Sunday, May 29, 2011

Directors U Should Know 3

Okay continuing the list of great directors and their work which any serious film student should be familiar. (Yes, that means watching black and white well made movies written for adults where nobody has superpowers and occasionally wears a shirt. Tough it out.)

Today's director, HOWARD HAWKS

Born in Indiana in 1896, Hawks started as a Prop Man in in his early twenties. He worked as an Assistant Director, Casting Director, Script Supervisor (a great job for someone who wants to be a director), Editor (more great training) and Producer, but mostly Hawks worked as a Screenwriter until he directed his first film in 1926, Road to Glory.

So you see, knowing what is actually going on on the set helps to make a solid director. John Ford shared this kind of up-through-the-ranks set experience. In my opinion, film school is a poor substitute for hands-on working knowledge. (So go get some! Every production needs free help.)

Hawks was one of the greatest action directors ever, but also one of the best comedy directors. He pioneered verbal fast-paced "screwball" comedies that relied on sharp pacing and "overlapping" dialog. The amazing thing about Hawks' pacing is one felt like the characters were talking over each other, but could still clearly catch every word and joke. I know from experience how hard that can be. (Mixers hate it!) To get a feel for just how good Hawks was at this, watch "Bringing up Baby" and "His Girl Friday". Hawks pacing is a clear influence on directors like Peter Bogdanovich and Tommy Shlamme. (Both of whom we will see later on this list.)

So please watch and enjoy this abbreviated list of Howard Hawks' best films.

Dawn Patrol
Barbary Coast
Ceiling Zero
Bringing Up Baby
Only Angels Have Wings
His Girl Friday (The Front Page. Kinna.)
Sargent York
To Have and Have Not
The Big Sleep
Red River
I was a Male War Bride
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Rio Bravo
El Dorado
Rio Lobo

Those last three are easily some of the best westerns ever made. (I would include Red River in that comment but like John Ford's otherwise amazing remake of Three Godfathers, I just can't get past the unearned happy ending.)

And my absolute favorite Howard Hawks' directed film....

The Thing from Another World

Yeah I know he's listed as the Producer not Director, but watch this brilliant film. Hawks clearly directed it! It is infused with signature Hawks' pacing, style, dialog, and characters. It also has the best reveal of a spaceship ever done in film. I smile every time I watch it. Brilliant!

But "The Thing" was made in a time when Sci-Fi was synonymous with low rent childish garbage and no director could risk putting his name on one and be taken seriously for other work outside the genre again.

Kinna like animation today.

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