Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man' Is "Definitely A Sony Picture," Talks Role Of 'Ant-Man' In Phase 3, More Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man' Is "Definitely A Sony Picture," Talks Role Of 'Ant-Man' In Phase 3, More First Reviews For 'Terminator Genisys' Suggest Franchise Didn't Need To Say "I'll Be Back" First Reviews For 'Terminator Genisys' Suggest Franchise Didn't Need To Say "I'll Be Back" Kit Harington & Dakota Fanning Replace Robert Pattinson & Mia Wasikowska In 'Brimstone' Kit Harington & Dakota Fanning Replace Robert Pattinson & Mia Wasikowska In 'Brimstone' The Essentials: The 5 Best Colin Farrell Perfomances The Essentials: The 5 Best Colin Farrell Perfomances Review: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 1, ‘The Western Book of the Dead,' How It Differs From Season 1 & More Review: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 1, ‘The Western Book of the Dead,' How It Differs From Season 1 & More First Listen: Here's Your 'True Detective' Season 2 Theme Song & The First Episode Music Cues First Listen: Here's Your 'True Detective' Season 2 Theme Song & The First Episode Music Cues The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far 'The Leftovers' Reboots For Season 2, Switches Setting And Makes Casting Changes 'The Leftovers' Reboots For Season 2, Switches Setting And Makes Casting Changes The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

The Essentials: 5 Great Howard Hawks Films

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist May 30, 2012 at 10:56AM

We love a chamelonic director here at The Playlist, and Howard Hawks was one of the first, and one of the best. Across a 55-year career that spanned silents and talkies, black-and-white and color, Hawks tackled virtually every genre under the sun, often turning out films that still stand as among the best in that style. Romantic comedy? Two of the finest ever. War? "To Have And Have Not" and "Sergeant York," the latter of which won him his only Best Director Academy Award nomination (though he did win an Honorary Award in 1975, two years before his death). Science-fiction? The much ripped-off "The Thing From Another World." Gangster movies? "Scarface," which practically invented a whole genre. From film noir and melodrama to Westerns and musicals, Hawks took them all in his stride.
2
The Essentials Howard Hawks

We love a chamelonic director here at The Playlist, and Howard Hawks was one of the first, and one of the best. Across a 55-year career that spanned silents and talkies, black-and-white and color, Hawks tackled virtually every genre under the sun, often turning out films that still stand as among the best in that style. Romantic comedy? Two of the finest ever. War?  "To Have And Have Not" and "Sergeant York," the latter of which won him his only Best Director Academy Award nomination (though he did win an Honorary Award in 1975, two years before his death). Science-fiction? The much ripped-off "The Thing From Another World." Gangster movies? "Scarface," which practically invented a whole genre. From film noir and melodrama to Westerns and musicals, Hawks took them all in his stride.

The filmmaker famously said that the secret to a good movie was "three great scenes and no bad ones," and he hit that target many times. The director was born 116 years ago today, on May 30th, 1896, and to commemmorate the occasion, we've picked out five films that we consider to be the very finest that he ever made. We could have gone on and on, so we're sure you'll disagree -- let us know your own favorites in the comments section below.

Bringing Up Baby

"Bringing Up Baby" (1938)
Boy meets girl. Girl stalks boy in order to get him to look after her leopard. Girl falls in love with boy who's about to get married. Girl's dog steals dinosaur bone. Leopard runs away. Boy and girl sent to prison. Boy ends up in a dress. Boy falls in love with girl. Not exactly a Garry Marshall movie, as far as romantic comedies go, but so much the better. Howard Hawks' 1938 film neatly followed the template established by "It Happened One Night" in setting up a boy and a girl -- in this case soon-to-be-wed paleontologist David (Cary Grant) and prototypical Manic Pixie Dream Girl heiress Susan (Katharine Hepburn) -- to bicker and flirt across a series of adventures before falling in love at the end. But the formula was never quite as perfect as it was here, in part because Hawks retained what's so often absent in romantic comedies today. Simply, "Bringing Up Baby" is one of the funniest films ever made, riding the outstanding chemistry between Grant and Hepburn, each arguably giving the performance of their careers, through a series of uproarious set pieces. But as funny as the film is, Grant and Hepburn's courtship feels genuinely hard won, and you don't question the way that Grant's defenses gradually come down. It's also unusually subversive, especially for the era -- Grant is increasingly feminized, even to the point of ending up in a dress ("Because I just went gay all of a sudden!"), while Hepburn was always one of the more masculine starlets, and it's her that's doing the pursuing. The film was something of a failure at the box office, and Hawks was released from his contract at RKO as a a result, but history is firmly on his side on this one.

Only Angels Have Wings

"Only Angels Have Wings" (1939)
Significantly overshadowed by some of his other films of the era, these days at least, "Only Angels Have Wings" might be one of Hawks' very finest pictures. It's a big, broad melodrama set among the men of a tiny, struggling mail air service in South America, who take risky flights over the Andes daily. As it opens, the men, including Geoff (Cary Grant) and his best friend Kid (Thomas Mitchell) are callously talking about the death of a colleague, but we soon discover it's the only way they can cope with a job that means that every flight could be their last. Things are heightened with a group of new arrivals. There's Bonnie (Jean Arthur), a singer who takes a shine to Geoff, and than there's Bat (Richard Barthelmess), along with his wife Judy (a breakthrough role for Rita Hayworth). Bat's loathed by the others after he bailed on a crashing plane, leaving Kid's brother to die, but Geoff needs pilots, and hires him, putting him only on the most dangerous routes. It's a heady dramatic mix, but Hawks gives the interplay between Arthur and Grant real spark and complexity, and when the hyper-masculine fronts of the actors slip -- from Bat's redemption, to Geoff breaking down at the death of his friend -- it's genuinely moving. The flight sequences still thrill 73 years on (it was one of the nominees for the very first Special Effects Oscars, although was beaten by "The Rains Came") and the performances across the board are terrific. A lost classic that more than deserves to have its reputation boosted, "Only Angels Have Wings" is well worth seeking out.

This article is related to: The Essentials, On This Day In Movie History, Howard Hawks, Features


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates