Term Paper: Howard Hawks, Auteur Giving

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[. . .] Hawks also was not adverse to putting the most masculine Cary Grant into woman's clothes as he did in I Was a War Bride, and also in Bringing Up Baby. However, one think Hawks didn't allow was for his characters to be effeminate, at least not while they were dressed as women.

Nicknames were another gender-bending trick pulled off by Hawks. Some of the men were called -- often ironically -- Spike, Speed, Buddy, Baldy, Cricket, Frenchy, Cherry, Skeely, Beeky, Chance, Pockets, Chips, and Mississippi. The women were Tommy, Texas, Slim, Fen, Nikki, Feathers, Brandy, Dallas, Easy, Tex, Gaby, and Maudie. While the men in Hawk's film were ultimately tough and did whatever a man's got to do, the women were equally tough. Though the censors saw to it that happily ever after -- and Hawks liked his happy endings -- meant married, Hawks rarely put on display anything remotely resembling an average family, with average family values.

According to his favorite script writer, Leigh Brackett,

Hawks values bravery, strength, expertise, loyalty, all the 'masculine' virtues.... So why should he give his women a position of equality -- often, indeed, dominance -- in a genre that usually relegates them either to being decorative in the hero's relaxed moments, or to looking doleful as the hero goes off about his business? I suspect that it's because Hawks doesn't like women in their negative aspect, and until he can accept a female character, as the hero must, as another man, or an asexual human being with the attributes he respects, he can't like her. And if he didn't like her, he wouldn't know what to do with her. Hawks has to like all his people (the villains are kept down to a minimum)... " (Tuska 128)

Hawks' stable of regulars actors was quite impressive including Bacall, Bogart, John Wayne and two actresses that couldn't act, but the camera loved, Carol Lombard and Marilyn Monroe. His favorite actor was Carey Grant. (it's been speculated that he would have created a bond film Casino royal had the involved studio hired Grant to play 007. Grant, like Hawks, was a consummate professional, who was well prepared and took great pride in his work. The fact that he was so handsome and loved by the camera and was willing to do whatever was needed make Grant the absolute perfect medium for Hawks.

Hawks work is also defined by what's not there. We can start with pretentiousness. No scene ever drags too long in a Hawks' film because it is soaking with sentimentality or because the film has a hidden social message. Hawks was notoriously apolitical,

Nowhere in Hawk's work does he show any interest in Ideas, abstracted from character, action, and situation: he has never evinced any desire to make a film on a given moral or social theme. He has always been quite free of the kind of ambitions or pretensions that most often bring directors into conflict with the commercial interests of production companies. The significance of his films never arises from the conscious treatment of a Subject." (Jastro online)

He had planned to make a film about Vietnam in the sixties, but pulled the plug because of the politically charged atmosphere of the time. He saw himself as an entertainer and believed that if he gave the audience three good scene and no bad ones, they would appreciate him for it.

The best thing to do is to tell a story as though you're seeing it. Tell it from your eyes. Let the audience see exactly as they would if they were there. Just tell it normally." (Jastro online)

Works Cited

Cohan, Steven. Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

Gehring, Wes D., ed. Handbook of American Film Genres. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Gehring and Largent. American Dark Comedy: Beyond Satire. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Jasto (2002). "Howard Hawks "Online at Books and Writers. Available:

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/hhawks.htm

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, ed. The Oxford History of World Cinema / . Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Tuska,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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