a waterfall. And going over a mountain pass plays a role in the plot. But few scenes are actually staged on any sort of heights.

Fire and Water

The mounties blow up ammunition stores of powder kegs, not once but twice. These make huge fires, in the Walsh manner.

The heroes get into water, a Walsh tradition, when they ford a river. The hero is rescuing a team of horses: typical of Walsh's love of animals.

Later, the Mounties ride canoes - Walsh heroes are often on boats.


We hear standard kinds of sound communication in Walsh Westerns: scout calls that imitate animal calls, Native Canadian drums. Both recall Distant Drums.

We also see some interesting Native Canadian sign language.

A red cloth is waved like a flag by the Native Canadians, as a form of long distance signaling.

The Mounties use binoculars, and there is a typical Walsh shot through them, masking the image. The binocular mask is shaped like two overlapping circles. This makes it different from the circular masks due to telescopes, that are common in other Walsh films.


The hero and heroine have a discussion, about how the vigilant hero never sleeps. This is while hero Ladd is standing guard at night.

When Ladd finally winds up stuck in the brig, he announces he is exhausted and goes to bed. These scenes reflect the Walsh subject of the exhausted hero.


There are two wall maps. One plays a role in the story, with a head Mountie pointing to it, and explaining things to his men. The other map is just seen on a wall, later in the film.

Early on, we first see the Mountie post from above, in the background of a landscape shot. Such views run through Walsh, especially of Western towns. This one gives us an overview of the post, as if we were seeing a model.

Camera Movement

Saskatchewan has some of Walsh's tracks past a row of people, when the Mounties leave the post past a row of standing Cree. Some tracks show the Cree by themselves. Others show the Mounties moving past the Cree.

Saskatchewan is full of pans. Some of the more notable:


Saskatchewan contains circular forms: The Mountie post has some elements of a Walsh geometric world. It is also white-washed a solid white, heightening its abstract quality.


The hero, his Native Canadian brother Cajou, and scout Batouche all wear buckskins, a frequent costume for Walsh good guys.

Later, the hero and others are in Mountie dress uniforms. Both the Mountie uniforms and the buckskins embody the Walsh image of "groups of men dressing alike".

We see the hero shaving on the trail, using nothing but water from a stream. This is perhaps the simplest of all Walsh shaving scenes. Unlike many other films, there is no barbershop here, or other special facility for male grooming.

The heroine is in a blue dress and shawl. She is color coordinated with a blue lake behind her, in one scene. The heroine and the water are the only blue in the film, always making her stand out.

The villain (Hugh O'Brian) wears two shades of brown. His clothes are ugly. Brown clothes for men had negative associations in The World in His Arms, although they were not linked to villains. In The World in His Arms, brown is linked to sexual and social repression. The villain in Saskatchewan is a sexual harasser. He may or may not be sexually repressed.

The Wounded and Euthanasia

Lovable Irish Mountie Patrick J. Scanlon (Richard Long) is seriously wounded. He is carried at great personal risk by the other Mounties, anticipating The Naked and the Dead. Good soldiers who take care of their wounded is a theme running through Walsh.

By contrast, in Desperate Journey, the Nazis try to conceal their wounded. Similarly, in Saskatchewan the villain (Hugh O'Brian) tries to get the Mounties to abandon the wounded man, arguing (accurately) that carrying him is holding up their flight. This argument in favor of euthanasia is rejected by the film, and the Mounties. The Mounties stick by the injured man, even though it slows them down and makes a greater risk for them all.

In the later The Naked and the Dead, Walsh will repeat and slightly vary this situation. Extraordinary efforts will be taken by two men to carry a wounded man. And a villain will again recommend euthanasia.

The Mutiny

Saskatchewan was made during the same era as The Caine Mutiny. But unlike the conformist Wouk drama, Saskatchewan endorses its heroes' mutiny. It never wavers from this position. It suggests that the commanding officer has no idea what he is doing, and that his actions would get the patrol killed.

Saskatchewan offers a critical look at the way wars are run. It keeps showing how the officers provoking conflicts and promoting war with the Native Canadians are wrong-headed.

Battle Cry

A Romance and War Film

Battle Cry (1955) follows a group of US Marines during World War II. Mainly it looks at their romances, with only a small amount of war footage at the end.

The first half of Battle Cry follows a familiar Walsh structure: a series of vignettes dealing with a whole series of characters, all of whom are part of a common group. I like this half of Battle Cry best. The second half concentrates more purely on Aldo Ray and his girlfriend, and the commanding officer played by Van Heflin. The second half is not as interesting. And I miss the characters whose stories we were following in the first half.

Sound Equipment and Navajo Code Talkers

Importantly, Walsh includes a non-technological form of communication: the Navajo "Code Talkers" who communicated by radio, and whose Navajo language messages were indecipherable by the enemy. Battle Cry stresses the heroism of the Navajo. It is one of several Walsh films that promote Native Americans.

Battle Cry is also one of the richest Walsh films, in incorporating sound communication technology. Its heroes are Marine Corps radio operators, and we get a full look at their training and work:

The film also includes a long distance call - a common Walsh subject. And there is a conspicuous red jukebox.

Public speaking includes the Drill Sergeant, who is always addressing large groups of recruits. This is a more glamorized and less mean Drill Sergeant than in lots of movies. He seems basically oriented towards male bonding with his men.

Walsh men like to sing together. Here there are Marine marching songs, and a memorable performance of Silent Night.

Men who Dress Alike - and Barber Shops

Since this is a Marine film, most of the men are dressed alike in their Marine Corps uniforms. They get into a big fight with a group of waiters in a saloon, who are also dressed in identical white waiter outfits.

Walsh goes very light on traditional boot camp material, compared to most such Hollywood movies. He mainly seems interested in an early scene, where all the recruits go into a building in their diverse civilian clothes, and come out dressed alike in common green uniforms.

The building is also the barbershop. The men engage in male bonding while waiting to enter, recalling the bonding in the barbershop scene in In Old Arizona. One runs his fingers through another's hair. We see a long line of recruits with freshly shaved heads, leaving the building. Barbershops in Walsh are not just places where men get haircuts - although the recruits certainly do get their heads shaved there in Battle Cry. They are complete centers of male grooming and appearance. The hero takes a bath at the barbershop in In Old Arizona. The barbershop in Battle Cry is where civilians are turned into Marines. And the barbershop in Big Brown Eyes is where Cary Grant is groomed to look like - well, Cary Grant! The most dapper man in Hollywood history.

The dialogue between the Drill Sergeant and the recruits about shaving is played for gentle comedy. It reflects Walsh traditions. Walsh is sympathetic to both sides. The Native Americans' proud claim that they never shave echoes Walsh's enthusiasm and respect for all things Native American. The Drill Sergeant's reply, that Marines shave every day, is on the face an absurd adherence to regulations. But Walsh also likes the Marine Corps' devotion to good grooming. Grooming is at the center of all the barbershop scenes in Walsh movies.

A late scene in the final combat episode, shows men putting bayonets on their rifles. This echoes similar events at the end of The Thief of Bagdad, where the Mongolian soldiers attach their own pointed lances.


Walsh characters like to flirt with their feet. We get a comedy version of this, when Tab Hunter takes back the stolen money from a leg of a woman at the Dragon's Cave. This is sexy.


The writer is another Walsh hero who never drinks.

Tab Hunter gets unpleasantly drunk, on his first visit ever to a bar. He is rescued by Marines who take him to the safety of a USO canteen. He is lectured there on developing a non-alcoholic lifestyle, and taking part in the fun activities the USO provides. He is also conspicuously served coffee.


The writer is perhaps one of Walsh's "gender outsiders". He is nicknamed "Sister Mary" by an unfriendly rival, because he is so intellectual. He also wears glasses. However, the writer is shown as courageous in a fistfight, and fully heterosexual, in falling for Rae on the boat. The writer is certainly an intellectual - but it is not really clear that he is the slightest bit "queer". However, he does behave in ways that violate some people's gender norms. And he does get consistent support from Walsh.

William Campbell's slum kid is also an outsider. He is introduced wearing a dark brown leather jacket, already a symbol of tough slum dwellers by 1955. The jacket is more a bomber jacket, than the black leather motorcycle jacket worn by the Wild One in the previous year, however. It does not mark Campbell as a criminal. When Campbell returns in Walsh's The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958), he will be in a Western outlaw's full black desperado's outfit. His leather jacket here perhaps moves in that direction, but it is not really a Bad Guy's costume.

Tab Hunter's "All American Boy" is the exact opposite. In his yellow sweater, white shirt and crewcut at the start, he looks like the social ideal of 1955. In College Swing, Jackie Coogan's nice college boy was also in a similar sweater and white shirt (you can't tell its color because College Swing is in black-and-white). Please see my list of yellow sweaters and white dress shirts in comic books and film. They are often worn by refined, upper middle class young men.

Malone's character has outsider features, too. She plays a working class woman who has married for money. Her husband has provided her with a nice suburban house with swimming pool. It is clear that her concept of "money" is modest. She and her husband are certainly not wealthy - just solidly middle class.


(SPOILERS) Aldo Ray is eventually injured in battle. His story recalls Bogart in They Drive by Night. Both are men who already have a successful, long term relationship with a woman. Both are given full support by the woman. Both men are deeply upset, understandably so, and take time to adjust. Both ultimately preserve their relationship and succeed at a new life.


Battle Cry has a few circular forms: The first Marine base, the Recruit Depot, has a long series of arched doorways, that run through its architecture. The train at the end has rounded doorways, although the tops are level and not truly arched.

Geometrical Environments

The Recruit Depot where the Marines first go is entirely geometrical. It has the arched doorways, and rectilinear buildings. The men drill in geometric formation. Later, they put conical buckets on their heads. Their induction into the Corps, is also the entry to a geometric world.

Camp McKay is composed of almost pure geometric patterns. The rows of tents are pyramidal, with four sides arranged in a square. At the camp's front, is a bright red triangle.


Three officers' offices contain maps. We see first a map of Southern California, then of Hawaii, then finally a detailed field map of the planned invasion of Saipan.

The Recruit Depot also has a pair of street signs on top of a pole, a common sight in American cities. But the signs are in bright Marine Corps red, a cool touch. I don't know whether such signs are part of a real-life location, or whether they were invented for the movie. Such street signs in a sense are "models" of the streets themselves, like the other scale models that run through Walsh. Also, like most street signs, these are at right angles, further enhancing the geometric nature of the Recruit Depot.

