Howard Hawks (Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series)
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Prolific director Howard Hawks made films in nearly every genre, from gangster movies like Scarface to comedies like Bringing Up Baby and Monkey Business and westerns like Rio Bravo. In this new edition of a classic text, author Robin Wood explores the ways in which Hawks pushed the boundaries of each genre and transformed the traditional forms in new, interesting, and creative ways. This reprint also contains an exciting new introduction by Wood, which shows how his thinking about Hawks has deepened over time without fundamentally changing.
Since its original publication in 1972, Wood's Howard Hawks has set the terms for virtually all subsequent discussions of the director. The provocative chapters demonstrate the ways in which Hawks's films were affected by the director's personality and way of looking at and feeling things, and by his celebration of instinct, self-respect, group responsibility, and male camaraderie. Wood's connections between the professionalism of Hawks's action films and comedies, with their "lure of irresponsibility," has become a standard way of conceptualizing Hawks's films and the model to which all later critical work has had to respond. This book remains as contemporary as when it was first released, although it is grounded in the auteur period of its publication.
Robin Wood has stubbornly resisted the trends of academic film studies and in so doing has remained one of its most influential voices. Certain to be of interest to film scholars and students, this book will also be particularly useful as a text for university courses on Hawks, popular cinema, and authorship in film.
The wordless first minutes of the film are a good example of Hawks's use of actions to speak for themselves. Why does Dude strike Chance down? Why does Chance, despite his injury, so rashly-on the face of it hopelessly-follow and try to arrest J oe Burdett? Why does Dude help him? We feel we know the answers to all these questions, though they are never spelt out. All are essential to the film, and to what Hawks stands for. The flooring of Chance establishes the basis on which Dude's whole
funny of Hawks's successful comedies, however (for it is on the whole successful), lies in its very nature. No other comedy, surely, has looked so drab. The credit sequence, with Grant riding in a jeep past acres of bomb ruins, sets the tone. The settings-military offices, bare corridors, dark inn-room-are uniformly dingy, the lighting even more subdued than usual in a Hawks comedy; there are many night scenes. Even when the film moves briefly out into open country there is no brilliance. The
Dunson, are tremendously expressive. The balance of betrayal and loyalty here takes us back to the 'trust' on which the relationship was founded: 'Never trust anyone until you know them' Dunson told Matthew when they first met, and a minute later gave the boy back his gun and turned his back. Events prove Matthew's decision right: the railroad does reach as far west as Abilene, the herd does get there, he has earned his initial on the brand. Yet we are kept aware that the achievement is a joint
tension it appears to be resolving was resolved much earlier in the film. What the logic of the narrative demands is a further development of the relationship; Hawks, unable to imagine this, produces only repetition. Interestingly, the corresponding scene in El Dorado, resolving the Wayne/Charlene Holt relationship, is simply absent, a curious and troubling hiatus in the narrative (troubling, that is, in terms of the expectations Hollywood narrative traditionally satisfies). In the Hawks universe
Thing, Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo, James Caan in Hl Dorado. Reversals The sexual relationships in Hawks's work have finally to be seen in the 183 context of its most curious and consistent phenomenon, the obsession with reversal-patterns. It is a commonplace of Hawks criticism that his entire work is structured on reversal: the opposition between the adventure films and the comedies, however one reads it. The opposition is not as neat or complete as is sometimes suggested: it is synthesised,