WARREN WILLIAM ON TCM

I’m not sure if it had anything to do with the impromptu email campaign we undertook in June, but Turner Classic Movies is hosting a Warren William Birthday celebration on December 2nd, 2011! There will be six (count ’em, 6!) Warren William classics starting at 10:30 am (CST) with the rarely seen Expensive Women from 1931. Check the TCM schedule WWONDEC2 for deatils and movies. And watch over the next few days for capsule reviews of each picture in the series!

Warren William TV interview

Check out the first ever televised interview devoted solely to Warren William, featuring yours truly! It is from the Mount Prospect Public Library’s cable TV program “Library Life,” hosted by Cathy Cushing, and you can catch it on you tube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCj656xT9d0

Warren William’s 117th birthday!

December 2nd is Warren William’s 117th birthday, and I’d like to start a mail campaign to get Turner Classic Movies to devote the day to him. It’s 6 months off, but never too soon to get in requests before they devote the day to Jack Oakie or Misha Auer. You can request a Warren William birthday celebration by following this link: http://tinyurl.com/5uft3ry  to the TCM contact page, and clicking on “programming” in the drop down menu. If you’re so inclined you can feel free to cut and paste the request that I used, reproduced below! AND – Twitter it! Facebook it! Forward it!

December 2nd, 2011 is the 117th birthday of the magnificent Warren William (1894-1948). This great star deserves an entire month to himself, but perhaps TCM could start with a simple birthday celebration. How about a Warren William Day on December 2nd?

I’d love to suggest a brace of his pre-code classics like Employees’ Entrance, The Mouthpiece, Skyscraper Souls and The Mind Reader, or even some lesser known jewels such as Arsene Lupin Returns or Go West, Young Man. There’s plenty to choose from.

TCM is the greatest institution of cinema history ever devised – let’s put that history to use teaching the new generation about the career of The King of the Pre-Code! 

Mount Prospect screening

Last night (May 16th) almost 40 people wandered into the Mount Prospect library screening room for a showing of Warren William’s star-making 1932 classic, The Mouthpiece. Many had never seen our man Warren before, and most left converted to his Cult of Scurrility. Thanks to everyone who came out, and especially to the staff of the MPPL who made it a fun and memorable night!

Smarty

Sorry I’ve been away so long folks, but life intercedes, as you know.

Warren William and Joan Blondell

For those of you who are interested, you can next catch Warren William on Turner Classic Movies October 11th, at 1:00PM EST in Smarty. The film features a wonderful cast, including Joan Blondell, Edward Everett Horton, Frank McHugh and the lovely Claire Dodd. It’s all a bit mysogynistic, but there are a few solid laughs, and the opportunity to see Warren transform from an ineffectual sissy to a wife-beating he-man. Seriously. Be prepared.

New links

A new review from Raquelle’s M’s wonderful Out of the Past blog went up on Monday:

http://outofthepastcfb.blogspot.com/2011/01/get-your-read-on-warren-william.html

And it was followed by this interview:

Warren William interview

Visit Out of the Past for all kinds of interesting and informative Classic Movie material!

Why we remember

There’s an important story behind how I came to discover Warren William, and the book about him that is the result of that discovery.

I grew up watching movies. During the late 1960’s and most of the 70’s, I sat in front of my TV in Chicago, drinking in the films of generations before me. Humphrey Bogart, Erroll Flynn, James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson were nightly companions through rain soaked city streets, among the criminal underworld, and across the bounding main. As a teenager I knew the names and faces of hundreds of actors and actresses, famous and obscure, long dead or retired: James Gleason, Guy Kibbee, Glenda Farrell, Ruth Donnelly and so many others.

Warren William in Cleopatra

So, imagine my surprise in 2004, when a similarly movie-obsessed friend handed me a video tape and instructed me to watch the three films recorded on it.

Enter Warren William.

In a single sitting I saw Employees’ Entrance, Skyscraper Souls and The Mouthpiece. I was stunned, enthralled, and chagrined. After 35 years of watcing classic Hollywood movies, I had never seen Warren William before. How could I have possibly missed this essential rogue of early sound cinema? 

My friend and I became apostles spreading the Gospel of Warren William. We watched for him on Turner Classic Movies, scoured the internet for information and shamelessly touted him to anyone who would listen. And gradually I began to get the idea that we could write a book about this Genius of Scurrility. But my friend – a published writer of some considerable skill – was in many ways an arbitrary, capricious man. Without offering a solid reason, he refused to have anything to do with it. So, I resolved to write it on my own.

Shortly after I began my research in earnest, my friend wound up – sadly, through the same stubborn intransigence that kept him from committing to the project – in a diabetic coma and near death. When he woke up after two days, his short term memory was shot. He remembered long ago events with crystal clarity – including old movies and Warren William – but he couldn’t retain any fact that was more recent than six months ago. For a year he waked and slept in this fog, asking me again and again who the President was, had Michael Jackson really died, and what had happened in the baseball game we’d just watched. The one and only “new” piece of information he did not forget was my book about Warren William. Almost every time I saw him – two or three times a week – he would surprise me by asking “How’s the book going?”