The train conductor at the end calls out "Baltimore!". He's a purveyor of geographical information. Outside, the depot has a large red Baltimore sign. This extends the red design to a civilian location.


Many of the women's clothes are in red. These include Dorothy Malone's sweater, the red-and-white uniform of waitress Ruby, and the red outfit in which the writer's girlfriend shows up, in the bar.

Red is also used to make objects conspicuous throughout the film. These include Marine Corps signs, the writer's books and shaving brush, the jukebox, and the triangle in front of Camp McKay.

Camera Movement: Tracks Following People Walking

Battle Cry contains a familiar kind of Walsh tracking shot: it follows the heroes as they walk down city streets. One left-to-right track follows Hunter down a street.

A later right-to-left track follows Malone and Hunter, as they "walk and talk": to use David Bordwell's terminology.

Camera Movement: Tracks Down Rows of Stationary Figures

Walsh also liked to move down rows of stationary people. Battle Cry has some shots where the camera tracks past rows of standing troops, often following a man who is moving past in front of them. Some of these shots introduce characters.

An early tracking shot is especially complex. This is the shot that introduces Whitmore and Heflin. It tracks down a series of stationary men, in the Walsh manner. But within that movement, it speeds up and slows down to align itself to a series of leaders marching past the men. The shot first focuses on one leader, then speeds up to align itself with a second leader, then moves on to a third marching leader, etc. Two of the leaders are Whitmore and Heflin. This movement is like a "tracking shot within a tracking shot".

When the Marines are exhausted on their march, Walsh tracks past them while they are lying on the ground. This is a typical Walsh "track past stationary people": the only difference being the people are lying down, instead of more typically standing up. The shot also ends with a pan, after the tracking stops: also atypical for Walsh. The scene soon includes two more tracks past standing soldiers, both more conventional for Walsh.

Camera Movement: Pans

Battle Cry has a vertical pan. First we see through the windows of the USO canteen. Then Walsh gently pans downward, just a bit, revealing Tab Hunter in front.

Hunter is first revealed, during a pan from a recruiting poster to marching men.

The Tall Men

A Western - with Landscapes

The Tall Men (1955) is a Western. The Tall Men is in the tradition of The Big Trail. Both are Westerns showing a major trek across the West: covered wagons in The Big Trail, a cattle drive in The Tall Men. Both concentrate on spectacular landscapes, in beautiful compositions. Both have snow scenes. Both mix romance into their journeys.


Walsh once again shows his support for Native Americans, by making hero Clark Gable and his brother be one quarter Cherokee.

The many sympathetic Mexican-American characters are also notable. The scene where they successfully oppose the sinister raiders, a group of Anglo men, is unusual in Hollywood history. It recalls the Native American good guy who shoots white villains in Gun Fury.

The Tall Men is constructed around an unusual-for-Hollywood polarity. Northern, all-Anglo communities are primitive, frontier areas, filled with crude and nasty people. By contrast, the Mexican-American city of San Antonio represents civilization.


The three leads of The Tall Men recall a bit those of In Old Arizona. We have a vibrant, lower class woman, who is romantically involved with both a raffish thief (Clark Gable, The Cisco Kid), and a polished, well-dressed, seductive, but sinister honest man (Robert Ryan, Edmund Lowe). There are differences: Gable is a reformed thief in The Tall Men, while the Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona is an unrepentant bad guy. And Lowe in In Old Arizona is a government agent, while Ryan in The Tall Men is simply a rich businessman.

Male Bonding

Luis' desire to male bond with the hero, is one of the most moving parts of The Tall Men. He gives a powerful speech, about how much he loves the hero. This is one of the few open declarations of love between men in classical Hollywood cinema.

Luis embraces the hero when they first meet.


The Tall Men opens with beautiful shots of cliffs. Later on, the cattle are seen in front of beautiful basalt towers. A brief scene shows hauling wagons down over cliffs by ropes: a direct echo of a more elaborate sequence in The Big Trail.

Maps and Models

The scout leaves striking stone-and-twig models, giving a "map" of the location of the Sioux. Models and maps run through Walsh. This one is strikingly three dimensional.


In other historical films, Walsh was fascinated by sound-based communication systems. The Tall Men is more perfunctory: Public speaking includes Clark Gable addressing the men during the cattle drive.

The Mexican-Americans also do some beautiful folk singing, like other ethnic groups that run through Walsh. They are also an example of men singing together.

Flowers and the Heroine

The blanket under which the heroine sleeps in the cabin, has flowers in its design. It shows red flowers on green leafy stems, in a vase. Walsh heroines are often associated with "roses and leafy stems". These might be roses on the blanket, but the art is too stylized to tell. The blanket becomes a recurring image throughout the film.

In The Lawless Breed, the half-dressed heroine drapes a blanket over her shoulders, for the marriage scene. In The Tall Men, the heroine in the cabin uses the blanket to cover her being half-dressed.

The heroine's tub also has red flowers painted on it.

The carpet in the heroine's hotel room at the end, has red flowers on it.

Hearts and Arrows

The heroine's tub has heart-and-arrow symbols. These will later be worn as gold pins by the hostesses in The Revolt of Mamie Stover. In both films, the symbolism is linked to heroines played by Jane Russell.

The symbol also recalls John Payne dressed as Cupid with a bow-and-arrow, in College Swing.

Containers for Men

Before the battle, the Mexican-Americans are concealed inside the wagons.


The Tall Men has a few circular forms: Probably the San Antonio hotel lobby, and the subsequent outside wall structure in San Antonio, are the closest things to geometrical environments in the film. However, neither is as purely geometrical, or as well-developed, as some locales in other Walsh films.

Boots Vs Red Clothes

The scene where the hero and heroine help take off each others' boots is highly erotic. This reflects a tradition in Walsh, where couples flirt with their feet.

The heroine also takes off her boots in the hotel, for some sexy comedy.

By contrast, when the heroine is dressed up, artificially, for her "intimate" dinner with Ryan, she is in the red dress often associated with glamour queens and dance hall women in Walsh. It is a look that the film criticizes as exploitative, and opposed to the heroine's natural style of dress.

Color and Costumes

Clark Gable starts out in a brown coat. Gable is at first acting like a villain, and brown is a negative-associated color.

Eventually we see Gable's dark blue shirt: a color often associated with heroes in Walsh.

Robert Ryan has a long coat and a shiny black vest: both associated with dressy, spiffy men in Walsh.

The heroine is striking in her purple cloak. This is a rare color in Walsh.

The Revolt of Mamie Stover

There are SPOILERS in this article.

A Woman Big Shot

The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956) is a film that stars a woman, in a Walsh-role more often reserved for men. As Tag Gallagher points out, many Walsh heroes "want to be big shots". James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties is a guy who wants to become a wealthy big shot, and who is unscrupulous in going about it, through boot-legging. The Revolt of Mamie Stover is the female equivalent of The Roaring Twenties. It features a woman who uses dubious, unethical practices to rise to the top.

The Revolt of Mamie Stover also resembles The Roaring Twenties in having a historical frame. Just as The Roaring Twenties takes us through Prohibition, so does The Revolt of Mamie Stover shows us the transformation in Hawaii caused by Pearl Harbor, and the outbreak of World War II. Just as Cagney's career is only made possible by Prohibition, so is Mamie Stover's financial rise made possible only by Pearl Harbor and what follows. They are both films deeply based in eras of American history.

Another gender reversal: The hero of The Roaring Twenties is a working class guy, in love with a woman from a higher social class. This is a fairly common Walsh situation. In The Revolt of Mamie Stover, this is reversed, with the heroine the poor woman in love with the upper crust hero. A great deal of commentary on their class differences runs through the film. It serves to emphasize, that Mamie Stover is a Walsh woman, whose experience is similar to Walsh men like Cagney in The Roaring Twenties.

How sympathetic is Mamie? As in The Roaring Twenties, there seems to be some special pleading for her. Anytime a wealthy person (like the hero) tells a poor person like Mamie that she shouldn't be concerned with money, the audience will immediately resent it. Working people have to care about money. Also, the film shows the many ways women are exploited by men, which also engenders sympathy for the heroine.

The Dark Side of War: War Profiteering

Like other Walsh films, The Revolt of Mamie Stover shows us the dark side of war. Here we see ugly war profiteering. Just as The Naked and the Dead shows generals using casualties to reach their goals, so does The Revolt of Mamie Stover show the deliberate exploitation of war for profit. Both films actions' depict social systems as mechanisms that trap people inside. This is a viewpoint that often appears in Walsh.

Note that Walsh views the general and the war profiteer as having plenty of choice. They are not trapped. But the victims the profiteering exploits are certainly trapped. Actions roll over them like a juggernaut, as is typical in Walsh.

The Dark Side of War: The Victims

The Revolt of Mamie Stover depicts Pearl Harbor. It shows civilian refugees being shot down from planes, a horrific image.

There are many shots of crowds of people fleeing the attack. In other Walsh films, scenes of crowds fleeing can have a comic side, with people fleeing a fight in a bar or a police raid on a boxing match. But in The Revolt of Mamie Stover, such scenes are serious and deadly.

We see the hero wounded as a soldier, and other soldiers taking care of him. This too is an image that runs through Walsh.

Links to In Old Arizona

Harry Adkins is a man who is violent to women, especially the heroine. In this, he recalls the Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona.

Adkins' antagonist is the Army MP. The MP recalls the Cisco Kid's opponent in In Old Arizona, Edmund Lowe. Lowe plays a Cavalry officer, who is essentially a "policeman in Army uniform". This is what an MP is. Both the MP and Lowe are handsome, suave in their polished uniforms, and full of humor. Both men have a working class feel. Both men are also somewhat comically unscrupulous.

Links to Battle Cry

Some early scenes in Battle Cry take place in Hawaii. Also, a subplot early in Battle Cry has a Marine being swindled at a clip joint that exploits servicemen. We see one of the hostesses at the joint, in her room, who has taken the Marine's money. This milieu returns as the central subject of The Revolt of Mamie Stover.

Sound Equipment and Communication

There are emergency broadcasts on the radio, after Pearl Harbor. By contrast, the hero cannot use the phone right after the attack, because the phone system has been reserved for the military.

A custom-written song is created for the heroine, and played on phonograph records at the dance hall. The song refers to her "big brown eyes", perhaps a homage to the Walsh film Big Brown Eyes.

Non-sound communication technology is also featured. The heroine gets custom photographs, and we see the photography session. We also see giant blow-ups of the photos.

