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Howard Winchester Hawks (May 30, 1896 – December 26, 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, Hawks 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.

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Though Hawks directed a number of hits throughout his career, he fell out of favor with critics in the '50s, but was Vindicated by History, thanks to "auteur" critics like François Truffaut who helped restore his reputation. A later generation of directors would cite him as a major influence, second only to John Ford, due to his versatility in moving between 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.


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Partial filmography:


Some tropes associated with Hawks's work 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.
  • Central Theme: Act like a man.
  • Consummate Professional: 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 Editor 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, and Rio Bravo.
  • Genre Roulette: Big time! He has touched almost every genre you can imagine from comedy, to drama, to crime thrillers, to westerns, to science fiction, to even a musical.
  • Has a Type: While the "Hawksian Woman" is mainly characterized by her attitude and level of competence, she does have a visual side. She is usually not a statuesque beauty, but physically looks tough enough to succeed in an "un-ladylike" environment and dresses accordingly. Also some critics noted that Hawks' female leads tended to be brunettes and not too busty.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: invoked The films Hawks tended to be associated in his later years were Rio Bravo, 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 in his films.
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