William Witney

William Nuelsen Witney (May 15, 1915 – March 17, 2002) was an American film and television director. He is best remembered for the movie serials he co-directed with John English for Republic Pictures such as Daredevils of the Red Circle, Zorro's Fighting Legion and Drums of Fu Manchu.[1]

William Witney
William Nuelsen Witney

(1915-05-15)May 15, 1915
DiedMarch 17, 2002(2002-03-17) (aged 86)
Other namesWilliam Whitney
Years active1939–1982
Spouse(s)Maxine Doyle (m.1938–1973; her death)
Beverly (m.1977–2002; his death)

Early years

Witney was born in Lawton, Oklahoma. He was four years old when his father died, and he lived with his uncle, who was an Army captain at Fort Sam Houston. Colbert Clark, Witney's brother-in-law, introduced him to films by letting him ride in some chase scenes for the serial Fighting with Kit Carson (1933). Witney stayed around the Mascot Pictures headquarters while preparing for the entrance exam to the U.S. Naval Academy. After he failed that exam, he continued at the studio, working in the music and editing departments before beginning work as a director.[2]


Witney directed many Westerns during his career, and is credited with devising the modern system of filming movie fight sequences in a series of carefully choreographed shots, which he patterned after the musical sequences of American director Busby Berkeley.[1] Prolific and pugnacious, Witney began directing while still in his 20s, and continued until 1982.

Quentin Tarantino has singled out Witney as one of his favorite directors and a "lost master",[3] and considers four films as Witney's best work: The Golden Stallion (1949), a Roy Rogers vehicle, Stranger at My Door (1956), The Bonnie Parker Story (1958), and Paratroop Command (1959).[3] Witney also directed Master of the World (1961) starring Vincent Price and Charles Bronson.

Whitney was also a director for Jim Davis' syndicated adventure television series, Rescue 8, which aired from 1958 to 1960. He died of a stroke in 2002.[4][5]

Selected filmography


  1. "William Witney, 86, Director of Westerns". The New York Times. March 30, 2002.
  2. Mayer, Geoff (2017). Encyclopedia of American Film Serials. McFarland. pp. 291–292. ISBN 9780786477623. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  3. Lyman, Rick (September 15, 2000). "Whoa, Trigger! Auteur Alert!". The New York Times. Interview with Quentin Tarantino; Lyman and Tarantino watched The Golden Stallion together.
  4. Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2002: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. 2003-04-09. ISBN 9780786414642.
  5. Los Angeles Times

Further reading

  • Witney, William (2005-03-24). In a Door, into a Fight, Out a Door, into a Chase: Moviemaking Remembered by the Guy at the Door. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-2258-0.
  • Witney, William. Trigger Remembered. Earl Blair Enterprises. ASIN B0006EYMSG.

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