A free screening of “Buffalo Bill,” a 1944 Technicolor western starring South Pasadena’s Joel McCrea (1905-1990), will be presented on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. at the local library community room.
The classic western features an all-star cast that also includes Anthony Quinn, Maureen O’Hara, Linda Darnell and Edgar Buchanan. The compelling, well-acted film is set against the backdrop of the bloody battles between white settlers and Native Americans.
Directed by the legendary William A. Wellman (1896-1975), known for directing more that 80 feature films, including “Wings,” the winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1927. Wellman also directed “The Public Enemy” with James Cagney and Jean Harlow (1931), the first version of “A Star is Born” (1937), “Beau Geste” starring Gary Cooper (1939), and “The High and the Mighty” with John Wayne (1954).
“Buffalo Bill” tells the exciting, fictionalized story of the famous scout turned showman, William F. Cody. Outspoken and greatly skilled in guns and hunting, Cody also faces deep personal struggles, including his troubled marriage to a senator’s daughter, played by the fiery O’Hara. Buffalo Bill is accused of fraud and faces the cost of balancing his friendships with both the settlers and the Natives.
Master of Ceremonies for the Library Film Night will be the illustrious cowboy poet, Larry Maurice. The event will also feature a panel discussion with Wyatt McCrea, one of Joel’s grandsons and the Executive Director of the Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation in Thousand Oaks. Bill Wellman, Jr., the son of the director and a celebrated actor in his own right, will also serve on the panel, along with Petrine Day Mitchum, an award-winning filmmaker whose short films have appeared on “Saturday Night Live!” Petrine is the lead author of “Hollywood Hoofbeats, The Fascinating Story of Horses in Movies and Television.”
Actor William Wellman Jr. started off in featured parts in films directed by his father. Bill’s television career kicked in as the 1930s approached with a number of rugged guest roles on the established westerns “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Rawhide,” “Laramie” and “Gunsmoke.” Bill’s career has enjoyed longevity and is credited with nearly 200 movies and television shows, as well as writing and producing efforts. He is the author of “William Wellman: Hollywood Rebel.”
McCrea was born in South Pasadena on November 5, 1905, the son of Lou Whipple and Thomas P. McCrea. Both of Joel’s parents were of pioneer stock: Lou’s father, Major Albert Whipple, had journeyed westward in a covered wagon in 1849 and Thomas’s father, Major John McCrea, escorted a stagecoach, fighting the Apaches along the way. Joel had a brother, John, and a sister, Lois. As a boy in South Pasadena, Joel enjoyed a normal childhood, playing with his brother, sister, and cousins and “doing family stuff.” He moved with his family to Hollywood when he was 9.
Joel McCrea eventually went on to blaze a remarkable trail, appearing in 90 feature films over a 50-year period. By the time Joel retired after 80 starring roles during Hollywood’s Golden Age, he was declared “The Last of the Great Cowboy Film Heroes.”
As an actor McCrea was known for his strength, realism, and dependability. Although he appeared in comedies, thrillers, adventures, and romances, westerns became his forte. McCrea was one of the very few actors who started as a lowly extra in the film business and rose to leading roles.
The South Pasadena Library Community Room is at 1115 El Centro St. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and refreshments will be served.