We also see the hero using his typewriter. He is a writer, something stressed at the start, but which then seem to fall out of the picture, unfortunately.

The addresses to the hostesses resemble the Drill Sergeant speaking to the Marine recruits, in Battle Cry. The similarity is darkly funny. Both are intended to train new members of a unit in the team's traditions and regulations. Both are also examples of the public speaking that runs through Walsh.


Heights are prominent in Walsh. In The Revolt of Mamie Stover, heights are represented by the hill-top where the hero and the other rich people live.

We get a view from the heights, down into the valley below. But mainly, the hill-top is symbolic, of the wealth and social standing to which the heroine aspires. It is referred to repeatedly in the dialogue.

There is little actual action in The Revolt of Mamie Stover staged in vertical environments.


Alcohol usually has negative meanings in Walsh. When the heroine is resolved to reform and quit her job as a hostess, she refuses a drink from Moorhead. When she relapses and decides to stay, she accepts a drink after all. Drinking is associated with a bad decision.

When the MP and the heroine refuse drinks, and have soda pop instead, it is like the cop hero of Big Brown Eyes. These examples of macho men refusing booze and taking soft drinks, are perhaps intended as anti-drinking lessons for the audience.


Circles are prominent in the opening shipboard sequence: At the dance hall, the cashier wears circular earrings: common in Walsh. She also dresses in red-and-white: common in Walsh glamour queens. However, the heroine is rarely in red.

Circles do not show up in much of the rest of the film.


A few characters are associated with geometry:

Metaphors and Geometry

The heroine describes having a short story written about her, as being "like a fish in a bowl". Such bowls are often round.

Later, the heroine is described as a "girl with the angles".


The scene in the dance hall, where the MP and the heroine talk at a table, contains the sort of small red objects sometimes found in Walsh. We see bright red soda pop, both in bottles and glasses, and a red ashtray.

The hero wears a cream-colored suit at one point. This is a color in Walsh more often associated with servants, rather than rich men like the hero.

Camera Movement

The camera moves forward with the couple, as they walk along the ship.

There are two pans following the comically eager sailor, as he runs through the dance hall.

The King and Four Queens

A Western with Mystery

The King and Four Queens (1956) is a Western. It is also a crime and mystery film, although quite light hearted. The film is also full of comedy and romance, in the Walsh mixed-genre tradition.

Gable is one of Walsh's thief heroes. He is treated quite sympathetically and comically. He never does anything actually wrong, due to some careful and clever scripting, thus keeping audience sympathy.

The hero has been in jail. He is not quite one of Walsh's ex-cons - he was only in jail overnight, it seems.

The film has two mystery plots:

The hero solves the first. But the second one's solution just emerges in the course of the film.

The brothers are men whose "work" (their crime activities) separates them from their wives.

Barber Shops

Gable and a bartender shave humorously, behind the bar of a saloon, using the mirror there. Walsh films are full of men getting cleaned up in elaborate barber shops. This instead offers a comically minimalistic alternative.


The film opens with some of Walsh's beloved rocky scenery. This recurs near the end. No actual action is staged on the heights of the rocks. But there is a spectacular horse ride down a very long hill.

Some scenes are staged on a sort of balcony, among the ruins of Wagon Mound. We have characters on platforms above, talking with other people on the ground below. These recall a bit the arbors that run through Walsh's modern day films.


The view of Wagon Mound is one of Walsh's Western town landscape vistas.

Wagon Mound is one of Walsh's Western ruins.

The hero bathes in the pond: one of many Walsh heroes in water.

Alcohol and Water

The hero drinks in the saloon at the start: atypical for teetotalling Walsh heroes.

But later he and one of the women, have a romantic scene where they gather water for the compound in barrels. Water is associated with positive things like romance and fun.


A bell in the ruins is used as a classic Walsh communication device. It recalls the bell in College Swing.

The mother also talks about her sons flashing signals down to the bell ringers from the hill. But we never see such a signal in the film.

Gable plays an organ in the house, recalling a similar home organ in The Big Trail. This leads to a scene with that Walsh favorite, folk dancing.

The hero's speech to the women at the end, is an example of public speaking in Walsh.


A brief rain storm appears, when Gable rides out at the end.


There is another sympathetic (if naive) Walsh priest.

The mother shows religious strictness, unappealing as always in Walsh.


The film has several example of diamond lozenges The film also has some circles, although fewer than many Walsh films: The name Wagon Mound is another Walsh name with circular imagery: the mound.

Maps and Models

We get a spectacular overhead view of the Wagon Mound complex. It is almost like a map or model.

Wagon Mound also has milestone-like boundary markers.

None of the above is a conventional map or model.


Ruby wears both a red dress in one scene, and a red-and-white combination in another.

The other women tend to wear green.

Band of Angels

Band of Angels is a remarkable film. It is brilliantly filmed, with sweeping, dynamic storytelling and a vivid visual style. It takes on a whole series of social commentary subjects, and treats them unusually trenchantly.


Band of Angels (1957) is film about slavery. Slavery is one of the most avoided subjects in narrative film. It is a subject that many people still want desperately to avoid. By contrast, Band of Angels tackles it dead on.

The Future

A key moment has the hero saying that white injustice to black people will last a long time. He states that justice for blacks will come, but take a hundred years. The hero is saying this in the early 1860's, so his statement therefore refers to the 1960's, and the Civil Rights movement.

This statement is not just the hero in 1861 talking about his future. It also tells the 1957 audience that the Civil Rights struggle will play an important role in the audience's immediate future. This prediction turned out to be profoundly correct.

Talking about the future in this way, approaches the genre of science fiction. Thinking about the future is very valuable. Band of Angels is a future-oriented film. Society is shown as full of constant change. People are encouraged to look forward and to see this change. The heroine at the start thinks her life situation is eternal: then it drastically collapses and changes.

Science fiction imagery will appear in the dialogue of Walsh's last film A Distant Trumpet.

Abolitionists and Hypocrisy

SPOILER. Fervent Abolitionist Captain Seth Parton is shown to be a hypocrite late in the film. Though he professes equality of the races, he uses racism to sexually exploit a black woman.

Band of Angels seems to be making a general assertion: that many Northern Abolitionists, despite their public lip service to morality, were secretly hypocrites and corrupt.

I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, this is a scene with allegorical lessons for our time. Many white people in 1957 - and to some degree today in the 2000's - professed to have "nothing against black people", to support "equal rights" - but in practice would not hire blacks, or socialize with them as equals, or go to school with them. Pointing a finger at this hypocrisy is a good thing.

However, asserting the Abolitionists were hypocrites on blacks defies the strong record of pro-Civil Rights activity many of them had in real life. General Butler, depicted negatively in Band of Angels, is a good example. The real life Butler, a fiery Abolitionist, developed the "contraband" justification for freeing escaped slaves in 1861, the first practical, legal freeing of slaves in US history. And he sponsored much Civil Rights legislation in Congress after the Civil War.

History suggests that discrimination against blacks throughout US history stems not from hypocrisies of Abolitionists, but from fervent, organized opposition from racist conservatives. The political and economic power of conservatives and their racist ideology is the primary cause of slavery and discrimination against blacks.

In particular, historians have massive evidence that the Civil War was primarily fought by the Confederacy to preserve slavery.

General Order 28

The film depicts a real-life historical event in the Northern Army occupation of New Orleans: General Butler's proclamation of "General Order 28". This ordered that any New Orleans woman insulting US troops would be treated as a prostitute by soldiers.

General Order 28 was turned into a huge real-life propaganda victory for the Confederacy and its allies in Europe. Butler was depicted as violating Southern Womanhood. Jefferson Davis, head of the Confederacy, called for Butler's capture and execution. General Order 28 is still being discussed today.

The film's depiction of General Order 28 follows this traditional negative Southern view. However, the film's presentation is historically flawed. In Band of Angels, Butler enacts "General Order 28" after he is spat on by a New Orleans lady. (This is an example of the spitting imagery that runs through Walsh films.) The spitting is depicted as a spontaneous act by the woman while emotionally upset. Clearly, the Order is wildly disproportionate to the act shown in the film. However, in real life New Orleans women were engaged in deliberate insults to Union soldiers. For example, New Orleans women dumped barrels filled with urine on US soldiers.

History also suggests that Butler did many positive things during his rule over New Orleans. These are not shown in Band of Angels, and are usually omitted by Confederate apologists as well.

Grinding Up the Poor

Walsh frequently showed social systems that barrel along in terrifying ways, exploiting and destroying the poor people trapped inside them. In Band of Angels, slavery is such a system.

Band of Angels also depicts war strategy as using ordinary people as cannon fodder. This is a persistent Walsh theme, through several films. In Band of Angels, we see black recruits to the Union Army recruited by the idealist Abolitionist Captain - then used as cannon fodder on the front lines by cynical military leaders.


The heroine refuses a drink of brandy. Walsh films are full of heroes who don't drink. Here it is the heroine who refuses alcohol. Like other Walsh protagonists, she is trying to keep her wits about her, and act responsibly, in a situation where alcohol would have blurred her resolve.

When his drunken friend the captain arrives and presents the hero with a bottle of rum, the hero quietly keeps the bottle closed, and doesn't drink anything. Meanwhile the captain is drinking heavily out of his own bottle, and seems to think the two of them are drinking together. The hero doesn't explicitly refuse to drink, in the manner of other Walsh heroes. But he is quietly avoiding alcohol.

The Heroine as Walsh Protagonist

This scene of the heroine refusing brandy is an indicator, that the heroine of Band of Angels has the structural role, played by the male heroes of other Walsh films. She takes on some of such heroes' subtle characteristics, such as refusing to drink.

The film opens with the heroine mourning by her mother's grave. Heroes who lose their mothers run through Walsh. Here it is the heroine.

Such prologues showing the hero's childhood are part of Walsh's narrative structure. The heroine of Band of Angels gets this hero's treatment.

The heroine is in one of Walsh's circular containers for men: the flowered cart that brings her to the plantation.

The heroine does get some features traditionally associated with Walsh heroines, however. She wears red roses in her hair: one of many Walsh heroines associated with flowers, especially roses. She wears rose on her dress, in the library.


Walsh films are full of huge fires. Band of Angels has one of the biggest and most awesome of such sequences: the burning of the fields.

Links to The Naked Jungle

The Naked Jungle (Byron Haskin, 1953) is a film about a planter and his mail-order bride. It bears some resemblances to the first New Orleans sequence of Band of Angels. Both films have a tense standoff between a masterful but gentle man, and a woman who is living platonically in his house. Both are full of erotic tension, over whether the characters will sleep with each other. Both take place in lavish homes, set in lush tropical or semi-tropical regions. Both homes are full of open doorways, linking rooms to rooms.

Folk Music

Walsh films are full of traditional songs. Band of Angels contains many spectacular numbers where black spirituals are sung. These are full of Walsh's crowd scenes.

There are also traditional sea shanties ("Blow the Man Down"), "Camptown Races", and other material.


A huge windstorm creates atmosphere at Gable's New Orleans home.


Walsh has an ambiguous attitude towards dogs. In some films they are sympathetic, in others, not. Here they are used twice, to hunt runaway slaves, in chilling sequences.

Maps and Navigation

There is a wall map in Army headquarters in New Orleans.

Late in the film, the characters are trying to find their way through vegetation. A problem: the old road has been neglected, is overgrown with weeds, and has nearly disappeared. The characters deny they will get lost however. Instead, they claim to be able to find their way. This is an example of navigation in Walsh.

Geometric environments

Walsh films are full of geometric environments: locales built up of geometric forms, such as rectangles and circles. Band of Angels is especially rich in them:


Most of the geometrical environments are full of Walsh's signature circles: There are circular life preservers on the walls of the ship: a familiar Walsh image. Such life preservers also show up as decorations on the streets of New Orleans.

The mother's grave has a circular top. So does the heroine's trunk late in the film.

The school party has a cylindrical chandelier.

Arched doorways appear on ship, in the slave auction, and in the heroine's room when she is working as a music teacher in New Orleans.

The housekeeper is one of several Walsh characters who wear circular earrings.

The lanterns used as signals, are swung in circular arcs. These perhaps relates to the twirled objects in other Walsh films.

Circular Containers for Men

The flowered cart that brings the heroine to the plantation is full of circular arches. It also has huge circular wheels.


The patio at Gable's New Orleans home has a mezzanine running around it. Occasionally, we get views down from this balcony. But no climbing or vertically staged scenes occur on it.

Late in the film, the heroine's New Orleans apartment has a high outdoor staircase.

Tracking Shots

We see the heroine walking through a city (New Orleans): a common kind of tracking shot in Walsh.


A number of scenes contrast the heroine's blue dress, with orange backgrounds. Blue and orange are Complementary Colors: One suspects that some of these scenes have orange or blue lighting, in an attempt to make walls and backgrounds look more orange.

Some scenes are in red-and-green, also Complementary Colors:

Other scenes in Band of Angels are in complex color schemes, that cannot be reduced to overall pairs of Complementary Colors. Many of the scenes in the halls and rooms of the upstate planation are examples.

The green vegetation of the courtyard includes a few yellow flowers. Shots that include such flowers can feature a "green with touches of yellow" color scheme.


Rich villain Charles (Patrick Knowles) wears riding costume, complete with boots. Such clothes symbolized the arrogance of the rich in High Sierra.

The northern Army officers late in the film wear high boots.

Gable wears a spectacular metallic vest. Gable's vest is a copper-gold mixture, while Gregory Peck wore a silver metallic vest in The World in His Arms. Gable also wears the colorful top hats, sported by hero Peck in the earlier film.

Like other Walsh heroes, Gable gets dressed up in white tie and tails.

In his less dressy moments, Gable sports one of the peaked caps Walsh heroes like. Gable's is a sailor's cap.

The Naked and the Dead

A New Kind of Anti-War Film

The Naked and the Dead (1958) is a war movie, one of several made by Walsh throughout his career. Walsh's films show a consistent anti-war message. As far back as What Price Glory (1926), Walsh had adapted the anti-war play by Laurence Stallings and Maxwell Anderson. The Naked and the Dead is one of the fiercest anti-war works in Walsh's canon. It offers a thorough look inside the mechanism of war, and what it does to the ordinary soldiers trapped in its juggernaut.

The Naked and the Dead does not stress horrors, or the misery of combat. Instead, it looks at the way generals deliberately exploit the death of their men to gain military "objectives". The heartless general here has each fight calculated down to how many men it should kill, and keeps score as if he were a salesman making a target. It is hard to imagine anyone watching this film, and not get a new and sinister insight into the way war is conducted. The experience is designed to make the viewer think, and give them ideas about war that they have never had before.

The general (played by Raymond Massey) is one of the upper crust villains that recur throughout Walsh's work. He bears a strong physical and emotional resemblance to the DA in Regeneration, for instance. Both men are clearly members of the upper classes, and both men regard people from lower classes as human garbage, insects beneath contempt. Here this attitude enables the general to exploit the deaths of soldiers to advance his war objectives - and his own career. Both performers move with a similar carriage and posture; both have similar sour, icy looks on their faces.

The general is not the only authority figure being targeted. The sinister sergeant (played by Aldo Ray) also comes in for plenty of criticism. His conduct is despicable throughout.

Scripts, Characters and Values

In the scripts of many Walsh movies, each character has his or her own world view. This view contains their values, what they believe to be true about reality, their views on society, their attitudes about relating to other people, how they see their profession, their strategies for dealing with life and work, and often times, their religious values and beliefs. Much of the dialogue of the characters is designed to set forth this world view, and express it clearly and vividly to the audience. The characters often carry on debates with each other, in which dueling world views clash, to the audience illumination of both characters' mind sets.

Much of the action of the characters is directly caused by, and expressive of, that character's mind set and world view. What the character does, heroic or evil, silly or profound, directly stems from the world view. In this way, the plot makes the views of the character even clearer. Every twist of the plot, every new action a character takes, allows the audience to see deeper in the character's mind and spirit.

Conversely, the plot forms a commentary on the correctness of the character's views. What happens when the characters act on their beliefs shows us the value, or lack thereof, of the character's attitudes. If the results are admirable, Walsh and the script are endorsing the character's views, at least in part. If the results are deplorable or evil, a condemnation of the views is taking place. The plot also shows us how closely the world view is to actual reality. Are this person's beliefs in accord with the real world? Or are they full of delusions and half truths? The views are constantly being compared to the actual structure and events of the real world.

The plot in many Walsh films is thus always operating on two levels, which constantly interact in complex ways. On one level, the plot is what happens in the story: the real world of cause and effect. On another level, the plot is both constantly being driven by the characters' mind sets, and offering a commentary and reality check on these mind sets. Both of the levels are important to Walsh and the writers; both are richly and very fully developed.

It is hard to know how much of this to attribute to Walsh, and how much to attribute to the writers of the films. But there is a clear, long range pattern here in Walsh's films: for example, as far back as Regeneration (1915), each of the main characters has a strong world view that impinges on the plot. The content of the world views change, however, with different films and different writers. In The Roaring Twenties (1939), we learn a lot about the characters' attitudes to gang life, crime, and also relating to other people, including romance. In The Naked and the Dead, by contrast, the characters' world views involve serious thoughts about war, social structure, morality and religion, as well as how their war-time jobs should be carried out, and their relationships to other people. The structural approach in both films is similar, with the characters' mind sets and the plots constantly interacting with each other, but the content and subject matter of the world views is quite different.

Much of the extraordinary vividness of Walsh's characters comes from this structural approach. The film is always doing everything it can to illuminate their inner worlds. The inner ideas and feelings of the characters are constantly exploding into the action. Walsh's characters tend to be very dynamic people, constantly striving to turn their inner mind set into action.

The structure of Walsh's films is designed to make us think about the characters and their world views. It is opposed to passive viewing. Instead, it encourages the viewer to be constantly thinking about the characters and their ideas, and whether or not they are moral, intelligent and realistic.

Religion: Ecumenism

The Naked and the Dead emphasizes religion.

The Naked and the Dead fiercely condemns anti-Semitism. Condemnations of anti-Semitism occur in other Walsh films.

The Naked and the Dead also shows the ecumenical religious views that were common among educated Americans in the 1950's and 1960's. The film views Christians and Jews as sharing common moral and religious beliefs. Above all, these beliefs stress love and help for other people. In the ecumenical world view, such common core beliefs of the Great Religions of the World, are more important than differences between religions.

SPOILER. The common beliefs are powerfully dramatized in the finale, where a Baptist preacher and a Jew join forces to help a fellow man. This shows their common deep commitment to shared values of love.

The Naked and the Dead is also unusual, in its respectful treatment of an agnostic. Red is depicted as a good guy.

Helping the Injured

Morality in The Naked and the Dead centers on helping the injured. This is a core Walsh subject, that appears in many films. It has rarely been dramatized with such emotional and moral force as in The Naked and the Dead.

The Naked and the Dead attacks euthanasia, as did Saskatchewan previously. In both films, a villain gives plausible-sounding arguments about how it would be better to abandon the injured man. Both films condemn this.

Job 31

The preacher in The Naked and the Dead gives a sermon, that is praised by the hero. We don't hear the sermon, but learn it is based on The Book of Job, Chapter 31. This is one of the key documents in human civilization, and strongly linked to the moral themes of The Naked and the Dead, of helping fellow humans who are in trouble.

Some excerpts: "If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate: Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone. For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure. If I rejoice at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him: Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul."

The Cliff: and other Heights

The cliff is one of the vertical environments in Walsh. It also has geometric properties, with the zigzag steps carved into it. The fluting in the stone, perhaps due to volcanic rock, also seems geometric. The place is as fantastic as the strange locales visited in The Thief of Bagdad.

A ladder is used as a look-out, earlier in the film. The soldier on it falls off, a common event in Walsh.

The men are also shown scrambling up rocks, after the funeral.

Containers for Men

The room filled with bunks on the ship is an example of that Walsh image, large containers with men inside.

So is the boat that transports the men to their final mission, and picks them up on their return. It has high walls, and makes one feel it is a large bucket holding the men.

Fire and Rain

The throwing of grenades starts a huge grass fire. It recalls the apocalyptic fires in other Walsh films.

The rain is an example of the weather that runs through Walsh. In The Naked and the Dead, rain triggers Aldo Ray's flashback about his marriage. Similarly, in Sadie Thompson, the rain encourages sexual relations between men and women.


The Naked and the Dead contains the maps that run through Walsh:

Grooming - and Flowers

We see the general shaving in his tent. This recalls the other scenes in Walsh of men grooming and getting slicked up (often involving barber shops or bath tubs in other Walsh films).

The general washing his hands while rationalizing casualties, recalls Pontius Pilate. Grooming is more sinister here than in many other Walsh films.

The way the general wants fresh flowers on his desk every morning, recalls the flower-obsessed hit-man in Big Brown Eyes. Quite a few Walsh men also wear flowers in their lapels.


The beer-spitting at the start recalls the strange slapstick comedy about drinks in Walsh. It is more sinister than other such Walsh scenes, however. It establishes the anti-social character of Aldo Ray's Sergeant, in a disturbing way.

Spitting plays a role in two other scenes, not involving alcohol:

The still echoes the one in The Roaring Twenties.


Birds play a prominent role in two scenes. Distant Drums also had a pet eagle: Walsh seems to associate birds with men moving through remote jungle areas.

The Naked and the Dead is yet another Walsh film in which men are attacked by snakes.

Story Structure

The Naked and the Dead is one of several Walsh films, with a flashback showing a protagonist's past. Even if Aldo Ray is a villain, his importance in the film is reflected by his getting such a flashback.

Cliff Robertson's dream is also somewhat of a flashback to his previous life. However, it is non-realistic, unlike a true flashback. Instead, it shows a sort of fantasy, symbolic version of his relationship to his many girlfriends, and his playboy life style. Robertson has no less than two tuxedos in the dream, a black one and later a white one: an index of how anti-realistic and symbolic the dream is. Walsh heroes are often more monogamous than Robertson's playboy - although the soldiers in What Price Glory might be an exception.

An early montage of news headlines, suggests that The Naked and the Dead is going to be another Walsh film set against a series of historical events, like The Roaring Twenties. However, the headlines do not recur. The film instead largely explores a single historical moment.


Circles in The Naked and the Dead: The night club at the start has the arched windows common in Walsh.

The boat with the patrol rotates. Rotating objects are common in Walsh; the huge boat is one of the largest.


Star-shapes are common in Walsh. A few are in The Naked and the Dead:

Visual Style: Landscape and Horizontal Zones

The Naked and the Dead mainly deals with landscape, the other great half of Walsh's visual style. The story of the film takes place in a tropical Pacific island; the film was actually shot in Panama, and features rich and spectacular landscapes, most of which are unfamiliar to North American viewers.

As in other Walsh films, a mountain plays a key role in the climax of the story. Rocky regions show up here, just as in other Walsh works. The trip to the mountain and back takes up most of the second half of the film.

The lower region of the screen is often filled with the element through which the characters are moving, such as the tall grasses. Walsh often gives this element as much screen space as possible, to emphasize it, and to convey the feeling of moving through it. For example, in the scenes with the pool below the waterfall, Walsh shoots so that the water in the pool (at the bottom of the frame) gets a large proportion of screen space. The water fills up at least the lower half of the image. This underscores the size of the pool, and the fact that the men are moving through the water.

The image is sometimes organized into horizontal zones. At the pool, a lower zone shows the pool, an upper zone the many waterfalls leading into the pool. Such horizontal band organization is perhaps an artifact of reality itself: shooting relatively "face on" to an outdoor region might tend to produce an image filled with horizontal regions, running from the left to the right of the screen. Still, it helps give a systematic, easy to understand patterning to the image.


Walsh's landscape shots frequently contain pans. On the way to the mountain, the pans tend to move from right to left, following similar right-to-left movements of the men. These establish a continuous sense of direction within the screen space, through many different landscapes.

The dream contains a pan across the row of women. Camera movement down a row of characters, appears in many Walsh films.

Camera Movement

A Point of View shot from the boat shows it getting closer to land. This is at the start of the final mission. It recalls a similar Point of View camera movement from a boat, arriving at the Isle of Wak in The Thief of Bagdad.

Walsh tracks along with the men, marching through the jungle. Walsh often has such lateral tracks following characters on city streets. The jungle track is unusual for Walsh, in that the men are often half-hidden by foliage in front. Such foreground objects in tracks are common in other directors, such as Max Ophuls and Joseph H. Lewis, but rarer in Walsh.


The kitchen in Aldo Ray's house (in the flashback) is another Walsh green interior.

His wife wears a red and white, a common Walsh color scheme for glamorous women. One of the women in Robertson's dream is in pure red, also a standard Walsh color for female glamour.

Color in the Film's Second Half

The patrol that takes up the whole second half of the film, is mainly designed in green, with occasional touches of a very light yellow. Green aspects include: The pale yellow accents that sometimes appear: Towards the end of the second half, the general goes to brief his superiors. The superiors and the general are all wearing similar uniforms: an example of the Walsh tradition, men dressed alike. The uniforms are all the same color, and a color that is outside of the green-with-yellow-touches color scheme we've been watching for an hour. The color makes these men seem completely outside of the action of the film's second half. A group that is completely isolated from the main events. And indeed, in the plot they are indeed detached from their men, for whom they feel contempt. They are also completely ignorant, unlike all the other characters, of the military reality of the Japanese assault and US counter-attack that is transpiring. The uniforms underscore all this, and are a vivid use of color to help tell a film's story.

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958) is a little spoof of Westerns, with Kenneth More playing a very proper Briton who inadvertently becomes the sheriff of a feuding Western town. Akira Kurosawa would soon include such a two ranch town conducting an all out war against each other in his Samurai spoof, Yojimbo (1961).

As a film which mixes silly but good-natured comedy with songs, The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw resembles College Swing.

Saloons and Towns

This film is full of personal Walsh traditions. The rowdy saloon and dance hall has appeared many times in Walsh's work, going all the back to Regeneration (1915). This saloon, with all its comic fighting and comically exaggerated characters, is part of a forty year tradition in Walsh. In many ways, the two-bit town here is the Western equivalent of the Bowery setting that has recurred so many times in Walsh's work. The tacky hotel run by the heroine (Jayne Mansfield) recalls the equally raffish South Seas hotel in Sadie Thompson (1928).

Heroine and Hero

The heroine is a sexy woman who relates well in a man's world, also a Walsh tradition. Like many of Walsh's heroines, she is a good natured pal to men, but also a woman of great respectability, one who knows how to draw the line against offensive behavior.

The hero's background as an inventor is also a Walsh tradition, echoing the love of complex machinery in his films. The hero's elaborate horseless carriage even blows up at the start of the film, echoing in a comic way the explosive finale of White Heat.

The exceptional decency and good nature of Walsh's hero and heroine is in Walsh's best tradition. The heroine is a kindly person who tries to help others, especially those weaker than herself. This is how Walsh views ideal human beings. The heroine is idolized by the town folks, just like the hero of Regeneration. Walsh's heroes get this sort of public acclaim. Similarly, Kenneth More decides to keep his job as Sheriff when he realizes how much the town's people like and respect him for it.

In some ways, this film is a role reversal of Regeneration. The heroine here has the man's role from the earlier film, that of a kind hearted, much admired leader of the lower classes, a protector of the weak. Like the hero of Regeneration, she is an expert at dealing with the denizens of this lower class milieu. Kenneth More resembles the heroine of Regeneration, being an upper middle class, very refined visitor to this world.

The Villain

Walsh was good with his supporting actors, as well as his leads. William Campbell here has fun with his bit part as Keeno, the sinister hired gun of one of the warring ranches. He is clearly enjoying being dressed up in his all-black desperado's outfit, the typical symbol of a Western villain. While his character regards himself as evil incarnate, he is actually just a two-bit guy in a small town, trying to be a bigger villain than he is. There is something a bit pathetic about this guy and his dreams of villainy. One suspects that he is just an ordinary Joe, and not such a really bad guy at all. This side of his character is comic, and also has its quality of pathos. Andrew Sarris has noted such pathos in many of Walsh's men. Keeno recalls Steve Cochran's would-be gangster in White Heat. Both are young guys who are attempting to be big time villains, both swagger around in sharp clothes that proclaim their villain's role, and both are comically in over their head. Neither one can live up to his advertising. Both wind up similarly run over by the events of the movie around them. Both of these mock-serious turns are irresistible, with hidden humor.

In a subtle way, Walsh feels sorry for these guys. They represent all the difficulties young people have in establishing themselves in the world. The audience can clearly identify with them and their problems: just about everybody has experienced similar difficulties growing up and joining society themselves. It is the quintessential adolescent dilemma. Both guys resemble in their comic way the hero of Walsh's Regeneration, who is also a young man attempting to maintain a position as leader of a gang.

Suave Cops and The Other


The hero of The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw resembles Cary Grant in Big Brown Eyes. Both are suave, sophisticated Englishmen, who unexpectedly take on jobs as American policemen - and succeed at their work. Both are well-dressed, both are witty light comedians, and definitely not the type of macho tough guys one associates with policeman roles. There is a difference: Big Brown Eyes makes no comment on its hero's background, while The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw highlights it and uses it for fish-out-of-water comedy.

Grant works with a brainy woman reporter (Joan Bennett) who is skilled at detective work. The hero of The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw works with a woman, too. He also forms a powerful alliance with the local Native Americans, who wind up working as his deputies and ending a range war. Such a set-up is in deliberate violation of the conventions of the Western. In both films, the hero partners with the Social Other: groups which are oppressed and discriminated against in society.

The police-like characters in In Old Arizona and The Roaring Twenties are also suave, well-dressed light leading men: Edmund Lowe and Jeffrey Lynn. Neither is as central or as effective as Grant or the hero of The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw. But both are similar types.

The Mayor

The Mayor recalls John McIntire in The World in His Arms. Both are older, experienced men who ally with the hero. Both are highly articulate, with rich voices and links to traditions of oratory. Both are spokespersons for good. Both are dressed in comic versions of dark, "serious clothes", gently comic versions of what social authority figures might wear. The Mayor actually is a social authority figure, being the only legitimate government, however weak, in this frontier town. And McIntire tries to promote ecology in the treatment of the seals. Both men are comically but sincerely trying to carry the values of civilization into rough, raffish areas. Neither is very effective. But in both cases, their alliance with the hero gives the hero a certain endorsement, that he is acting on behalf of social values and the social order.


The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw contains dark comedy about a hearse, driven around Western landscapes by an undertaker trying to pick up business. Walsh had employed the same gag in The Lawless Breed. It is funnier here than in the earlier movie, a grimly serious tale in which people actually got killed.

The Farm Family

The farm family have a small piece of land, squeezed in between the two giant warring ranches. They recall the young boy hero of Regeneration, caught between two giant feuding grown-ups.

Heights and Sound Production

The most beautiful scene in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw combines two of Walsh's long-term loves, heights and sound production. When the hero first visits out West, his stagecoach is surrounded by that Walsh favorite, rocky cliffs. Later the hero and heroine ride out to the cliffs. They discover that the cliffs produce echoes. This scene is lyrical and poetic.

