Thursday, June 18, 2009

Three Good Scenes And No Bad Ones

Howard Hawks gets my vote for the most versatile director of all time. The man could direct anything. Comedy, noir, horror/sci-fi, and Westerns. Sure, many other directors have worked in several genres, but Hawks's contribution to every genre is incredible. Consider this:

-His Girl Friday is considered by many to be the quintessential screwball comedy.

-The Big Sleep. It's either this or The Maltese Falcon that's the best hard-boiled detective/film noir movie ever made.

-I'm partial to Rio Bravo, but Hawks also directed Red River. Two of the finest Westerns ever made. If you've never seen Rio Bravo, just watch the first five minutes - it's one of the best openings to any movie I've ever seen. There's literally no dialogue for most of it, yet we learn everything we need to about the characters, and we feel like we absolutely have to keep watching the film to see what happens to them.

-Let's not forget that he was largely responsible for The Thing. He's listed as producer, but apparently he oversaw most of the production and some claim he took over as director halfway through filming. The Thing is the perfect blend of old school sci-fi and horror.

-He also directed Sergeant York and To Have and Have Not.

The title of the post refers to Hawks's belief that, in order to make a good film, all you needed was "three good scenes, and no bad ones." That may be true, but most of his movies contain three great scenes and many, many good ones. It just doesn't get any better than when Margaret Sheridan opens the door and The Thing is standing right there; than when Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson pass the time between shoot-outs by singing a couple of tunes; or than when Bogart and Bacall...basically do anything together.


seanag said...

I can't claim any huge expertise on Hawks, but I did see him once. I was still in high school, but we had a devoted English teacher who ran a film club, and took that tiny contingent--it was before the days of video, so fledgling film buffs were few on the ground--to the San Francisco Film Festival each year. The first year I went, they were having a Hawks retrospective one afternoon. We saw some snippets of various things and then watched Bringing Up Baby. Somewhere in there, Hawks came out and was interviewed and answered questions. I suppose it was wasted on me, really, but I enjoyed it at whatever level I was at. Apparently Scarface also played, though contractually forbidden, and I think I may have seen it, because I know I saw it somewhere, but it's hazy. Probably what stood out more for me was that Claude Jarman, who was the boy in The Yearling, was there, all grown up, because he was the executive director of the festival. I mean, at least I knew who he was...

adrian mckinty said...

Bringing Up Baby was a huge flop at the time but its an all time classic. Nearly as funny as HGF.

Brian O'Rourke said...

That's really cool you got to see Hawks. I don't know much beyond what I posted about him, but I do remember hearing on a podcast somewhere that he thought himself a terrible writer. Which is funny, because he came up with some of the snappiest dialogue ever.

Brian O'Rourke said...

BUB is one of Dad's favorite movies. I haven't seen it in a long time, but I remember enjoying it. Didn't you say HGF was the only movie you wish had more dialogue?

seanag said...

I have a pretty vivid visual memory of seeing him, but no real sense of what he said. He seemed very genial, though.