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William Witney DIRECTOR


William Nuelson Witney was a famous 20th century film and television director, most noted for his 'B' action flicks. During the golden age of the movie serial, Republic Studios had the finest, and Witney was the top director there. His excellence shone with fast paced sequences and fight scenes, as he developed new camera techniques to get the most magnificent, furious scene. He modeled his shooting after choreographer Busby Berkeley, breaking his scenes into segments before changing his sets and giving his stuntmen time to recuperate. This allowed them to give their utmost and complete effort every shot, lending a sense of fury and vigor to the screen. Even to this day, action directors follow suit to Witney’s amazing productions.

The famous director was born May 15, 1915 in Lawton, Oklahoma, but raised in California. He planned to go into the US Navy after high school, but upon a visit to his sister in Hollywood, he chose to instead stay there. Her husband was a director for the low-budget studio Mascot Pictures, and he landed Witney a job there. Mascot merged into Republic Studios two years following. He first worked at the studio as a messenger boy, progressively working his way up the filmmaking ladder. In 1933 he had his first acting job in “Fighting with Kit Carson”. He then had an assistant director position in “The Law of the Wild” (1934). Witney had a few more odd jobs as editor in “The Miracle Rider” (1935) and “Robinson Crusoe” (1936), script contributor in “Darkest Africa” (1936), “Red River Valley” (1936), and “The Vigilantes are Coming” (1936), story writer in “The Singing Vagabond” (1935), assistant director in “The Phantom Empire” (1935), “The Vigilantes are Coming” (1936), as well as actor in “The Vigilantes are Coming” (1936) before finally nabbing a directorial position in 1937’s “The Painted Stallion”. Ironically, he was not at first meant to be in charge of the project. The film was running into shooting delays, and Witney, who just so happened to be on site, was asked to take over directorial control. He finished in a timely manner and without going over budget. Consequently, he was asked to continue working as director, and for the next six years he served as one of the studio’s most countable serial makers, right along with Spencer Bennet and John English, with whom he commonly collaborated.

Witney went on to direct or co-direct twenty three of Republic’s most known serial films (some of which have also been displayed on television) between 1937 and 1946, not limited to the Zorro serials (“Zorro Rides Again” (1937), “Zorro’s Fighting Legion” (1939)), Lone Ranger serials (“The Lone Ranger” 1938), “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” (1939)), Dick Tracy serials (“Dick Tracy” (1937), “Dick Tracy Returns” (1938), “Dick Tracy’s G-Men” (1939), “Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.” (1941)), and Captain Marvel serial (“Adventures of Captain Marvel” (1941)). In 1943, Witney served in the US Marines, working as a combat photographer. In 1946 he returned to Republic to film his final serial, “The Crimson Ghost” (1946). Following, he was assigned a great number of 'B' westerners starring the largest celebrity of the genre at the time, Roy Rogers.

In all, from 1946 until 1951, the director worked on twenty seven Rogers pictures. These rapidly paced music filled movies turned out to be huge successes. Works like “Heldorado” (1946), “Apache Rose” (1947), “The Gay Ranchero” (1948), “The Golden Stallion” (1949), “Trigger, Jr.” (1950), and “South of Caliente” (1951) put Witney in the top “B” director ranks. In the 1950's, he directed nine westerns with singing star Rex Allen, also directing him in the television series “Frontier Doctor” (1958-59).

Beginning with “Stories of the Century” (1954-55), Witney began doing more TV shows. He directed many series, including “State Trooper” (1958), “Zorro” (1958-60), “Coronado 9” (1960-61), “Bonanza” (1961-67), “Tarzan” (1967-68), and his final TV contribution, “Kodiak” (1974). He did however, consistently stay present in the motion picture industry with hits like the classic “The Bonnie Parker Story” (1958), juvenile delinquency pictures “Juvenile Jungle” (1958) and “The Cool and the Crazy” (1958), war drama “Paratroop Command” (1959), and sci-fi adventure “The Master of the World” (1961). His final films were the comical musical “Darktown Strutters” (1975) and western “Quell and Co.” (1982).

