Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the Classic Hollywood era. Unlike his Golden Age companions Hawks was known for being incredibly versatile, directing a wide range of various different genres, such as gangster pictures: Scarface: Shame of a Nation (1932); screwball comedies: His Girl Friday (1940), Bringing up Baby (1938); war films: Sergeant York (1941), Only Angels Have Wings (1939); film noirs: To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946); westerns: Red River (1948), Rio Bravo (1959); science fiction & horror: The Thing from Another World (1951); and stage musicals: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Hawks’s own functional definition of what constitutes a ‘good movie’ is revealing of his no-nonsense style: “Three great scenes, no bad ones,” while defining a good director as “someone who doesn’t annoy you.” Hawks never consciously aimed for art in his films, and was perhaps quietly amazed that people would find it there. Despite Hawks’s work in a variety of Hollywood genres he still retained an independent sensibility, while popularizing the Hawksian woman archetype, which has been cited as a prototype of the post-feminist movement. Film critic David Thomson wrote of Hawks in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film “Far from being the meek purveyor of Hollywood forms, he always chose to turn them upside down, To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, ostensibly an adventure and a thriller, are really love stories. Rio Bravo, apparently a Western – is a comedy conversation piece. The ostensible comedies are shot through with exposed emotions, with the subtlest views of the sex war, and with a wry acknowledgment of the incompatibility of men and women.” As David Bordwell states “It’s a body of work that has been accused of ahistorical and adolescent escapism, but Hawks’ fans rejoice in his oeuvre‘s remarkable avoidance of Hollywood’s religiosity, bathos, flag-waving, and sentimentality.” Hawks directed some of the greatest entertainments ever made, and fundamentally shaped the way we perceive many of the great stars including Cary Grant, John Wayne and the iconic chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (in which Bacall tells Bogey in To Have and Have Not: “You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.”) Hawks directorial style and the use of natural, conversational dialogue in his films were cited a major influence on many noted filmmakers including Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman and Quentin Tarantino, while being venerated by French critics associated with Cahiers du cinema, with Jean-Luc Godard calling Hawks “the greatest American artist.” He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1941 for Sergeant York, but he received his only Oscar in 1975 as an Honorary Award from the Academy as “a master American filmmaker whose creative efforts hold a distinguished place in world cinema.”

Howard Hawks
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Howard Hawks

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