Raoul Walsh was an American film director, actor, founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the brother of silent screen actor George Walsh. Certain of Raoul Walsh’s film related material and personal papers are contained in the Wesleyan University Cinema Archives to which scholars and media experts from around the world may have full access.
Born Albert Edward Walsh, as a young man he was a close friend of Virginia O’Hanlon of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” fame. Like his younger brother he was part of Omega Gamma Delta during his high school days. Growing up in New York Walsh was also a friend of the Barrymore family. John Barrymore recalled spending time reading in the Walsh family library as a youth.
Walsh began as a stage actor in New York City, quickly progressing into film acting. Walsh was educated at Seton Hall College and began acting in 1909. In 1914, he became an assistant to D.W. Griffith and made his first full-length feature film The Life of General Villa, followed by the critically-acclaimed Regeneration in 1915, possibly the earliest gangster film. Walsh played John Wilkes Booth in Griffith’s epic The Birth of a Nation for which he was also Assistant Director. Walsh later directed The Thief of Bagdad, starring Douglas Fairbanks and Anna May Wong.
In Sadie Thompson starring Gloria Swanson as a prostitute seeking a new life in Samoa, Walsh starred as Swanson’s boyfriend in his first acting role since 1915; he also directed the film. Walsh was then hired to direct and star in In Old Arizona, a film about The Cisco Kid. While on location for that film Walsh suffered a car accident in which he lost his right eye. He gave up the part, and never acted again. Walsh would wear an eyepatch for the rest of his life.