"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: howard hawks

Million Dollar Movie


Here’s a cool 2008 Museum of the Moving Image interview with Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris about Howard Hawks.

Howard Hawks is a great example of a director who was rescued by film critics.

SARRIS: Well, by the French!

Could you talk about how that happened? Hawks was successful as a director in Hollywood, but not really known.

SARRIS: He was successful, but he wasn’t prestigious.

HASKELL: Wasn’t taken seriously.

SARRIS: I think he was only nominated for one Oscar, for Sergeant York. And he never won an Oscar, of course. The first time I heard about him was when my friend Eugene Archer, went to Paris in the 1950s on a Fulbright. He wrote me a letter and said, “Who the hell is Howard Hawks?” He had signed a contract for a book that he was going to do about six directors: Elia Kazan, John Ford, George Stevens, and so on. The Cahiers people said, “Ugh! What about Howard Hawks and Hitchcock?”

And so he wrote me this letter; it’s the first time I heard anybody being so high on Hawks. I had seen a lot of Hawks’s movies in revival houses, so I was really up on him. But I couldn’t quite get him, because he had so many different genres. And that’s what the French loved about him, precisely. Because for instance, Hitchcock would never do a western or a musical. And then Dan Talbot ran a Hawks festival at the New Yorker Theater, and I wrote something about it. And I was writing for little publications.

And you were reading the French critics on Hawks?

SARRIS: Yeah, in Cahiers. Truffaut and Godard were just crazy about Hawks. And especially at that time, Rio Bravo had just come out, and that was, to them, huge. And here, people just thought it was another western.

And another thing, it was sort of an accident of film history. Robert Warshow wrote “The Gangster as Tragic Hero,” and he wrote about Little Caesar and The Public Enemy but he didn’t write about Scarface, because Scarface was not in general circulation for many years. It was a Howard Hawks picture, and the French had been on Scarface’s trail since ’32. So it was not just the Cahiers people. Even before Cahiers, Hawks was admired for Scarface. And all the other 1930s adventure films. But here in America, even Warshow didn’t know about Scarface. In fact, I hadn’t seen it when I was writing all these Hawks articles; it still wasn’t available. I only saw it very much later.

Million Dollar Movie

Oh, Baby.

Million Dollar Movie

Here’s Pauline Kael:

In 1928 Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote The Front Page, the greatest newspaper comedy of them all; Howard Hawks directed this version of it — a spastic explosion of dialogue, adapted by Charles Lederer, and starring Cary Grant as the domineering editor Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson, the unscrupulous crime reporter with printer’s ink in her veins. (In the play Hildy Johnson is a man.) Overlapping dialogue carries the movie along at breakneck speed; word gags take the place of the sight gags of silent comedy, as this race of brittle, cynical, childish people rush around on corrupt errands. Russell is at her comedy peak here — she wears a striped suit, uses her long-legged body for ungainly, unladylike effects, and rasps out her lines. And, as Walter Burns, Grant raises mugging to a joyful art. Burns’ callousness and unscrupulousness are expressed in some of the best farce lines ever written in this country, and Grant hits those lines with a smack. He uses the same stiff-neck cocked-head stance that he did in Gunga Din: it’s his position for all-out, unstuble farce. He snorts and whoops. His Burns is a strong-arm performance, defiantly self-centered and funny. The reporters — a fine crew — are Ernest Truex, Cliff Edwards, Porter Hall, Roscoe Karns, Frank Jenks, Regis Toomey; also with Gene Lockhart as the sheriff, Billy Gilbert as the messenger, John Qualen, Helen Mack, and Ralph Bellamy as chief stooge — a respectable businessman — and Alma Kruger as his mother.

The Front Page was made into a movie in 1931 and then remade as His Girl Friday. It’s about as good as American movie comedy gets. It’ll leave you dizzy.

Million Dollar Movie

For one week starting today, Film Forum is screening a new 35 mm print of Howard Hawks’ great 1938 comedy Bringing Up Baby.  Sheila O’Malley, who writes the terrific blog, The Sheila Variations, has a fun piece about the flick and it’s racy subtext at Capital New York.

Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Howard Hawks – what more can a movie lover ask for? This is one of the great screen comedies, folks, don’t miss it.

Million Dollar Movie

On a fishing trip in 1939, film director Howard Hawks told Ernest Hemingway:

“Ernest, you’re a damn fool. You need money, you know. You can’t do all the things you’d like to do. If I make three dollars in a picture, you get one of them. I can make a picture out of your worst story.”

“What’s my worst story?”

“That god damned bunch of junk called To Have and To Have Not [sic.].”

“You can’t make anything out of that.”

“Yes I can. You’ve got the character of Harry Morgan; I think I can give you the wife. All you have to do is make a story about how they met.”

It’s not a great movie but it is good entertainment (and the screenplay was co-written by William Faulkner of all people). Walter Brennan and Hoagy Carmichael are winning in supporting roles and Lauren Bacall practically burns a hole in the screen. Man, what poise, what a kitten:

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver