Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director

Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director

Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director

Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director


Raoul Walsh (1887--1980) was known as one of Hollywood's most adventurous, iconoclastic, and creative directors. He carved out an illustrious career and made films that transformed the Hollywood studio yarn into a thrilling art form. Walsh belonged to that early generation of directors -- along with John Ford and Howard Hawks -- who worked in the fledgling film industry of the early twentieth century, learning to make movies with shoestring budgets. Walsh's generation invented a Hollywood that made movies seem bigger than life itself.

In the first ever full-length biography of Raoul Walsh, author Marilyn Ann Moss recounts Walsh's life and achievements in a career that spanned more than half a century and produced upwards of two hundred films, many of them cinema classics. Walsh originally entered the movie business as an actor, playing the role of John Wilkes Booth in D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915). In the same year, under Griffith's tutelage, Walsh began to direct on his own. Soon he left Griffith's company for Fox Pictures, where he stayed for more than twenty years. It was later, at Warner Bros., that he began his golden period of filmmaking.

Walsh was known for his romantic flair and playful persona. Involved in a freak auto accident in 1928, Walsh lost his right eye and began wearing an eye patch, which earned him the suitably dashing moniker "the one-eyed bandit." During his long and illustrious career, he directed such heavyweights as Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, and Marlene Dietrich, and in 1930 he discovered future star John Wayne.


When Raoul Walsh was a very young man, he awoke one night from a dream that left him shaking. He trembled as much from dread as from a half-formed sense of excitement. In a sleep that seemed as much nightmare as fantasy, he saw that his beloved mother, Elizabeth, had suddenly died. He could make no sense of it and could no longer reach out to touch her. An overwhelming sadness took over. But at the same time he had a sense of something startling: he now stood on the brink of a fabulous journey, a great adventure that offered escape from the hole he felt had just been shot through the middle of his heart.

The dread that touched the young Walsh that night was no fiction. Just two days earlier, his beautiful and much-beloved mother, Elizabeth Walsh, had died of cancer at the age of forty-two, leaving behind a devoted husband, three children, and a household she had filled with endless storytelling and fanciful flights of imagination. For Raoul Walsh, the grief was almost unbearable. As he wrote in his autobiography more than seventy years later, “I was quite unprepared for the sudden blow that left me motherless at fifteen.… Mother passed away in the big master bedroom into which I used to steal and beg for one of her stories about an earlier America.… Where before I had loved it, the place became unbearable.… The terrible thing was that she was gone and I was only half a person.”

Not only did the stories cease; so did Elizabeth and Thomas Walsh’s renowned dinner parties, where the Walsh children sat at the table infatuated while listening to the ramblings of a Lionel Barrymore or a John L. Sullivan in the time it took to finish one course and move on to another.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.