William Beaudine


Biography of William Beaudine

William Beaudine (January 15, 1892 – March 18, 1970) was an American film actor and director. He was one of Hollywood's most prolific directors, turning out films in remarkable numbers and in a wide variety of genres.

Born in New York City, Beaudine began his career as an actor in 1909 with American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. He married Marguerite Fleischer in 1914, to whom he stayed married until his death. He was the brother of director Harold Beaudine.

In 1915 he was hired as an actor and director by the Kalem Company. He was an assistant to director D.W. Griffith on The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. By the time he was 23 Beaudine had directed his first picture, a short called Almost a King (1915). He would continue to direct shorts exclusively until 1922, when he shifted his efforts into making feature-length films.

Beaudine directed silent films for Goldwyn Pictures (before it became part of MGM), Metro Pictures (also before MGM), First National Pictures, Principal and Warner Brothers. In 1926 he made Sparrows, the story of orphans imprisoned in a swamp farm starring Mary Pickford. Beaudine had at least 30 pictures to his credit before the sound era began. Among his first sound films were short Mack Sennett comedies; he made at least one film for Sennett while contractually bound elsewhere, resulting in his adopting the pseudonym "William Crowley." He would occasionally use the pseudonym in later years, usually as "William X. Crowley."

He ground out several movies annually for Fox Films, Warner Brothers, Paramount, and Universal Pictures. His most famous credit of the early 1930s is The Old-Fashioned Way, a comedy about old-time show folks starring W. C. Fields.

Beaudine was one of a number of experienced directors (including Raoul Walsh and Allan Dwan) who were brought to England from Hollywood in the 1930s to work on what were in all other respects very British productions. Beaudine directed four films there starring Will Hay, including Boys Will Be Boys (1935) and Where There's a Will (1936).

Beaudine returned to America in 1937 and evidently had trouble re-establishing himself at the major studios. After a brief stint at Warner Brothers, he found work on Poverty Row, working for studios specializing in low-budget films, such as Monogram Pictures and Producers Releasing Corporation. For these studios he made dozens of comedies, thrillers and melodramas with such popular personalities as Bela Lugosi, Harry Langdon, Ralph Byrd, Edmund Lowe, Jean Parker and The East Side Kids. By this time Beaudine had a reputation for being a resourceful, no-nonsense director who could make feature films in a matter of days, sometimes as few as five. He occasionally directed special-interest productions, like the 1945 crusade-for-sex-education feature Mom and Dad, produced by Kroger Babb, and the 1950 religious drama Again... Pioneers, produced by the Protestant Film Commission.

The authors of the 1978 book "The 50 Worst Films of All Time" gave William Beaudine the unflattering nickname "One-Shot," because he always seemed to shoot just one take, regardless of actors flubbing their lines or special effects malfunctioning. It is true that Beaudine shot economically—he usually had no choice—but he was always professional, and actually did shoot multiple takes of movie scenes. (The coming-attractions trailers of Beaudine's films are rife with alternate takes.)

Beaudine was often entrusted with series films, including the Torchy Blane, The East Side Kids, Jiggs and Maggie, The Shadow, Charlie Chan and The Bowery Boys series. His efficiency was so well known that Walt Disney hired him to direct some of his television projects of the 1950s and had him direct a feature western, Ten Who Dared (1960). Beaudine became even busier in TV, directing Naked City, The Green Hornet, and dozens of Lassie episodes.

His last two feature films, both released in 1966, were the horror-westerns Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (with John Carradine) and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter. By the end of the decade he was the industry's oldest working professional, having started in 1909.

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