Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

My 13 Favorite Howard Hawks Films

Howard-Hawks
Name someone who defined the gangster on film — and way, way before Coppola or Scorsese. Who would also go on to shape the screwball comedy, too. Might as well throw in the dark of film noir into the mix. Plus, take on that other Hollywood staple, the Western, challenging John Ford’s domain. And use John Wayne perhaps even more effectively. The answer would be one Howard Winchester Hawks (by the way, John Carpenter’s favorite director).

He not only covered all these genres, he made them exceedingly well. Likely, the most versatile director, before or since. I can watch his films anytime. Either planned or as I stumble across them channel surfing. As my contribution, and celebrating the start, of the Howard Hawks Blogathon hosted at Seetimaar — Diary of a Movie Lover, here is my list of the 13 favorite films by The Silver Fox. Why this number? Well, if you don’t know by now, it’s my favorite.

Drumroll, please…

vector-para-divider

Cary-Grant-and-Rosalind

1. His Girl Friday – it’s unfathomable to me that the AFI left this completely off their Top Ten list for Romantic Comedy! Howard Hawks film not only fits the definition for this genre, it actually exceeds it with a dream pair of leads (Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell) delivering on a stellar script. Funny, smart, and lightning quick on its feet, the film is one of the few remakes that surpassed the original by leaps and bounds.

red-river

2. Red River – no question, Howard Hawks had to be on any list that included the Western. For all its sense of epic, as portrayed by the film’s grand cattle drive, the film was really a character study of those living on the desperate plains. A 40s film, with a great cast that included a young Montgomery Clift and the Hawksian Woman Joanne Dru, that set the standard for the next decade over. Its other secret was that John Wayne portrayed the villain.

the-big-sleep_bogie_babe

3. The Big Sleep – Howard Hawks helped to turn Humphrey Bogart into a matinée idol with this motion picture. No doubt helped by mannerisms still known today by the multitude of Bogie fans. As well, he only cemented his mainstay Hawksian Woman tradition with another Lauren Bacall performance tailored for the screen. Who cares that explaining story, like the novel, would take away from the noir splendor on display.

Cary-Grant-Katharine-Hepburn

4. Bringing Up Baby – If you enjoyed Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up Doc? in the 70s, this film was its progenitor. As usual, Hawks helped to refine the screwball comedy. To such a degree, his name is almost synonymous with the genre (among others). Fast moving, rhythmic dialog, and a sharp woman character, being the hallmarks. Cary Grant starred, once more, with a Kate Hepburn that could cut you to ribbons.

rio_bravo

5. Rio Bravo – Yes, this was the overtly unofficial response to Fred Zinneman’s allegorical (think Hollywood’s Blacklisting and Red Scare) High Noon. But that doesn’t stop it from being excellent on its own. Hawks might have been the best at getting the most out of the older John Wayne. Another character-led western that got great work out of its marvelous cast that included crooner Dean Martin and Angie Dickinson.

To-have-and-have-not

6. To Have And Have Not – loosely based on the Hemingway novel, this Hawks film would be the Humphrey Bogart, WWII classic double-feature I’d bill together with my all-time favorite. The ageless Casablanca. With its snappy dialogue, entertaining story, and the leads (Bogart and Lauren Bacall) falling in love with each other on screen, and for real, it’s the perfect complement to the Michael Curtiz classic, I think.

only-angels-have-wings

7. Only Angels Have Wings – The one film my friend and author Joe Maddrey convinced me to finally check out via his fine article from last year. I was grateful he did since it’s as great as its reputation. Cary Grant (in a role you’d think better suited for John Wayne, but he surprises), Jean Arthur and cast (don’t forget Rita Hayworth) in a film that lands high up in the classic-rich year of 1939.

ball of fire - cooper_stanwyck

8. Ball of Fire – Come on, with Barbara Stanwyck portraying someone by the name of Sugarpuss O’Shea, with all the smart and sass of a classic Hawksian heroine, what’s not to love? Oh, and Gary Cooper is in it, too. Inspired by “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs”, if you can believe it, this ’41 classic is another screwball comedy that was among the best this genre ever put out. Hawks definitely had a way with these.

