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Getting into Howard Hawks

by Jon Corelis
Howard Hawks remains a neglected director. He worked with (and in several cases arguably discovered) some of the greatest Hollywood stars, and has been called one of the greatest directors by critics from some of the French Cahiers-influenced film students of the sixties to respected film historian David Thomson, who has written that his ten “Desert Island” picks would all be Hawks movies. On the other hand, among most viewers of classic films today, Hawks never seems to have escaped his reputation as a workmanlike director of popular genre pictures, but nothing more. For instance, checking over three or four randomly selected “All Time… Read more

Howard Hawks remains a neglected director. He worked with (and in several cases arguably discovered) some of the greatest Hollywood stars, and has been called one of the greatest directors by critics from some of the French Cahiers-influenced film students of the sixties to respected film historian David Thomson, who has written that his ten “Desert Island” picks would all be Hawks movies. On the other hand, among most viewers of classic films today, Hawks never seems to have escaped his reputation as a workmanlike director of popular genre pictures, but nothing more. For instance, checking over three or four randomly selected “All Time Greats” lists on Auteurs, I find not a single Hawks film.

I feel, like Thomson, that Hawks is one of the handful of greatest geniuses of the cinema, so I want to offer this list of recommendations for anyone who wants to explore, or reconsider, his work. This is not exactly a “best” list: it’s designed to gather together a group of his most enjoyable and accessible films which will also be good illustrations of the recurrent themes that Hawks adroitly bends his genres to explore. Thanks for looking at it, and I hope it leads some Auteurs members to some worth while viewing.

Note: Please add also to this list Barbary Coast, which I think is a very underrated film.

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