Tuesday, 1 October 2019

52 directors: Howard Hawks

This is a second co-posting event with Swedish film bloggers. There is something called "52 directors" where each participant, once a week, post a list of their five favourite films of a specific director. As this week is Hawks, and it is a well-known fact that Hawks is my favourite filmmaker, I shall participate. A frivolous exercise for sure, but a regular post will be up again next Friday at 09:00. For now, here is Hawks.

To choose five films based on some relevant criteria is not possible. Since there are three films I think are his best, five are either too many or too few. But the top three would be:

Only Angels Have Wings (1939), The Big Sleep (1946) and Rio Bravo (1959).

The first and the last are quintessential Hawks stuff about group dynamics in enclosed spaces. They are laidback and casual and care more about characters than plot, yet are also filled with drama and action. Some of the flight sequences in Only Angels Have Wings are beautiful.

The Big Sleep is interesting because the first 90 minutes is almost like a comedy, a wisecracking screwball with an unusual body count. Then Harry Jones is murdered by being forced to drink poison and both the film and Marlowe change; the film into tragedy and Marlowe from cynical to angry. The transition is almost imperceptible but it is there, you can feel it.

But in all three, as in the rest of Hawks, it is the dialogue, the movements of the characters, the direction of looks, the music numbers, the exchanges of matches, the tempo and rhythm, the worldview, that makes them what they are: uniquely Hawksian.

So those three were easy. For the remaining two I will just go with Red River (1948) and Hatari! (1962). I love them both, for the same reason I love the others. In addition, Red River has an epic sweep and Hatari! might be the most laidback film Hawks ever made. (Pier Paolo Pasolini visited the set. I have always wondered how he and Hawks got along.)

For the bookkeepers:

The Big Sleep
Rio Bravo
Only Angels Have Wings
Red River

But really, there are at least eight others also worthy of inclusion, and I feel bad for not including Twentieth Century (1934). It has Roscoe Karns in it, which should be reason enough for anybody. Of Hawks's 42 feature-length films (depending on how you count) only about four or five disappoint. As batting averages go that is quite something.

Those who can read Swedish can check out two other bloggers contributions:



"In some Humpty Dumpty way that was true love."

1 comment:

  1. Very nice of you to participate in our little game Fredrik. Howard Hawks is a dear favourite of mine also. To see one of his old movies on a Sunday morning is like eating comfort food.

    I am fond of his romantic comedies, and often it's the dialogue that blow me away. But also his characters and their relationships are ever so endearing. His Cary Grant comedies seems to sit with me the best. "His girl Friday" with the snappy dialogue, "Monkey business" with the charming Marilyn and the stellar "Bringing up Baby" with the goddess.

    All that said, "Rio Bravo" is still his best film, in my book. It is even one of my all time favs, and it got number 5 on a Top 100 I did some years ago... The chemistry of the players, the atmosphere, the humor, the suspense, the songs! How can you not love it?

    I also really like "The big sleep". Here it is style and feeling over characters. The story is interesting and Bogart and Bacall are adequate. I have an American dvd with two versions of the film, one is some kind of early cut which I look forward to see. Haven't got around to it yet though.

    "Only angels have wings" I saw for this posting and I loved it! Again with Cary Grant as the anchor of the project. It almost got into this top 5, I guess it need a little more time to simmer.

    However, "Twentieth Century" was not a hit in my mind. I think it has grown ugly with age. It was not charming at all. I caught it too late, I am afraid. :-)