Raoul Walsh was the famed motion picture director whose almost legendary career included acting in D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" in 1915 and directing modern-day action epics.
Walsh was famed for directing robust, virile dramas such as "White Heat" and "Battle Cry" as well as his World War I film, "What Price Glory?"
Other films Walsh directed include "High Sierra," "They Died With Their Boots On," "Gentleman Jim," "San Antonio," "Captain Horatio Hornblower," "Lion in the Streets," "King and Four Queens," "Band of Angles" and "The Naked and the Dead." He directed his last film in 1964, a western cavalry epic called "A Distant Trumpet."
His acting career included the role of Gloria Swanson's lover in the 1928 film "Miss Sadie Thompson," which he also directed.
The Walsh family, who lived in a brownstone in mid-Manhattan near Fifth Avenue, had a circle of distinguished friends around the turn of the century. Walsh, as a boy, met Edwin Booth, the actor whose brother shot Abraham Lincoln. A few years later, Walsh played the role of assassin-actor John Wilkes Booth in "The Birth of a Nation."
As a youth Walsh also met boxer John L. Sullivan and author Mark Twain.
Walsh joined a cattle drive across the Texas panhandle.
It was as a cowboy that Walsh entered show business. He was approached by the stage manager of a traveling drama, who needed a man to ride a horse on a treadmill in the show. Walsh took the job and also earned $5 a week extra by doing rope tricks in front of the theater to draw crowds.
He stayed on with the traveling show and eventually landed back in New York, where motion pictures were in their infancy. Action riders were needed for motion pictures, and Walsh appeared in "Paul Revere's Ride" and some other silent films made by Pathe Bros. on the East Coast.
He came to Hollywood in 1910, joining Biograph and D.W. Griffith. Griffith not only used Walsh as an actor, he also launched Walsh as a director.
After leaving Griffith, Walsh went to work with William Fox in the old Fort Lee, N.J., studio. Among others, he directed films there starring silent vamp Theda Bara.
His action-oriented movies were generally box-office successes. He did not go in for complicated theme pictures or for gentle sentimentality.
Walsh's "White Heat" (1949), starring James Cagney, has become a cult film and is widely regarded as both the last and the greatest of the traditional gangster films.
Walsh lost his right eye in 1929 in an accident while driving to the location for "In Old Arizona," the first talking western shot away from the studios. His car hit a jackrabbit, which shattered the windshield and blinded his eye.