By Peter Bogdanovich | Peter Bogdanovich November 26, 2012 at 10:57PM
These are the final ten cards on the films of Howard Hawks, seen 1952-1970. The very last is also Hawks’ final picture as a director, and not one of his best, as Howard would have been the first to tell you. But it’s always a pleasure to be in his company, even on a less than auspicious occasion.
THE DAWN PATROL (1938; d: Edmund Goulding; uncredited: Howard Hawks).
1966: Poor* (Hawks' flying and battle footage lifted, almost intact, from his The Dawn Patrol is the only good thing in this weak remake, which has added war-is-hell monologues and thoroughly botched the honor-among-men overtones of the original; the photography has lost the dark intensity, the actors lack the conviction. Just another exhibit in the case for the director as author.)
1966: Very good (Clearly a Hawks film, though Wyler was given credit for about a reel’s work, it is not among his best or most personal --- but it is nonetheless a fine and engrossing picture about an ambitious logger who gives up a girl he loves for power and success, only to have it haunt and affect his whole life. Well acted by Edward Arnold, Frances Farmer, Walter Brennan, directed with an impeccable sense of mood and period, filled with Hawksian touches; an entertaining and at the last, a moving film by a great director.)
Added 1969: (The first third is most successful, with several memorable sequences; Frances Farmer is very haunting.)
THE GREAT PROFESSIONAL (1967; d: Nicholas Garnham (editorial supervision), Peter Bogdanovich (interview), Howard Hawks (clips).
1968: (A one-hour programme for the BBC-TV series, The Movies, about the career of Howard Hawks, featuring an interview with the director, and clips from nine of his films, from Scarface to El Dorado. A fair introduction to his work --- perhaps overly simplistic, certainly unimaginative in exposition --- but intelligent and literate; the clips are marvelous, though better ones could have been chosen; my interview had better portions also, which were left out. Still, it is something that could never have appeared on U.S. television, and is therefore laudable in intent if not in execution.)
A SONG IS BORN (1948; d: Howard Hawks).
1968: Fair* (An almost verbatim remake of Hawks’ own Ball of Fire, with Danny Kaye playing [Gary] Cooper --- which gives already some indication of the dropping of values --- and Virginia Mayo as Barbara Stanwyck; the encyclopedia the professors are working on is not the slang entry but music. Otherwise, the setups and the quality of the mise-en-scene is identical; everything else varies for the worse, though not unentertaining. Hawks’ hand remains clearly visible.)
FAZIL (1928; d: Howard Hawks).
1969: Fair (Some interesting transitional effects, a generally effective mood of sensuality, and good taste distinguishes this otherwise pretty dreary Hawks assignment about an Arabian sheik and the European woman he loves, marries, makes miserable, dies with. Charles Farrell has been better cast. There is some good humor now and then, but it is not in the least personal to Hawks, though he brings it off professionally, and even a little better than that.)
1969: Good* (A fatally flawed work because of Metro’s insistence on Joan Crawford for a small role, which necessitated expanding the part out of all proportion; thus the first three reels are pretty unbearable, and have about as much to do with Hawks --- in look and feel --- as the average MGM product; but when we move into the war, we are suddenly into a Hawks movie --- dark, fatalistic, fast and exciting --- about fliers and British sailors of a special torpedo squadron whose missions are almost all suicidal in danger. The action sequences are literally breathtaking, and the story of sacrifice and professionalism under hazardous conditions is typically Hawksian. Franchot Tone, Crawford and Cooper are none of them very good, and Robert Young is just passable, but it is visually distinctive.)
THE PRIZEFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1933; d: W.S. Van Dyke; uncredited: Howard Hawks).
1969: Fair (Likeable prizefight story about the rise of a cocky bouncer, his love for a racketeer’s girl, various indiscretions and final comeuppance. Max Baer is hopeless in the lead and Myrna Loy is only somewhat better in the girl’s part, but Van Dyke keeps it moving and Hawks’ minor contributions of tough dialogue and unusual characters have their salutary effect.)
TEST PILOT (1938; d: Victor Fleming; w (uncredited): Howard Hawks).
1969: Fair (A good example of a Hawks project without his taste or handling to guide it; it therefore almost becomes a parody of Hawks’ “love affairs between men” --- Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy being the pair in question. Some scenes serve only as weak reminders of typically glorious Hawks situations but no scene really gets off the ground. Still it is mildly diverting and provocative because of its reverberations; it is also a perfect example of the indispensability of the director.)
THE CRADLE SNATCHERS (1927; d: Howard Hawks).
1969: Good (Light, brisk, airy silent Hawks comedy about three married women who take up with some college boys to pay back their husbands for being unfaithful. Slim plot but excellently paced and played with considerable charm; an efficient minor work.)
1970: Very good* (Hawks’ third version of the Rio Bravo -El Dorado theme, and the weakest of the three, but still an entertaining and strikingly professional John Wayne western. Beautifully directed and photographed with Hawks’ touches and intelligence.)
Added 1970: (Really pretty weak, I’m afraid; personal and assured, but not well acted and done without a great deal of enthusiasm.)