Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Sort of Got Semi-Linked By Roger Ebert

Not actually a direct link, but Roger Ebert in his piece on Rio Bravo links to a video compilation I created called "The Howard Hawks Woman." I wrote about that video back in 2007 when I put it together; it feels great to have it used as an illustration of Hawks's penchant for self-borrowing.

I should add that -- I believe Pauline Kael was the first to point this out -- some of the tropes we associate with the Hawks woman also come from Jules Furthman, who was writer or one of the writers on To Have and Have Not, Only Angels Have Wings, The Big Sleep and Rio Bravo. He loved tough-but-vulnerable women with a past as much as Hawks did, and he's a big part of the reason why Angels, To Have and Rio Bravo all have the same heroine under different names.

But it's still fair to say that this is primarily a Hawks character, because Furthman's versions of this character for other directors (he wrote several movies for Von Sternberg) are a little different, because Red River has that same type of character even though Furthman didn't write it, and because so much of it comes from the way Hawks directed his actresses, ordering them to look, act, gesture and cry a certain way. (Almost every Hawks heroine does what I might call the "angry cry," weeping and being angry and frustrated at the same time like Dru at the end of Red River.) Jean Arthur didn't like being molded into Hawks's ideal woman when he directed Only Angels Have Wings, which may be part of the reason why he mostly stopped working with established female stars after that (except in comedy), preferring to find young actresses with potential who would do what he told them to.

He also, of course, would lose interest in them as soon as they no longer could be counted upon to do exactly what he told them; when he cast Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo it was expected that he would make more movies with her -- as you can see from this article, where the author takes it as a given that she'll be "in any film he directs" -- but to Dickinson's disappointment, he never offered her another role. His method of working with actresses is a strange mix, then, because while he allowed actresses to bring out more of their individual personalities than they did under other directors (Dickinson, Paula Prentiss, Marianna Hill and many others get to use more distinctive body language and facial expressions than most directors allowed them to), yet he also wanted them to be just a certain way, to fit that ideal female character he kept trying to create, and would dump them if they seemed likely to rebel.


Ricardo Cantoral said...

I just found out recently Hawks was interested in making Casino Royale with Cary Grant in 1962. He decided not to do it after he saw a early print of Dr.No that same here.

I would have actually loved to see Grant as Bond in the 50's, especially in MOONRAKER directed by Alfred Hitchcock. As a matter of fact Grant was offered the role in Dr.No but declined due to his age.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

The Big Sleep strikes me as an indication of what a Hawks James Bond movie would probably have been like -- not a lot of action, a lot of changes from the book, a lot of Hawksian obsession with the issue of which people the hero does and doesn't approve of, and of course, lots of beautiful girls. It would have been interesting; the Fleming material wasn't necessarily a bad fit for Hawks.

Anonymous said...

The entire Bond film franchise owes a great debt to Hitchcock's "North by Northwest."