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Posts Tagged ‘Howard Hawks’

“My recipe for making movies has always been to give an audience two or three really top-notch scenes in every film and to try not to annoy them the rest of the time. If you can do that you will have made an entertaining picture.”
Producer/director Howard Hawks (Red River, Sergeant York, His Girl Friday)
Talk at Chicago Film Festival
via The Movie Makers: Artists in an Industry by Gene D. Phillips

Here are two memorable scenes with Howard Hawks connections. The first is from the film The Big Sky (1952) which Hawks directed, and the second film is Scarface (1983) directed by Brian DePalma from a script by Oliver Stone.  After seeing the original Scarface (1932) which Hawks directed, Al Pacino set theings in motion to star in a modern retelling of the story.

Scott W. Smith

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Now on the day that John Wayne died
I found myself on the Continental Divide
Tell me where do I go from here?
Think I’ll ride into Leadville and have a few beers
Think of “Red River” or “Liberty Valance”
Can’t believe the old man’s gone
Incommunicado (written by Jimmy Buffett, Deborah McColl, M.L. Benoit)

Until I started this Peter Bogdanovich thread last week I knew him as a producer/director/writer/actor/film historian/book author, but I didn’t know he was a blogger. He started Blogdanovich in 2010 and it’s hosted through Indiewire. Here’s a sample from his post Red River & My Darling Clementine.

“It’s still impressive as hell when you realize Red River was Hawks’ first Western (out of only five), that it was the beautiful and breathtakingly fine actor Montgomery Clift’s first picture (though released second), and that it was the movie which made John Wayne a superstar, the single most defining role of his career.  As Tom Dunson, playing a character nearly twenty years his senior, Wayne went from an attractive and reliable, though mild, young leading man to the tough, no-nonsense, usually unyielding, gruffly laconic loner he was to play most memorably for the rest of his career.

John Ford, who had rescued Wayne from B-picture oblivion with the director’s first sound Western, Stagecoach(1939), and then used him on three or four pictures in the ‘40s, was amazed:  ‘I didn’t know the big son-of-a-bitch could act,’ he said, and promptly cast Wayne in an even older role for She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.  In fact, Hawks told me, Wayne was always so identified with Ford, and Ford with Westerns, that people often thought Ford had directed Red River and would compliment Ford himself on the picture; and Ford, Hawks continued, always said, ‘Thank you very much.’  Yet when I asked Hawks if he’d been thinking of Ford while making the picture, he replied:  ‘It’s hard not to think of Jack Ford when you’re making a Western.  Hard not to think of him when you’re making any picture.’”
Peter Bogdanovich

That gives you a glimpse why Orson Welles once told Bogdanovich when asked who his favorite directors were, “I prefer the old masters; by which I mean: John Ford, John Ford and John Ford.”

If you’re not up on film history, have never seen an Ernst Lubitsch movie, don’t see what the big deal is about John Wayne, or if you—to use Bogdanovich’s words— think film history began with Raging Bull, check out Blogdanovich:

The Birth of a NationCity Lights, The Art of Buster KeatonO Rare Ernst Lubitsch,The Grapes of Wrath, The Philadelphia Story,  The 400 Blows will give you a good start.

P.S. What’s great about all of this is it continues what started on this blog in January after I saw Hugo & The Artist. Here at Screenwriting from Iowa, 2012 has turned into the year of film history appreciation. And if film history doesn’t excite you, I understand, I dropped the first film history class I ever took at the University of Miami. It’s people like Bogdanovich who can connect the dots for you.