The heroine sings a song "If the San Francisco Hills Could Only Talk". The fantasy idea that hills might talk also combines the Walsh interests of heights and sound production.

Such favorite Walsh sound production mechanisms as church bells (see In Old Arizona) and Native American drums (see The Big Trail) also appear in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw.

At one point, the saloon audience sings along with the music on-stage. This recalls Glory Alley, and its more elaborate audience singing. In Glory Alley, this seems non-naturalistic: a "musical number". In The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, it seems more like a realistic account of a frontier sing-along.

Camera Movement

A complex camera movement follow the Mayor, in the saloon. The movement goes up and down the bar. It is a Walsh track past a row of people: the men at the bar. But is is more complex than many such tracks, because it keeps doubling back, reversing direction, and sometimes pausing for conversations.

There is a pan left to the cemetery, when first shown.


The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw has a few circular forms:


The bar has paintings on the mirror, in vaguely rounded outlines. These are examples of the murals in Walsh.


Pets run through many Walsh films. But the dog named "Captain" in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw is the funniest. In some ways, this is a bit of fantasy, in an otherwise non-fantastic film. It reminds us that Walsh was the director of The Thief of Bagdad, with its numerous fantastic animals.

Captain is a good dog. He is being very helpful to a nice human. Captain knows that he is doing the right-thing-for-dogs, and is happy and pleased with himself. This makes this sweet scene all the funnier.


Signs in the Western town are brilliantly multi-colored, frequently including red, as well as gold, blue or green. This highlights them. It recalls the bright red Marine Corps signs in Battle Cry.

Several environments are in a red-and-green color scheme:

The stagecoach scene has much red (shirt, the coach, the Native American bonnet) and green (vegetation). The scene also has yellow (stage with yellow letters and yellow wheels, the Native American has yellow face paint), complicating the color scheme.

When the heroine sings her first song, and moves down into the audience, she is in pink, the saloon walls have much red, and many saloon customers are in blue or red. This gives a red-blue color scheme.

The outside front of the hotel is in red-white-and-blue.

Much of the rest of the town is in very dingy neutrals, such as gray. The cemetery is in white.

Color and Costumes

Once again, many of the saloon women's clothes are in shades of red and white. Sometimes the red is pinkish, with a touch of purple or magenta thrown in. The heroine also has a dark red dress.

The hero wears a red 19th Century tie in the first saloon sequence. He is one of several Walsh men costumed with a touch of red near the throat. The hero often wears gray suits: a symbol in Walsh of successful businessmen.

During the second day, the heroine is another Walsh heroine in a blue dress. This dress is color coordinated with the blue background of the door to her office from the saloon. Later, it echoes the darker blue seats of her wagon. And the red-white-and-blue front of her hotel.

A Private's Affair

Genre and Plot Structure

A Private's Affair (1959) is a military service comedy, about three young recruits. This was a popular genre in that era, when the draft was a universal experience for United States men.

It also has a couple of pleasantly staged musical numbers with the trio, making it a musical. These numbers embody that Walsh favorite, men singing together. The jeep carrying everyone in the final number, recalls the luggage cart driving around the train station in the title tune of an earlier Walsh musical, Going Hollywood.

The trio's first musical number has the heroes burst into an elaborate song and dance routine, that is not given a realistic context in the story. It looks like that convention of some musicals, that the action will suddenly turn into music and dance, for no story reason. But later on, the number is discussed, and treated as if it were something the three boys improvised. It becomes part of the plot. This is odd. Normally, such "burst into song" numbers in Broadway or Hollywood are not worked into any realistic story context. Also from this point on, the rationale for singing changes: all musical numbers are motivated as professional efforts for Jim Backus' TV show. No one just bursts into song again.

A Private's Affair is not a brilliant comedy. One problem: many of the cast have no funny material. Barbara Eden and Sal Mineo are on-screen a lot, but mainly play it straight. Jim Backus is stuck with unfunny material, fretting about the absence of one of the trio for rehearsals.

A Private's Affair has an odd construction. The early scenes focus on the trio and several women they meet. The film looks as if it is going to be one of Walsh's films about a group, featuring a large cast in many vignettes.

But after the opening, this focus and structure changes. Two of the soldiers Sal Mineo and Gary Crosby have little to do plotwise, after their characters are set forth in the opening scenes. Among the girlfriends, only Barbara Eden is much featured. This turns the rest of A Private's Affair into "a film starring Barry Coe and Jessie Royce Landis", two performers with no marquee value. Although neither get top billing, they are in fact the real stars of the film.

Another fact affects the structure of the film. A Private's Affair has no villains, no bad characters, and no one in it ever does a bad or mean thing. Many comic complications arise, but they are due to mix-ups, not malice. This probably reflects the fact that A Private's Affair was made with the cooperation of the US Army, and that the Army wanted its soldiers portrayed positively. Also, the main non-Army plot involves a thinly disguised version of the real life Ed Sullivan TV show, which also needed a positive portrayal to avoid libel suits. But the film's good nature also reflects Walshian attitudes, one suspects.


The young Army recruits in A Private's Affair recall those in earlier Walsh military films. Sal Mineo plays a young man from the urban poor, and Barry Coe a nice young man from a refined-looking upper middle class home in the suburbs, recalling William Campbell and Tab Hunter in Battle Cry. Gary Crosby has a background as a good-natured playboy, like Cliff Robertson in The Naked and the Dead. However, after the opening, not much is made of these backgrounds.

Once again, Walsh doesn't really have too much interest in basic training. There are generic montages of such training, but not a lot. The few more extended scenes are there because they feature some of Walsh's traditional imagery, one suspects: one shows a loudspeaker and a microphone, another has men wading through water.

By contrast, as in Battle Cry, a big deal is made of the Army making men's appearance uniform: here Sal Mineo getting his beatnik beard shaved off. This reflects the barbershop scenes that run through Walsh - although as in Battle Cry, the Army barbershop is off-screen.

Sal Mineo has a beatnik beard at the start, and uses beat language. But this aspect soon disappears along with his beard. Bob Denver, who makes his film debut here, would be playing a far more elaborately developed beatnik in the TV series of the same year The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.


A Private's Affair has two of Walsh's "strong women who function effectively in a man's world": the Army Assistant Secretary (Landis) and the Sergeant (Barbara Eden).

The film talks about how Landis is the first woman in such a high-ranking role. In addition, Eden makes a striking comment about Landis' rank, explicitly celebrating the advance of women in the Army.


Landis makes a special point during her inspection tour, of checking whether the hospitalized soldiers are being treated well. Earlier, she rose to prominence on a UN committee on Rehabilitation. These are examples of Walsh's long time concern over not abandoning the wounded. They give a systematic, structural look at this subject, rather than just the specific instances looked at in earlier Walsh. Late Walsh films like The Naked and the Dead start taking more systematic looks at the conduct of war and the military.

The Oedipus Complex

Barry Coe was 24 when this film was made, a handsome young leading man type. Jessie Royce Landis was 54, and known for playing formidable mothers. Much of the film centers on their strange relationship.

A Private's Affair has an Army psychiatrist, offering right on-screen an interpretation of the film's events in terms of the Freudian concept of Oedipal conflicts - although the terms Oedipus or Freud are not mentioned in the dialogue. Like the psychiatrist's explanation at the end of Psycho Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) this makes A Private's Affair a film with a built-in Freudian dimension.

I am not a believer in Freud. I think Freudian psychology is worthless pseudo-scientific garbage. But no one can deny that A Private's Affair is a film which at least discusses its own events in Freudian terms.

A Private's Affair does not endorse or condemn Freud. The film's events emerge from farcial misunderstandings. The events do not reflect the characters' drives or feelings - they happened instead by a series of accidents. On a literal level, the soldier hero did not cause the events - so they cannot be a reflection of any drives of his, Oedipal or otherwise. When the psychiatrist alleges that the events reflect the soldier's drives, he is factually mistaken.

Still, A Private's Affair does allow such situations to be explored. And discussed by the psychiatrist in Freudian terms. This whole aspect is too prominent, and the situation too unusual, not to be a significant element in the film.

A Private's Affair treats in comic terms, what White Heat treated seriously or at least solemnly. The hero of White Heat is branded as a psychopath for his intense attachment to his mother. And in White Heat we get an explanation in psychological - but not explicitly Freudian - terms, of how his headaches began in childhood as a way of getting attention from his mother. The psychiatrist in A Private's Affair also describes the soldier as wanting to compete for his mother's attention with his father. He and A Private's Affair go beyond this into full scale Oedipal cravings.

Alcohol and Pills

We see the soldiers having what looks like liquor at the service club; earlier they fantasize about having a cool beer or a drink. This acceptance of alcohol is a bit atypical for Walsh. The film restricts itself to moderate drinking at evening social events.

Still, there is plenty of Walsh's trademark water: the hero takes water with his pills, and two characters awaked at night by phone calls, have glasses of water on their bedside tables. Coffee is prominently served in two scenes, too.

The sedatives prescribed for the hero in the hospital confuse him, and enable the farce plot. They seem related to the "gas substances" that sometimes drug the heroes of other Walsh films - although they are pills, not a gas.

The Army hospital is one of those "institutional hospitals", like the prison ward in White Heat, that sometimes show up in Walsh.


A Private's Affair contains Walsh's trademark maps, but they play little role in the plot. Both the psychiatrist's office and Landis' office have wall maps, and Landis also has a globe.

The Army camp has signs. They are brilliantly colored, like those in Battle Cry. The signs in A Private's Affair have yellow letters on a bright red background.

Sound Equipment and Communication

A Private's Affair has the sound equipment that Walsh loves. Bob Denver's tape recorder is prominent in early scenes. Oddly, it then disappears from the plot, along with Denver.

During training, an Army officer uses a microphone connected to a loudspeaker.

Phone conversations, phone booths and long distance phone calls are common.

Both the General's office and Landis' have intercoms.

Jim Backus plays the host of a TV variety show. His character and program are as close to the real life TV host Ed Sullivan as the legal department will allow.

The film's best camera movement involves that Walsh favorite, public speaking. This follows an Army Sergeant forwards and backwards and forwards as he addresses the troops, in a repeating, oscillating motion.

The Garden

The service club has a garden. There are some nice tracking shots, following a couple as they walk through the garden. The garden has that Walsh favorite, flowers, although unlike other Walsh, the flowers are not worn by either the man or the woman. Some of the tracking shots are also masked by foliage hanging from trees.

