What follows is how I found Warren William and how I’ve watched as his celebrity has undergone an unlikely growth over the past several years. But first, your TCM television schedule for Thursday, August 30, 2012:
Thursday, August 30 – Warren William – TCM Summer Under the Stars
- 6:00 am – Bedside (1934) starring Warren William, Jean Muir, Donald Meek
- 7:15 am – The First Hundred Years (1938) starring Robert Montgomery, Virginia Bruce, Warren William
- 8:30 am – Wives Under Suspicion (1938) starring Warren William, Gail Patrick, Ralph Morgan
- 9:45 am – The Mouthpiece (1932) starring Warren William, Sidney Fox, Aline MacMahon
- 11:15 am – Skyscraper Souls (1932) starring Warren William, Maureen O’Sullivan, Verree Teasdale
- 1:00 pm – Three on a Match (1932) staring Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Warren William
- 2:15 pm – The Match King (1932) starring Warren William, Lili Damita, Glenda Farrell
- 3:45 pm – The Mind Reader (1933) starring Warren William, Constance Cummings, Allen Jenkins
- 5:00 pm – Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) starring Warren William, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler
- 6:45 pm – Times Square Playboy (1936) starring Warren William, Gene Lockhart, June Travis
- 8:00 pm – Lady for a Day (1933) starring May Robson, Warren William, Guy Kibbee
- 9:45 pm – Cleopatra (1934) starring Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Henry Wilcoxon
- 11:45 pm – Employees’ Entrance (1933) starring Warren William, Loretta Young, Alice White
- 1:15 am – The Case of the Howling Dog (1934) starring Warren William, Mary Astor, Allen Jenkins
- 2:45 am – The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939) starring Warren William, Ida Lupino, Rita Hayworth
- 4:00 am – Arsene Lupin Returns (1938) starring Melvyn Douglas, Warren William, Virginia Bruce
Note: All times EST
I first found Warren on VHS. The old Forbidden Hollywood Collection which included titles like Three on a Match (Great Ann Dvorak film; lousy for Warren William) and the much more defining pair of Employees’ Entrance and Skyscraper Souls. I was hooked and began buying up every title I could find featuring Warren William.
Of course having all of these movies on hand and enjoying one as much as the next–though truthfully none as much as those first two named above–I naturally became curious about Warren William off camera. Let me tell you, back in 2007 the internet had barely heard of this guy. He had a page at the IMDb, the IBDB and something sparse on Wikipedia. Not much more.
My personal library didn’t help much either. Outside of Mick LaSalle even film writers ignored him! It was those few commercially available recordings from the 1990’s along with LaSalle’s coverage, brief yet superior to anything else available, that I credit with igniting the first sparks of interest that the Warren William legacy currently enjoys. He’s all over the web now!
I launched WarrenWilliam.com at the end of 2007 (actually Warren-William.com for a few years until I could secure the better web address) and began posting all I could find about the man and the movies he starred in.
When my research led me to the files of the Warner Bros. Archive held at the USC libraries I put in my request and paid a few hundred dollars for all of the old Warner Brother files that mentioned Warren by name: pay stubs, contracts, general communications with the studio and other ephemera. I thought maybe I’d write a book.
Then, in the Spring of 2010, I received an email from John Stangeland. I’d bumped into the name a few times as I had researched online. John had completed a biography of Warren William that would be published late in 2010. John and I continued to exchange emails and he was gracious enough to supply me with an advance copy of his book, Warren William: Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood, just prior to its general publication. Well, there went my book!
John had covered not only everything I had come across for myself but more. He had traveled the country and even forged relationships with Warren William’s surviving nieces. His book is 200-plus pages of pure biography, well written yet never too academic to put it out of anyone’s reach. The films are all covered and explained but not at exhausting length. The photographs ranged from the familiar to shots I’d have never dreamed existed. (Full review HERE).
Speaking as someone who had come to consider himself an absolute authority on the subject, Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood was perfect.
If Mick LaSalle had provided the spark, John Stangeland let the blaze loose! It was with the publication of his book that Warren William went from forgotten film star whom those in the know could wink about, to major pre-code film figure whose best work became familiar to every fan of the period. This happened through occasional airings on Turner Classic Movies or the films were discovered, as I discovered so many myself, through an internet market hovering between gray and black.
Since the release of John’s book that fire has been stoked every so often by TCM. During TCM’s Critic’s Choice feature in October 2010 Leonard Maltin selected Skyscraper Souls as one of his choices to air during the night he shared the TCM set with host Robert Osborne. Maltin’s face had previously graced the covers of my VHS Forbidden Hollywood tapes, so this seemed full circle.
It wasn’t just on our television sets either. Last Summer the Film Forum in New York highlighted “Heel of Heels” Warren William atop their Essential Pre-Code film festival showing eight of Warren’s best pre-code titles over a four-week period.
On December 2 of last year, after years of giving over the day to Julie Harris, TCM finally afforded Warren William a birthday celebration. A half day. Better than any he had had at anytime I have had access to the channel. That day TCM aired several of Warren’s earliest pre-code films. There were some goodies–Beauty and the Boss and The Dark Horse spring first to mind–but none are repeated today. Today TCM picks up from where they left off on December 2.
From my perspective TCM’s honoring of Warren William with 24 hours of Summer Under the Stars programming feels like the culmination of a long overdue celebration. Warren William will never be associated with the major stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, nor should he. But he has finally seemed to earn his spot amongst those worth remembering.
Warren William Elsewhere
Any visitor to WarrenWilliam.com will get a kick out of the “Picto-Sked” I posted to Immortal Ephemera on Wednesday. It shows period newspaper advertisements for all 16 of the films TCM is airing … more than one ad per movie in many cases.
Also HERE is my general Summer Under the Stars post for Warren at Immortal Ephemera.
And Warren’s biographer, John Stangeland, who I mentioned prominently up above, has been very busy as well in preparation for Summer Under the Stars. Check out his MagnificentScoundrel’s Blog for his recent blitz of reviews covering today’s “Sweet 16” titles. You can also access those articles in full at John’s Facebook page … which it goes without saying should be a favorite.
Enjoy the movies!