Related posts:
Writing “The Jazz Singer”
The Founder of Hollywood

The Father of Film (Part 1)
You Tube Film School (Early Film History)
Mr. Silent Films
For the Love of Movies
Stagecoach” Revisted

Scott W. Smith

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“Auteurism today? Well, everybody thinks they’re an auteur. But nobody seems to understand what the whole auteur thing was. It wasn’t a theory as far as the French were concerned. It was a political statement called la politique des auteurs. Truffaut and Godard were attacking the old-fashioned, well-made film, French or American. They thought Howard Hawks was an infinitely better director than Fred Zinnemann. They thought Alfred Hitchcock was a greater director than David Lean. They were against Marcel Carné  and for Jean Renoir. Personal films were what they looking for, where a director’s personality dominated despite who wrote it or who was in it or who photographed it.”
Peter Bogdanovich
“Everybody thinks they’re an auteur” article by Vince Cosgrove
New York Daily News/March 2012

P.S. In the interview, Bogdanovich mentions that his favorite books about movies “include The Parade’s Gone By by Keven Brownlow, The American Cinema by Andrew Sarris, Adventures with D.W. Griffith by Karl Brown and Growing Up in Hollywood by Robert Parrish.

Scott W. Smith

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“The best drama for me is one which shows a man in danger. There is no action when there is no danger. To live or die? What drama is greater?”
Howard Hawks*
Director— Scarface (1932), Sergent York, Rio Bravo, His Girl Friday, The Big Sleep
Interviews with Film Directors
Edited by Andrew Sarris

*Hawks was one of those directors that bridged the silent era with the talkies. He was born in Goshen, Indiana in 1896 and made his first film in 1926— The Road to Glory starring Carole Lombard. According to IMDB, that film is about “a woman who is blinded in an auto accident and relies on prayer to regain her sight”— so I’m not sure that fits Hawks’s above quote. But his Scarface fits the bill:

Last week I saw a contemporary version of the question “To live or die?”, The Grey, starring Liam Neeson and written by Joe Camahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers. The tag line is “LIVE OR DIE ON THIS DAY.” Intense stuff. 

P.S. Both Scarface and The Grey are great example of that great quote by Stanley Elkin, “I would never write about a character who is not at the end of his rope.” And one doesn’t have to be facing life or death to be at the end of their rope as Erin Brockovich and Winter’s Bone prove. (Though both of those female-driven films do have an element of life or death in them.)

Related posts:
What’s at Stake? (Tip #9)
Screenwriting Quote #132 (Kurosawa) —Howard Hawks was an influence on Kurosawa.

Scott W. Smith

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I wrote in my last post (Screenwriting from Japan) that many Japanese films are about respect and honor. Akira Kurosawa, who was the youngest of eight children, was born in Toyko in 1910 and would go on as a film director and screenwriter to gain the respect and honor of some of the greatest filmmakers in history including Fellini, Bergman, Spielberg, Lucas, and Coppola.

Martin Scorsese said of Kurosawa, “His influence on filmmakers throughout the entire world is so profound as to be almost incomparable.”

But one of the things that may make his films so accessible and enduring to those outside Japan is that Kurosawa was influenced by Frank Capra, William Wyler, Howard Hawks, John Ford and  William Shakespere.

And if you want to follow a nice exercise of how creativity is passed around read Shakespere’s King Lear and watch Kurosawa’s Ran. Watch Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) and then watch The Magnificent Seven (1960). Read Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan IIyich and then watch Kurosawa’s Ikiru.

As original as we think we are, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” But it doesn’t hurt to expose yourself to the wisdom and creativity of great artists from the past.

”With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can produce a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. The script must be something that has the power to do this.”
Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa died in 1998, but look for some celebrations coming as the 100th anniversary of his birth arrives March 23. And for a list of Kurosawa’s films check out The Criterion Collection.

And, for good measure, I’ll toss in this quote by Tom Cruise;

“I was 18 when I saw Akira Kurosawa’s Shinchinin no samurai (Seven Samurai). After about 30 seconds, I realized that this was not just a cultural thing, it was universal. Years later, I read Bushido. It talked about many things that I strive for in my own life: loyalty, compassion, responsibility, the idea of looking back on your life and taking responsibility for everything you’ve ever done. I’m fascinated by the samurai and the samurai code – it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to make The Last Samurai.”

Scott W. Smith

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