On March 17, 2002, the esteemed director died from stroke complications in Jackson, California. In the same year, he was awarded a Golden Boot for all of his work in the western film genre. He will furthermore forever be remembered for his work with the action film. Even Boyd Magers, publisher and editor of Western Clippings magazine once proclaimed that “Everybody considers Bill Witney the greatest action director in 'B' movies [because] he just knew how to put things together for the screen – the fights, the wagon wrecks, the falls off the cliffs, whatever; they were just expertly done”.   

1982       Quell and Co. 

1975       Darktown Strutters

1974       Kodiak  

1974       The Cowboys  

1973       I Escaped from Devil's Island 

1967       The High Chaparral 

1967       Tarzan 

1967       Hondo  

1967       Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion

1967       40 Guns to Apache Pass 

1966       Daniel Boone 

1966       Laredo

1966       Branded 

1966       Nyoka and the Lost Secrets of Hippocrates

1966       Dr. Satan's Robot 

1966       Cyclotrode 'X'

1966       Spy Smasher Returns 

1966       Lost Island of Kioga 

1965       The Wild Wild West 

1965       Arizona Raiders 

1965       The Girls on the Beach 

1964       Apache Rifles 

1964       Destry  

1964       The Alfred Hitchcock Hour 

1963       Laramie 

1963       The Wide Country

1962       Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation

1962       The Virginian 

1961       Bonanza  

1961       Tales of Wells Fargo 

1961       Frontier Circus 

1961       The Cat Burglar 

1961       Master of the World  

1961       The Long Rope

1960       The Tall Man

1960       Coronado 9  

1960       The Secret of the Purple Reef

1960       Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color

1960       Overland Trail 

1960       Valley of the Redwoods 

1960       M Squad  

1959       Wagon Train 

1959       Riverboat

1959       Mike Hammer  

1959       State Trooper 

1959       Rescue 8 

1959       Sky King

1959       Paratroop Command 

1959       Lassie  

1959       Zorro Rides Again 

1958       Zorro     

1958       Frontier Doctor

1958       The Bonnie Parker Story

1958       Young and Wild

1958       Juvenile Jungle

1958       The Cool and the Crazy

1958       Special Agent 7 

1957       Panama Sal

1956       The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu 

1956       A Strange Adventure

1956       Stranger at My Door

1955       The Last Command

1955       The Fighting Chance

1955       Headline Hunters

1955       City of Shadows

1955       Santa Fe Passage

1954       Stories of the Century 

1954       The Outcast

1953       Shadows of Tombstone

1953       Down Laredo Way

1953       Iron Mountain Trail

1953       Old Overland Trail

1952       South Pacific Trail

1952       The WAC from Walla Walla

1952       Old Oklahoma Plains

1952       Border Saddlemates

1952       The Last Musketeer

1952       Colorado Sundown

1951       The Wild Blue Yonder

1951       Pals of the Golden West

1951       South of Caliente

1951       In Old Amarillo

1951       Heart of the Rockies

1951       Spoilers of the Plains

1950       Trail of Robin Hood

1950       North of the Great Divide

1950       Sunset in the West

1950       Trigger, Jr.

1950       Twilight in the Sierras

1950       Land of Opportunity: The Mardi Gras 

1950       Land of Opportunity: Tillers of the Soil  

1950       Bells of Coronado

1949       Land of Opportunity: The Sponge Diver  

1949       The Golden Stallion

1949       Land of Opportunity: The American Rodeo  

1949       Down Dakota Way

1949       Susanna Pass

1948       The Far Frontier

1948       Grand Canyon Trail 

1948       Night Time in Nevada

1948       Eyes of Texas  

1948       Under California Stars

1948       The Gay Ranchero  

1947       On the Old Spanish Trail

1947       Springtime in the Sierras

1947       Bells of San Angelo

1947       Apache Rose

1946       Heldorado

1946       The Crimson Ghost

1946       Home in Oklahoma

1946       Roll on Texas Moon

1943       Drums of Fu Manchu

1943       The Fighting Devil Dogs  

1943       G-men vs. the Black Dragon

1942       Outlaws of Pine Ridge

1942       King of the Mounties

1942       Perils of Nyoka

1942       The Yukon Patrol

1942       The Girl from Alaska 

1942       S.O.S. Coast Guard  

1942       Spy Smasher

1941       Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.

1941       King of the Texas Rangers

1941       Jungle Girl

1941       Adventures of Captain Marvel

1940       Mysterious Doctor Satan

1940       King of the Royal Mounted

1940       Adventures of Red Ryder

1940       Hi-Yo Silver

1940       Drums of Fu Manchu

1940       Heroes of the Saddle

1940       Men with Steel Faces

1939       Zorro's Fighting Legion

1939       Dick Tracy's G-Men

1939       Daredevils of the Red Circle

1939       The Lone Ranger Rides Again

1938       The Spider's Web

1938       Hawk of the Wilderness

1938       Dick Tracy Returns

1938       The Fighting Devil Dogs

1938       The Lone Ranger

1938       The Painted Stallion

1937       Dick Tracy 

1937       Zorro Rides Again

1937       The Trigger Trio

1937       S.O.S. Coast Guard

1937       The Painted Stallion 

1936       The Vigilantes Are Coming

1936       Red River Valley 

1936       Darkest Africa 

1936       Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island  

1935       The Miracle Rider

1935       The Singing Vagabond

1935       The Phantom Empire 

1934       The Law of the Wild

1933       Fighting with Kit Carson        

Matinee Classics - Under California Stars starring Roy Rogers
Matinee Classics - The Far Frontier starring Roy Rogers, Trigger, Gail Davis, Andy Devine, Francis Ford, Clayton Moore and Roy Barcroft
Matinee Classics - The Gay Ranchero starring Roy Rogers, Tio Guizar, Jane Frazee, Andy Devine, Estelita Rodriguez, George Meeker and Trigger
Matinee Classics - Roll On Texas Moon starring Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Dennis Hoey, Elisabeth Risdon, Francis McDonald, Edward Keane, Kenne Duncan, Tom London, Harry Strang, Edward Cassidy, Lee Shumway, Steve Darrell, Pierce Lyden and Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers
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Matinee Classics - The Crimson Ghost starring Charles Quigley, Clayton Moore, Linda Stirling, I. Stanford Jolley, Kenne Duncan, Forrest Taylor, Emmett Vogan, Sam Flint, Joseph Forte and Stanley Price
Matinee Classics - Perils of Nyoka starring Kay Aldridge, Clayton Moore, Lorna Gray, Charles Middleton, William Benedict, Forbes Murray, George Pembroke, Tristram Coffin, Forrest Taylor, Forbes Murray, Robert Strange, George Renavent, John Davidson, George J. Lewis, Ken Terrell, John Bagni, Kenne Duncan, Arvon Dale and Emil Van Horn
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Matinee Classics - Mysterious Doctor Satan
Matinee Classics - Springtime in the Sierras starring Roy Rogers, Jane Frazee, Andy Devine, Stephanie Bachelor, Hal Landon, Harry V. Cheshire, Roy Barcroft, Chester Conklin, Hand Patterson, Whitey Christy and Pascale Perry
Matinee Classics - South of Caliente starring Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Pinky Lee, Douglas Fowley, Ric Roman, Leonard Penn, Willie Best, Lillian Molieri, Charlita and Pat Brady
Matinee Classics - Spoilers of the Plains starring Roy Rogers, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones, Grant Withers, Don Haggerty, Fred Kohler Jr., House Peters Jr., George Meeker and Keith Richards
Matinee Classics - North of the Great Divide starring Roy Rogers, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones, Roy Barcroft and Jack Lambert
Matinee Classics - Sunset in the West starring Roy Rogers, Estelita Rodriguez, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones, Will Wright, Pierre Watkin and Charles La Torre
Matinee Classics - The Golden Stallion starring Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Estelita Rodriguez, Pat Brady, Douglas Evans, Frank Fenton, Greg McClure, Dale Van Sickel, Clarence Straight and Trigger

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