Frame By Frame: William Witney
University of Nebraska Film Studies professor Wheeler Winston Dixon remembers the "father of Hollywood action films."
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- [00:00:03.502](upbeat music)
- [00:00:15.907]Hi, I'm Wheeler Winston Dixon, and this is Frame By Frame,
- [00:00:18.760]and if you like the films of Quentin Tarantino,
- [00:00:21.166]as I bet you do, you're really paying homage
- [00:00:24.567]to William Witney.
- [00:00:26.331]William Witney started his directorial career
- [00:00:28.909]at the age of 21, and he worked for Republic Pictures,
- [00:00:33.281]and he is the master of the modern chase and fight scene.
- [00:00:37.276]And he found this out by watching Busby Berkeley musicals
- [00:00:40.461]being shot on the Warner Brothers sound stages,
- [00:00:42.961]and he would see how Berkeley staged a small section
- [00:00:45.693]of each dance and then put them all together
- [00:00:47.788]in the editing room.
- [00:00:49.048]He was the first person to discover the technique
- [00:00:51.139]of montage, or editing, in terms of fight scenes.
- [00:00:54.667]So the fight scenes, chase scenes, action scenes,
- [00:00:57.492]William Witney was a master of all of these.
- [00:01:00.029]He was incredibly prolific, with more than 200 films
- [00:01:02.792]to his credit, and Quentin Tarantino, in fact,
- [00:01:05.557]at one point in his career, took a whole year off
- [00:01:08.806]to do nothing but watch William Witney films.
- [00:01:11.747]The tragedy, though, is that William Witney's films
- [00:01:14.334]mostly never made it to DVD.
- [00:01:16.804]I have a stack of them and they're in VHS,
- [00:01:19.739]Quentin Tarantino has a stack of them
- [00:01:22.119]and they're all in 35 millimeter and 16 millimeter,
- [00:01:24.778]and he pays, you know, enormous respect to him.
- [00:01:27.512]Particularly, Tarantino reveres William Witney
- [00:01:31.761]over John Ford, and this has become quite controversial.
- [00:01:35.991]I'm not gonna go that far, but I'm going to say
- [00:01:38.897]that William Witney is the forefather of action filmmaking.
- [00:01:42.532]Such films as Spy Smasher, G-Men vs the Black Dragon,
- [00:01:47.913]The Crimson Ghost, Zorro's Fighting Legion,
- [00:01:51.899]and The Perils of Nyoka, which are all Republic serials
- [00:01:55.524]from the 1940s, represent some of his best work.
- [00:01:58.752]You can still get VHS copies of these on Amazon
- [00:02:01.806]for a few pennies apiece, and I urge you to
- [00:02:04.388]pick them up while you can.
- [00:02:06.343]So the next time you're watching a Quentin Tarantino film
- [00:02:08.312]remember whom he admires more than anyone else,
- [00:02:11.546]William Witney, the father of American action filmmaking.
- [00:02:15.334]I'm Wheeler Winston Dixon, and this is Frame By Frame.
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