He was thrilled when I got a publishing contract, and often asked to read chapters as I finished them. In a nursing home there isn’t much to do besides watch Jerry Springer and wait for the next opportunity to be hauled out of your bed into the dining room alongside similarly damaged people. Fortunately his memory allowed him to forget the awful food he was given, the cries of the other patients, and his own grave medical condition. But it also meant that no matter how often I gave him pages from the manuscript, he couldn’t read them – once I left the room and they were set aside, he immediately forgot that they were even there. In some ways he was the precise opposite of our modern, celebrity obsessed culture – truly and deeply steeped in the old, but utterly oblivious to the capricious whims of today’s celebrity.

In December of 2009 he was gone. Warren William’s memory is his memory, passed on through me to anybody else who cares to remember. My opportunity to indulge in something I love would not have happened if not for that simple continuity of thought. A service was performed, and one I’m grateful for. So, if you love something – industrial design, Scott Joplin, medieval history, or simple family lore – pass it on. Otherwise the past will remain that – only the past.

The famous, circa 1924; Warren William and company in "Expressing Willie."

Aitkin Age review

Before the last century started, Warren Krechs’ father Freeman was already running the local newspaper in his hometown of Aitkin, Minnesota. This week’s feature story in Freeman’s old publication, the Aitkin Independent Age, is about his son, the one and only Warren William. Take a look at what Aitkin says about their favorite son:

AITKIN AGE REVIEW

Magnificent Scoundrel review

Lo, it begins. Last night Cliff Aliperti posted the first review of Magnificent Scoundrel on his outstanding Warren William site. If you’d like to know more about it before you decide to buy – or just enjoy a very fine and well written review, check it out here: MAGSCOUNREVIEW and please feel free to add comments or observations, especially if you’ve had a chance to read it!

Minnesota Walk of Fame

When I visited Warren William’s home town of Aitkin, Minnesota a few years ago, I spoke with one of the archivists at the Aitkin County Historical Society. He mentioned that he was in touch with the man who was responsible for choosing people to be enshrined in the Minnesota Walk of Fame, and that Warren William was not being considered for the honor. As is quite common, the committee insisted that Warren William was not well known, when of course, what they meant was that THEY did not know him. I decided that I should make the effort to advocate on Warren’s behalf, and to that end, I sent the committee this letter: 

 

It is true, Warren William is not as famous as some other Minnesota natives. Bob Dylan, Winona Ryder and Prince (Rogers Nelson) spring to mind. But the job of the historian and record keeper is not to celebrate only those we know today, but to educate the public about why we should remember those long gone. If we left it up to the public to keep the record, how long would it be before Sauk Center’s Sinclair Lewis was consigned to oblivion? Or F. Scott Fitzgerald? Or God forbid, Walter Mondale? 

Warren William Krech was born in 1894 in Aitkin to a lineage – the Krechs and the Potters – who helped found and build the town. He served in France during the Great War, then moved to New York where for 10 years he starred on the Manhattan stage during the Golden Age of Broadway – the era that brought us Eugene Oneill, Rodgers and Hart, and Cole Porter – before Warner Brothers signed him to a movie contract in 1931.

Within a year of his arrival at Warner Brothers he was a star. Not a second lead or character player, but a genuine STAR – a leading man for a who’s who of classic Hollywood: Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, Mary Astor, Barbara Stanwyck and many others. During his five years with Warner Brothers he headlined over 30 movies, including three that were nominated for Best Picture Oscars. His career took him to virtually every studio: Columbia, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and the gold standard of film making in the 1930’s, MGM. He was Ceasar in Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra, played Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon before Humphrey Bogart adopted the role, was the first man to play Perry Mason in any media, and starred in the film where Errol Flynn made his debut. By the time he passed away in 1948, he had made almost 70 movies, including some true classics.

When the Screen Actor’s Guild started in 1933, Warren William was one of a small handful of people at the meeting. He was the 61st member of the guild which now boasts 120,000 members, and served on the Board multiple times. His charity work is legendary, and (a rarity) one would be hard pressed to find a member of the Hollywood community who had something bad to say about him.

Shortly after Warren’s death, the Hollywood Walk of Fame was established, and he was one of the ORIGINAL stars in the very first installation made in 1960. His star resides at 1559 Vine Street.

Please consider that it is a great responsibility to be the arbiter of remembrance and forgetting. The public may not know about the past, and be uncaring – but if they are educated, you might just discover how important they think some things are. Warren William is a Minnesotan and a star. It stands to reason then, that his star should shine brightest in Minnesota.

Warren William still does not have a star on the Minnesota Walk of Fame. In the near future, I’m going to be researching what it will take to get our favorite scoundrel his recognition in Minneapolis. More to come… 

 

If Warren William can make it on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he certainly should be honored by his home state of Minnesota.