The garden has park benches, recalling other Walsh films, like The Strawberry Blonde.

Circles and Geometry

A Private's Affair has circular forms: Some of the circular forms radiate light, a Walsh tradition: The song lyrics refer to "the same old whirl", another example of circular imagery in a Walsh film's dialogue. The jugglers twirl objects around.

There are star shapes, also a Walsh tradition:

Triangles appear: The beach is one of Walsh's geometric environments, with the complex base of the stand, and the polygonal beach umbrellas.


The Army hospital is in a favorite Walsh color scheme for interiors: green with touches of red. The walls are green, but there are red flags in the General's office, red light flooding the X-Ray room, and a little girl in a pink dress.

The Army service club is mainly in red-white-and-blue. So is the backstage area at the TV show, where Mineo and Crosby and the chimps wait at the end. The red-white-and-blue clothes of the chimps highlight this, echoing the dressing room doors.


A Private's Affair follows some other 1950's films, in making US Army uniforms more glamorous, by constructing them out of some iridescent material. Maybe a gabardine. This is especially noticeable in the Sergeant's uniform at the start. One suspects that Army uniforms didn't look this good in real life.

Walsh often put men in striped shirts, if he wanted them to look silly. This reaches an apogee with the finale of A Private's Affair, with two of the chimps in stripes.

Esther and the King

Esther and the King (1960) is a cast-of-thousands epic spectacle set in the Ancient World, of the kind popular in its era. The film is visually gorgeous, with rich color design in its elaborate costumes and sets. Such an immersion in a world of spectacle was typical of such 1960-era films, including Fritz Lang's The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959) and Anthony Mann's The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). All of these films have huge sets that represent royal palaces. The sets are brilliantly colored, and remote from anything in modern life. They give a dream like feeling to the works, a sense of total escapism from contemporary reality, at least in visual appearance.


Esther and the King has thematic links with previous Walsh works. Like The Yellow Ticket and The Naked and the Dead, it deals with and condemns anti-Semitism. Like the Biblical story of Esther on which it is based, it is impossible to see today without thinking about the Holocaust. One strongly suspects that Walsh consciously intended such parallels. The film is Walsh's commentary on the tragedy of the Holocaust, and a very firm stand towards ending bigotry against Jews.

Esther and the King was made the year after Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959), the smash epic, and probably owes its financing to that film's success. Both films deal with oppressed Jews in an ancient empire: Rome in Ben-Hur, Persia in Esther and the King. Walsh's film has a deeper treatment of anti-Semitism than Wyler's however, and more to say about the importance of fighting intolerance.

Once again, each character in Esther and the King has a world view, which drives their actions. Esther is the biggest force for positive social change. Mordecai is dignity itself, but he is more a defender of core social principles than an agent of the new.


The eunuch, Hegai, is treated most sympathetically by Walsh. This recalls Walsh's earlier respectful treatment of Franklin Pangborn in The Horn Blows at Midnight. Walsh seems very comfortable with sexually ambiguous men.

One might also note that in some ways Hegai is a director-figure. He is in charge of entertainments at the court, including music and dance shows. And he is seen coaching and training the women in the harem just like a 30's director of Broadway musicals - he resembles Ned Sparks' director in Going Hollywood! This whole characterization is unique.

A scene in which the King wrestles happily with his soldiers in the palace barracks is pure Walsh. Walsh's men crave camaraderie. As one of his men points out in the dialogue, "A King with the Earth for his footstool, and yet his only happiness is here with us." This recalls Walsh himself, and his screen incarnation as a Sergeant in Sadie Thompson. The King also has much male bonding with his friend Simon.

The King is something of a roughneck, who has risen to the top of the Ancient world. He is more a man of action that a courtier, and is played by the macho Richard Egan. He recalls all the other roughneck males in Walsh. He is easily led around, either for good, by Esther, or evil, by Haman - a weakness in his character, perhaps. But also an engine that drives the story.

Esther is somewhat like the refined social worker of Regeneration, being dignified and not at all rowdy, as well as being an outsider at the world of the court. However, it is Esther who tries to improve this world, and protect the weak within it - the role of the male hero in Regeneration. And Esther is also a poor woman, a simple villager, and hardly a representative of the upper classes, also unlike the heroine of Regeneration. In some ways, she takes on in one person both the man and female roles in previous Walsh films. Although she is seemingly the most frail person in this world of powerful people, she turns out to be the most creative and most successful in improving it.


Mordecai makes an impressive speech, hoping that all wars will come to an end. He also advocates taking all the money and resources wasted on war, and using them on building projects instead. This is a key example of the anti-war, pacifist message that runs through Walsh.

One building project Mordecai advocates: desert irrigation. This recalls the emphasis on water supply in some Walsh Westerns.


At the end of the king's battle with a guard, he throws the guard off a platform in the palace. Later, Simon will jump from the same platform, when chased by guards.

Simon will taunt the guards, from the top of a high hill. The guards then chase after him up the hill.

Various outdoor steps and staircases appear, but do not involve much true "staging on heights".


The King, Mordecai and villain Haman discuss the invasion of Greece. They set forth in precise geographical detail how and where they plan to invade, and how this geography will affect the Greek response. All this is done purely verbally, and without maps.


One anachronism: Ancient Persia is depicted as full of fields of what is known as maize by scientists, and as corn (or corn-on-the-cob) in the United States. This plant, whose scientific name is Zea mays, is native to Mexico. It was unknown in the Old World before Columbus. It is impossible to have it growing in Ancient Persia. It is a very beautiful plant, and grown everywhere today in the Northeastern USA, where Walsh is from. According to the Mayan holy book, the Popul Vuh, humans were made out of maize by the gods.


The King gives Esther a lion cub as a pet, remarking that the lion is the symbol of Persia. Lion statues and reliefs are common in the palace.

The opening procession features white oxen, who are conspicuous by their color. The oxen briefly return later, midway through the film. The oxen are not really "pets", however, being used to draw carts.


The men who bear the standards or banners in the opening army march, wear identical breastplates covered with grids of ornamental circles. They are also examples in Walsh of men who dress alike. Simon has circular ornaments on his chest straps. The drums in the same procession have circular tops. Many of the soldiers wear rounded helmets, of various shapes and colors.

Later, civilian Jewish men like Nathan wear rounded headgear.

The palace murals show a tree with circular objects on it: maybe stylized fruit or flowers. Some of the clothes people wear in the murals, have circular decorations on them.

Esther's farm house near the start has many circular objects in front: wheels, an iron ring hook, an object hanging from a circular end.

The traitor general Klydrathes has a round plate in front of him, with round bowls (and a pitcher). In the background is a round brazier with fire, a cylindrical pillar and a round door knob. He is eating round grapes.

The assembled maidens includes "one who plays with the water" in a circular basin. Another maiden has a circular hand-mirror.

Turning objects include:


The villain (Sergio Fantoni) in Esther and the King is played by the same "type" as the bad guy (Stephen Boyd) in Ben-Hur. Both are refined looking leading men, who are almost too pretty in their looks. Both are often sneering and looking cruel.

Come September

Come September (1961) is a comedy directed by Robert Mulligan and produced by "Raoul Walsh Enterprises, Inc." Walsh did not direct this. But it shares some Walsh motifs:

A Distant Trumpet

A Distant Trumpet (1964) is a Western, and Walsh's last film. It is strongly pro Native American, and a fitting climax to Walsh's long history of making films in favor of Native Americans.

A Distant Trumpet has battle scenes. But it also concludes with a peace mission. Seeing its hero "come home from a peace mission" is a creative and very positive variation on scenes of soldiers "coming home from war".

Links to They Died with Their Boots On

A Distant Trumpet recalls They Died with Their Boots On. Both:

Heights, Depths and Containers for Men

A Distant Trumpet has simpler heights imagery than many Walsh films: Aside from the bluff, none of these scenes involve a direct "high-low structure over which people climb", unlike many other Walsh films with heights.

A Distant Trumpet also has a related Walsh image, underground regions:

Related to underground regions in Walsh, is another of his favorite images: containers for men. In A Distant Trumpet, these include the wagon at the start, used to transport the hero to the fort. A big controversy arises, over whether the bigoted soldier will allow the Native American scout to reside in the wagon. The key Walsh image of a "container" is thus linked to the film's central Civil Rights theme.


Modern day Walsh films are full of high tech sound communication; historical films and Westerns tend to have musical instruments used as communication devices. As a Western set at the cusp of modern times, Walsh manages to include both approaches in A Distant Trumpet: The finale includes reporters, and talking to the press.

Public speaking includes Quaint's lecture at West Point, and the hero addressing his men. It also includes the negotiations at the end.

The hero has studied the Apache language. The film shows him understanding it, but lacks scenes of him trying to speak it. This recalls the hero of Desperate Journey speaking German.

War Eagle and other Apaches speak in their own language, which is subtitled. The respect shown for Apache recalls the Navaho "code talkers" in Battle Cry. Walsh films take an interest in Native American tongues. They implicitly recognize that Native American languages are an important part of American and world culture.

General Quaint frequently quotes Latin poets and authors. The quotations are usually interesting. Also recalling Latin literature: the way the hero and heroine seek shelter in a cave during a storm, recalls the Roman myth of Dido and Aeneas.


A Distant Trumpet is full of maps. There is a three-dimensional map or model, made by the Native American scout White Cloud by placing stones on the ground. It recalls a bit the stone-and-twig map-model in The Tall Men, although the two are constructed on different principles.

General Quaint (James Gregory) interprets this map. During the battle scenes, he offers verbal information on the shapes of the battles and the tactics employed: also a kind of geographical information.

The film's opening shows one of Quaint's battles. Then it immediately cuts to Quaint giving a lecture about the battle at West Point. This is a very odd transition: from reality, to a complex analysis of reality. Like his information on troop deployments in the final battle, it offers both the real world, and Quaint's ideas on the real world. (The mix of reality, followed by an analysis of reality, recalls Fritz Lang thrillers like Ministry of Fear (1943) and The Woman in the Window (1944), in which we see a crime, then later a police analysis of the crime.)

This opening lecture has a map, drawn on the blackboard. It includes such geometric figures as arrows and small rectangles. I don't recall other blackboard maps in Walsh. Even at this late date, Walsh was experimenting with his favorite motifs, such as maps. There is also a globe in the corner of the West Point classroom.

The Lieutenant's office has a map on the wall. Later, a map on a table is used for planning.