Scarface

9. Scarface – No way in Hell you can ignore this gangster classic by Howard Hawks. As has been stated by those who’d know, the film defined this category of cinema. Paul Muni’s chilling portrayal, beautifully and brutally staged by the director, should not to be missed by classic film aficionados, or just about any fan of movies. De Palma’s remake gets all the attention of late, but this started it.

I was a male war bride

10. I Was A Male War Bride – I admit, this film is a soft spot for me. The second Howard Hawks I ever saw as a kid — staying up and watching late-Saturday night TV. His Red River being the first. And with my favorite actor in it once more, Cary Grant, in the most extraordinary of WWII situations, as well. But when you have Ann Sheridan by your side, and this director at the helm, you have to know all will be happily solved by the end.

MonkeyBusiness_chalkboard

11. Monkey Business – An underrated, throw-back screwball comedy, as Howard Hawks was known to steal from himself in such things. A great pairing (their second) of Cary Grant (who by now you know was a Hawks favorite) and Ginger Rogers. Did I mention Marilyn Monroe was in this, too? Definitely worth seeing for the fans of each of these fantastic performers. Surely, a must for Hawks’ base.

el dorado

12. El Dorado – Howard Hawks essentially did three versions of the same western (Rio Bravo being the first and best). Yet this, the middle edition, was undoubtably his best redux. Improving on cast — I mean, Robert Mitchum for Dean Martin, James Caan for Ricky Nelson…come on! — it proved that Hawks, even at this late-stage of his career, merely by repeating himself was still better than most filmmakers out there.

the-thing-from-another-world

13. The Thing From Another World – Yeah, I know Christian Nyby gets the chair credit for this film, and Hawks denied he ever directed the film. But you’re not going convince me (or any fan of Howard Hawks) this was not his. All his trademarks are there in this sci-fi classic. With Maggie Sheridan in true Hawksian mode especially — her banter alone with Kenneth Tobey certainly qualifies — this doesn’t get enough credit for being what it was.

Advertisements

50 Responses to “My 13 Favorite Howard Hawks Films”

  1. Nostra

    I hang my head in shame and admit I’ve only seen The Big Sleep out of all of these! Which one should I check out first?

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Well, I’m naturally inclined to have you look at ‘His Girl Friday’ since it’s my top pick, but any here you’ve not seen are more than worthy. Thanks, Nostra!

      Like

      Reply
  2. Cavershamragu

    Hawks was a great filmmaker and a major player int he Golden Age of Hollywood, no question. Personally I would exclude MONEY BUSINESS in favour of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES perhaps and would love to have THE CROWD ROARS and SERGEANT YORK in there somewhere. I do like his version of BIG SLEEP a lot but don’t consider it much of a Noir though – great list Mike.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Great to have your thoughts on this filmmaker, Sergio. Can’t go wrong with the like of ‘Sergeant York’ and ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. I need to check out ‘The Crowd Roars’, that’s for sure. Thank you very much, my friend.

      Like

      Reply
  3. Fogs' Movie Reviews

    I surprised myself at how many of these I’ve actually seen, including the Original Scarface, which I just checked out the other day for the first time!

    Havent seen Bringing Up Baby, Red River, or His Girl Friday though, to my great shame. I’ll have to soon… great list Le0p, his filmography looks extremely impressive when its all laid out like that!! 😀 Nice post, bud.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      That’s great, Fogs! Let me know what you think when you catch those you’ve missed. Hawks is one of the all-time great, for sure. Thanks, my friend.

      Like

      Reply
  4. ruth

    Boy I’ve only seen Bringing Up Baby which I’ve enjoyed, so I really should catch up on his other films. The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday and Ball of Fire look particularly intriguing! Esp the last one w/ the tall, dark and handsome Gary Cooper 😀 Awesome post Michael!

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Yeah, I think once you’ve seen more of the type of film Howard Hawks became famous for, you’ll become a big fan. Ah, a Gary Cooper fan. You’ve got class, alright ;-). Many thanks, Ruth.

      Like

      Reply
  5. Howard Hawks Blogathon- Day 1 « Seetimaar-Diary of a Movie Lover

    […] Take of leopards, and you have Howard Hawks classic Screwball Comedy, Bringing up Baby.  And from an author who calls himself the LeOpard, aka Michael Alatorre,  we have a run down on Howard Hawks classics down the years. Michael who in his own words was “born in the 50s, grew up in the 60s, but i survived the 70s ”, into tech, runs his own movie blog It Rains You Get Wet.   And here he takes us through the 13 best movies of  Hawks. […]

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      You’ll get no argument from me concerning ‘The Big Sleep’. I sure there will be others writing about that classic during the blogathon. Many thanks, keith :-).

      Like

      Reply
  6. jackdeth72

    Excellent post and critique, my friend!

    The great thing about Hawks is that he could cover action, comedy and drama with elegant ease. And more often than not had the reputation to get who he wanted. When he wanted.

    Thanks also for expanding on my ‘Women of Howard Hawks’ guest post for Ruth. All were exceptional in their brains, beauty and never put in anything so tacky as a Cat fight. Setting an unwritten standard that the men should never be given undue advantage over the actions of the women.

    Great catches with ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘El Dorado’. It’s always a treat when handsome leading men and gruff tough guys are given rein to exercise their comedic chops. And ‘Monkey Business’ has that write large for Cary Grant. While Mitchum goofily, shaggily rocks in ‘El Dorado’!

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Oh, thank you very much, Kevin. And your ‘Women of Howard Hawks’ guest post was an inspiration. Got to love the woman characters Hawks put onscreen.

      “All were exceptional in their brains, beauty and never put in anything so tacky as a Cat fight.”

      Indeed! Glad to hear we’re simpatico re: ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘El Dorado’. There just so much to enjoy with this filmmaker.

      Like

      Reply
  7. Garrett

    Very nice list! His Girl Friday would definitely be at the top of mine too. It’s one of my favorite comedies.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Great! ‘His Girl Friday’ is going to get a lot of attention during blog event, no doubt. Many thanks, Garrett :-).

      Like

      Reply
  8. Aurora

    My Hawks “have seens” list is deficient, RED RIVER, BALL OF FIRE and EL DORADO!! I get closer and closer to quitting my job!

    Excellent list laced with your usual on-point commentary! Great stuff all around, Micahel!

    Aurora

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      We need to expand that list, Aurora :-). Hawks has such a great classic and varied inventory of film. Thank you very much for the kind words.

      Like

      Reply
    • le0pard13

      I think you’d enjoy any of the films that will come under a spotlight during this blogathon, ckckred. Many thanks.

      Like

      Reply
  9. Marianne

    Cary Grant and Howard Hawks got me through most of my teenage years. I used to daydream I’d marry a black and white Brit.

    Like

    Reply
  10. janderoo92

    Loved your post, and credit to Howard Hawks. He was way up there in my estimation too. I’m very happy to see Ball of Fire up on a list. It’s one of my big favorites. It was scripted by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, before BW started directing for himself.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Thank you very kindly, j :-). And because of putting this list together, I’m planning on introducing ‘Ball of Fire’ to my kids fairly soon. Knowing Billy Wilder scripted this proves its pedigree.

      Like

      Reply
  11. John DuMond

    Great list, and it includes a couple movies I haven’t seen yet (but plan to). You and I agree on SCARFACE, it set the standard for modern gangster movies.

    Like

    Reply
  12. Le

    Hawks worked with so many different genres that it’s very difficult to rank his best movies! I’ve never thought of doing a list of my favorite Hawks films, but, right now, Bringing Up Baby would be in the top.
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂
    Greetings!

    Like

    Reply
  13. 70srichard

    Still haven’t seen Male War Bride but everything else is definitely gold. Red River and His Girl Friday are probably my favorites.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      It’s worth seeing if you’re a Cary Grant and/or Ann Sheridan fan. A Hawks enthusiast, too. Hear, hear for a another ‘His Girl Friday’ fan :-). Thanks, Richard.

      Like

      Reply
  14. Morgan R. Lewis

    I’ve yet to see any of these, but I know several are undisputed classics. Many of them were already on my watchlist. His Girl Friday is likely to be the first I check out, since it’s in the public domain.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Yes, that’s true. And ‘Her Girl Friday’ is an undisputed classic. That said, some of the various versions on disc of this venerable comedy are not very good picture quality-wise. Thanks, Morgan.

      Like

      Reply
  15. Eric @ The Warning Sign

    Nice work here, Michael! Hawks is someone I desperately need to see more of — out of your list, The Big Sleep is the only one I have seen. I do have His Girl Friday queued up soon as part of my project, so I’m pleased to see that as your top pick.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Good to hear you have this classic in your queue, Eric. I think the more you’re exposed to Howard Hawks, the more you’ll appreciate him. Thanks, Eric.

      Like

      Reply
  16. iluvcinema (@iluvcinema)

    Nice list. I have not seen EL Dorado or Rio Bravo (maybe I have … hmmm). Howard Hawks is ace!

    My top five would be: His Girl Friday (for reasons), Ball of Fire, Bringing Up Baby (the screwiest of screwball comedies), The Thing and it’s a toss up between To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep.

    Like

    Reply
  17. Colin

    Nice tribute Michael, and good choices. I’ve seen every one of these films and would broadly agree with your selection. However…

    Despite being a fan of Cary Grant, I’d drop Monkey Business & I Was a Male war Bride – they’re both enjoyable films but don’t quite do it for me.

    In their place I’d add Ceiling Zero – a great companion piece for Only Angels Have Wings – and Hatari, which is just such a fun, life-affirming movie.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Great comment and recommendations, Colin. Both of those by Hawks I’ve yet to see, but will schedule them. I should tell you I have ‘Hatari’ in my library. It’s part of the triple pack of Wayne movie that also included Donovan’s Reef and In Harm’s Way. Many thanks, my friend.

      Like

      Reply
  18. Paula

    Great list Michael! I’m not the biggest fan of I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE but I really love the rest of these, except for THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, which I haven’t seen. MONKEY BUSINESS is a must for anybody who likes hilarious movies 😉

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Yeah, I realize IWAMWB rarely reaches the top bracket of Hawks films among his fans, but since its among the first of his I caught as a child, I couldn’t leave it off my list for personal reasons. Showed it to my kids a couple of years ago. They loved it. Then again, they are Cary Grant fans ;-).

      Oh, please see THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. I think you’d enjoy yourself. And I agree with you about MONKEY BUSINESS, obviously. Thanks, Paula :-).

      Like

      Reply
      • Paula

        To each their own…that’s why we do this…obviously you’ve raised your kids right 😉 I will check out THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. You’re welcome & thank YOU.

        Like

        Reply
  19. Teddy

    This list is missing some Gentlemen Prefer Blondes realness. A great list. Hawks is a fantastic director. My favorite of his being Bringing Up Baby, probably the second best comedy of all time. He had a way with his leading ladies. He not only made them look good (Jane and Marilyn omg), he also got great performances out of them. That doesn’t mean he did not do just as well with the guys. Well, there’s Grant. No need to expound on that. And he coaxed a funny performance out of the usually steely Cooper.
    I need to check out his Westerns as well. Your list provided some great suggestions.

    Like

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your comment, Teddy. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes remains a great one, alright. Many thanks for the read and wonderful thoughts.

      Like

      Reply

Are you talkin’ to me?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: