Howard Hawks (1896-1977) was one of the most versatile directors of The Golden Age of Hollywood
. Starting out in silent films as an assistant director and other production jobs, he soon moved up to director, and was one of Hollywood's top directors for the next several decades. Among the genres he handled successfully were gangster films, romantic comedies, screwball comedies, westerns, detective movies, and even musicals. Unlike other directors at the time, he wasn't tied to one particular studio. Also, though he worked with a number of well-regarded writers on his films (among them Ben Hecht
and William Faulkner
), he was also known for changing the script as he was shooting it, with a number of examples of Throw It In
in each of his films. He also was legendary for the number of tall tales he told about himself. Though he directed a number of hits throughout his career, he fell out of favor with critics in the 50's, but was Vindicated by History
, thanks to the "auteur"
critics like François Truffaut
helped restore his reputation. Later generation of directors would cite him as a major director, second only to John Ford
, citing his versatility in moving from genres with the likes of John Carpenter
, Martin Scorsese
, Robert Altman
, Quentin Tarantino
, Wes Anderson
, Gregg Araki
and Jim Jarmusch
testifying to his influence on their work.
Among the films Hawks directed were:
- Scarface- The original 1932 version. The Trope Codifier of the gangster film genre and still just as bold and daring as the remake.
- Twentieth Century - One of the earliest examples of Screwball Comedy.
- Bringing Up Baby - Perhaps the screwiest of Screwball Comedy, it was a box-office failure but it is Vindicated by History.
- Only Angels Have Wings - A drama about thrill-seeking aviators starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth.
- His Girl Friday - One of the most iconic films of The Thirties. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell(whose performance here inspired the character of Lois Lane) try to free an innocent man from a Miscarriage of Justice, but really it's Will They or Won't They?.
- Sergeant York
- Ball of Fire
- To Have And Have Not - The first teaming up Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall
- The Big Sleep - The second teaming of Bogart and Bacall, and considered one of the best detective movies ever made.
- Red River - An important Western and the first serious role for John Wayne note
- The Thing from Another World - A classic sci-fi monster movie that relies on suspense rather than special effects. Oddly enough, one of the rare cases where he was reluctant to take credit (his normal assistant director Christian Nyby is the credited director, even though it plays like one of Hawks' films).
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Features Marilyn Monroe's iconic number, "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend!"note
- Land of the Pharoahs - His foray into the Epic Movie, a box-office failure but interesting for its exploration of Ancient Egypt.
- Rio Bravo - A major box-office hit in its day, and a Western with more focus on camaraderie and True Companions than on the plot.
- Hatari - A movie with no plot, John Wayne and actual animals in Africa. A huge box-office hit.
- El Dorado - A remake of Rio Bravo but with more angst about growing old.
Some tropes associated with Hawks are...
- All Work vs. All Play : His movies are unique for blurring these lines, in his films, work is play, and characters who work together have a lot of fun, and the kind of fun that you can only have with people who watch your back.
- Angst? What Angst? :[invoked] Hawks' movies tend to flaunt this. Only Angels Have Wings opens with the death of a pilot named Joe, and immediately the pilots go around asking "Who's Joe?" and celebrate anyway though they mourn privately. For Hawks, death and tragedy are not the central features of life, but merely interruptions of real living.
- Blatant Lies : His biographer noted that Hawks tended to boast about being a macho tough guy, who won fights and who was a big game hunter, none of which were remotely true. Most of the excitement in his life was dodging book-keepers trying to call his gambling debts.
- Consummate Professional : He was himself this and his films celebrate characters who are this in their chosen field. Rio Bravo is about John Wayne worrying that Dean Martin is undergoing Badass Decay while Ricky Nelson is the young plucky rookie who convinces the professionals that he's so good, "he doesn't need to prove it!" His Girl Friday is about Da Chief Walter Burns (Cary Grant) manipulating his ex Rosalind Russell back into his life, not only because he loves her but because he values her work as a journalist.
- Five-Man Band : His movies tended to be about groups and they tended to fall into roles like this, with Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and John Wayne playing The Hero of their own crew in films like To Have And Have Not, Only Angels Have Wings, Rio Bravo.
- Magnum Opus Dissonance : The films Hawks tended to be associated in his later years were Rio Bravo or His Girl Friday or To Have And Have Not and he was seen as a director of The Western and the Screwball Comedy. His own favorite was the first Scarface, a classic gangster film for sure, but an atypical work compared to his later films. He stated that it was a movie he had complete freedom to achieve what he wanted.
- Rated M for Manly: A central theme for much of his work—particularly his Westerns and war films—involves looking into the meaning and implications of "being a man".
- Though funnily enough, auteurist critics actually celebrated his films for having prominent women characters and even being quasi-Feminist, citing Rosalind Russell, Lauren Bacall and Angie Dickinson's performances in these films.
- True Companions : His films were celebrations of this.
- Vitriolic Best Buds : His favorite kind of friendship.