Early in the film, the hero gets understandably annoyed when Sergeant Kroger declines to give a literal answer to his question, of how far the fort is. This discussion involves both "geography" and "communication". The General is always trying to communicate geographical information; so is the Native American scout White Cloud. This Sergeant is obscuring such information, instead.


The hero is shown attending Quaint's lecture at West Point. While it is hard to dramatize a mental activity like "learning" on-screen, Walsh and A Distant Trumpet try hard. The hero is giving Quaint his total attention. The hero is making a maximum effort to listen and learn. Donahue is shown ramrod straight in his chair. He is virtually "at attention" while sitting down. He has an intense look on his face, conveying how important he regards learning. The hero is making notes. So are the other cadets, who are also depicted as intent on learning.

The hero and the other cadets are in spit-and-polish gray West Point cadet uniforms. His polished appearance shows that he has respect for the learning activity in which he is engaged. The hero's uniform is marked with huge chevrons, indicating that West Point considers him an outstanding cadet. Such chevrons recall Walsh's own role as a Sergeant in Sadie Thompson, with Walsh's uniform marked with chevrons. The West Point chevrons in A Distant Trumpet are especially erect and phallic, equating Donahue's efforts to learn with manliness. The pencils held by the note-taking cadets are also phallic symbols; they recall the drill with larger phallic objects in other Walsh films.

Donahue has liberal attitudes in A Distant Trumpet, with a respect for Native Americans and pro-peace enthusiasm. By contrast the men he meets at the fort are racists: a position in both 1964 and the 2000's associated with conservatives. The men at the fort show a contempt for learning:

A conservative contempt for learning, education, facts and science is still a major feature of US politics in the 2000's.

Today there is much debate over the value of expert knowledge and/or academic training versus what can be gained from life or work experience. A Distant Trumpet depicts the work experience at its remote desert fort as mainly worthless. The soldiers at Fort Delivery have spent the last two years waiting around for Native American attacks that never came. They have learned nothing from this - and there is probably little anyone could learn from such routine work. Instead, Fort life has "taught" them bad habits: drunkenness, laziness, and bad hygiene (everyone in the fort lives in filth). By contrast, the hero has learned much of value from his heavy reading, and classroom education at West Point.

The pro-education, anti-experience viewpoint of A Distant Trumpet is not always shared by other Cavalry Westerns. Fort Apache (John Ford, 1948) argued the reverse: the soldiers stationed at the fort have good knowledge of Western and Native American realities from their experience, while the new commander from back East (Henry Fonda) is dangerously ignorant and leads them to disaster. 7th Cavalry (Joseph H. Lewis, 1956) depicts a West Point background as the snobbish credential of a mediocre upper class elite, who are far inferior in ability to the risen-through-the-ranks hero.

Shaving and Cleanliness

There is not one of Walsh's beloved barbershops in A Distant Trumpet. But we do see the Lieutenant shaving in his office. Later, the hero is also shown preparing to shave in his bedroom.

Later, the hero emphasizes cleanliness with his men, and institutes a new regime of washing. This echoes all the scenes in Walsh of men bathing and getting cleaned up. We don't see any actual bath scenes in A Distant Trumpet, though.


A Distant Trumpet has anti-alcohol messages, like many Walsh films. The big speech at the end lists alcohol as among the ways that whites damaged Native American life.

Pleshette's unsatisfactory husband is a problem drinker. In his introduction, he is already boozing during his morning shave. After he dies, she makes negative comments about how all he left her was a whiskey bottle. There are also suggestions, as much as 1964 censors will allow, that he is a bad lover, and one has to wonder if the film is hinting that his drinking is to blame.

Among the other unsavory products sold by Seely Jones (Claude Akins) is booze. Jones offers a bribe "gift" of alcohol to the fort doctor, who strongly declines it. This is one of many scenes in Walsh films of good guys refusing alcohol.

A group of bad guys sneak forbidden drinks in a barn.

The niece gives a jar of honey to her General uncle. This is perhaps linked to the sweet drinks that run through Walsh, as an alternative to booze. The commander's wife Mrs. Prescott also serves tea, in which we see her adding sugar.


One of the soldiers talks about his dog Annie. Later, we briefly see one of the Native Americans' dogs.

Science Fiction Metaphors

Suzanne Pleshette twice uses science fiction metaphors: Such science fiction metaphors perhaps more reflect the 1960's Space Age, when science fiction was hugely popular, than a Cavalry outpost of the Western era.


Photographs, especially glamour shots of women, are sometimes seen negatively in Walsh. The hero keeps a photo of the General's niece. She turns out to be a negative character, like the unpleasant upper class woman in The Roaring Twenties, who is also represented by a photo.

He has photos of other old girlfriends. Such photos suggest these women are reduced to sex objects. This recalls the heroine's "glamour" photography session in The Revolt of Mamie Stover, also designed to promote the heroine as a sex object. Both The Revolt of Mamie Stover and A Distant Trumpet hint that this approach is fundamentally wrong.

By contrast, the heroine is symbolized not by a photo, but by a living plant, the geranium she leaves with the hero. The photo is in black-and -white and fixed in appearance; the plant is in color and alive.

Mirror Shots

The Lieutenant first sees the new Native American scout, in the mirror in which the Lieutenant is shaving. This man has never thought of Native Americans except in the most negative terms. The idea that one might enter his office, and in a respected role in the US Army, is alien to him.

The startling materialization of the scout in the mirror is both visually striking and politically unnerving to him. This shot combines a mirror shot technique from film noir, a human impression that events in mirrors are "unreal" or fantastic, and the film's Civil Rights theme.

Geometric Environments

The inner courtyard of the fort is one of Walsh's geometric environments. It is full of rectilinear architecture, making elaborate designs and patterns. There are also cylindrical posts sticking out of some buildings. And occasional circular forms such as wheels and barrels. The courtyard is the locale of the hero drilling the troops, sometimes in geometric formations.

The hero's bed is full of complex spirals and curves. These really call attention to themselves. Since the hero's bed is the focus of one of the film's big issues - who will he take as a love partner? - it makes sense for it to be so richly patterned.


There are a few circles: The strangling stick is twisted around and around, when the soldier is killed. This is much more sinister than most revolving objects in Walsh.

The soldiers and the hookers dance in big circles. This recalls the more innocent scenes of children dancing in circles in Regeneration.

The Native American are celebrating in a circle. This is just before the Cavalry invades and runs off with the horses.


The stagecoach bearing Donahue out West is bright red. Along with Donahue's blue-and-yellow Cavalry uniform, the brief stagecoach scene is in the three primary colors: red-blue-yellow. Scenes in this color scheme look rich and fulfilled. The Native American scout's headband is also a bright red.

The scene is immediately contrasted with the gray, pathetic looking Cavalry wagon the hero is transferred to. It suggests the Cavalry environment is primitive, poorly maintained, and the center of the lazy and incompetent. The draining of the scene of color makes a statement about the transition the hero is undergoing, by joining the post.

The heroine (Suzanne Pleshette) first shows up as one of Walsh's woman in green, in a green blouse and scarf. She carries a red-and-green geranium, making this a scene in red-and-green.

Later, the heroine will be in a green skirt and white blouse. The general's niece wears a green dress at one point.

When the heroine's wagon is rescued by the hero, she is a Walsh heroine in red-and-white. The washerwomen are also in mixes of red and white, and are often shot against a reddish building.

The heroine decorates the hero's room with yellow curtains and a blue tablecloth. This makes the room yellow-and-blue, matching the hero's Cavalry uniform. The heroine wears yellow clothes in this scene. The curtains are explicitly made from cloth the heroine uses for dresses: linking the room further to the heroine's clothes. Later, the general's niece will also visit the room, in a yellow outfit.

Troy Donahue

It is hard to find a review of A Distant Trumpet, from 1964 to today, that does not single out Troy Donahue for condemnation. He is seen as talentless as an actor, and often as unbelievable as a Western hero.

While watching the film, however, Troy Donahue seems competent in his performance, and adequate to give the film the characterization it needs. It's not a great performance, but it is sound enough so that we can all enjoy the movie. Doubtless Walsh, the writers and everyone else on A Distant Trumpet worked to ensure that the film was closely tailored to Donahue's strengths and limitations as an actor. In short, Donahue and A Distant Trumpet are much more enjoyable and believable than they are often given credit for.

Walsh worked with many great actors during his long career. But he also worked successfully with many leading men like Donahue whose main virtues were good looks and charm. Walsh is widely seen as Errol Flynn's best director. Walsh gave John Wayne his first starring role in The Big Trail, at a time when Wayne was mainly a handsome young galoot. Walsh was the first director to feature Rock Hudson in significant roles. He also worked with such handsome men as Tab Hunter, Barry Coe and Gregory Peck, the last admittedly a gifted actor. Walsh's conception of a Hollywood film director clearly includes guiding good-looking leading men to competent performances.

Donahue was a New Yorker. In A Distant Trumpet, he is always shown in some sort of Army uniform, never in civilian or cowboy clothes. His character is an Army officer from the East who has been sent out West on assignment. The film is careful never to suggest that Donahue is any sort of Westerner, or that he has any links with cowboy or Western life.

Aspects of Troy Donahue's persona are subtly emphasized in A Distant Trumpet, and help give credibility to his performance. Donahue was a teen idol in the neatness-obsessed John F. Kennedy, Mad Men era. As seen in newsreels of the period, Donahue never made a public appearance without being perfectly groomed and dressed. He is thus credible in A Distant Trumpet as a West Point graduate with a spit-and-polish credo and an obsession with cleanliness.

Donahue sometimes played intellectually ambitious men. In Susan Slade (Delmer Daves, 1961), he was a struggling young writer who took John Steinbeck as his model. This is consistent with his role in A Distant Trumpet as an ambitious young officer, top West Point graduate, and constant reader and student of Native American language and history.

Donahue comes across as sincere and committed to Civil Rights in A Distant Trumpet. Donahue had played the repellent racist villain in Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959), a courageous move for a young actor trying to ingratiate himself with the public as a Good Guy leading man. His characterization in Imitation of Life is a powerful condemnation of racism, depicting it as truly vile. In A Distant Trumpet, Donahue was not afraid to play a hero passionately committed to Civil Rights. Taking a stand in favor of racial equality no longer seems fashionable in contemporary society, unfortunately. Many straight white men today come across as whining wimps, constantly complaining about racial equality and putting down minorities. To be blunt, Troy Donahue seems far more manly is his commitment to democracy and equal treatment of all races, than do today's right wing wimps.