Hawks. The last five years have not been kind to Howard Hawks on my rankings here. He was not just a supervisor as a director. He’s no byproduct and benefactor of an efficient studio system. He worked within it much like Ford and Hitchcock though his visual style is nowhere near as ostensible or exceptional and for me that’s critical. The depth of his filmography is probably better than Godard’s or Welles’. I did this thing where I scored each director on my spreadsheet and awarded points for masterpieces, must-see’s and top 10’s. I essentially score their filmographies. Hawks rated out better than several of the directors above him on the list. But, he isn’t the visual master the previous auteurs on this list were and probably isn’t as strong as several that will come after him. Eventually I’ll have more modern directors ahead of Hawks (the real difficult thing is picking which one(s)). But, for now, I have to respect Hawks rhythms (both dialogue and editing), genre work, gender work, and filmography. One would be very lucky to be stuck on a desert island (relatively) with all of Howard Hawks movies.
Best film: The Big Sleep I don’t feel extremely confident about this though – not that it’s not a worthy film. It’s my #100 film and I have three other Hawks’ films between 100-171 and 2 others within 11 slots of Big Sleep (Bringing Up Baby and Rio Bravo). Needless to say it’s very close.
total archiveable films: 20
top 100 films: 1
top 500 films: 6 (The Big Sleep, Bringing Up Baby, Rio Bravo, Red River, His Girl Friday, To Have and Have Not)
top 100 films of the decade: 9 (Bringing Up Baby, Only Angels Have Wings, Scarface, The Big Sleep, Red River, His Girl Friday, To Have and Have Not, Sergeant York, Rio Bravo)
most overrated: Hatari! is the #544 on TSPDT – a good film but it’s not Hawks’ 8th best film as TSPDT would have you believe. I’m a little shocked to see it on the top 1000 to be honest but I haven’t seen it since the VHS days so perhaps I’m missing something on this one.
most underrated: The Big Sleep is #296 on TSPDT and I have it at #100 on the dot. I dare you to pick 295 better movies like TSPDT does. It’s one of the best purely engaging narratives (even if it’s unfollowable), a Mount Rushmore film noir, and one of Bogart’s best performance.
gem I want to spotlight: Scarface– if you haven’t seen it check out it out and really pay attention to the opening as it will blow you away. Clearly the best of the early 1930’s landmark gangster films (including Edgar G Robinson’s Little Caesar in 1930 and 1931’s The Public Enemy with Cagney).
stylistic innovations/traits: Papers and books have justifiably been written about the male bonding relationships, strong females and fast pacing in Hawks’ films. Amazing work. Look at how important Hawks was to film genres. His top 10 includes: two film noirs, two screwball comedies, two westerns, two war movies, a sci-fi movie, a gangster movie. All of them are considered amongst the very best of their genre or the very best. The rest of his filmography includes a great prison film (The Criminal Code-1931), a desert epic (Land of the Pharaohs), and an African safari film(Hatari!). He also gave us some of the very best performances/films from Bogart, Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Gary Cooper, Dean Martin, Montgomery Clift, Lauren Bacall.
- The Big Sleep
- Bringing Up Baby
- Rio Bravo
- Red River
- His Girl Friday
- To Have and Have Not
- Only Angels Have Wings
- The Thing
- Sergeant York
By year and grades
|1931- The Criminal Code||R|
|1934- Twentieth Century||R/HR|
|1936- Ceiling Zero|
|1938- Bringing Up Baby||MP|
|1939- Only Angels Have Wings||HR/MS|
|1940- His Girl Friday||MP|
|1941- Ball of Fire||R|
|1941- Sergeant York||HR|
|1943- Air Force||R|
|1944- To Have and Have Not||MS|
|1946- The Big Sleep||MP|
|1948- Red River||MP|
|1951- The Thing||HR|
|1952- The Big Sky||R|
|1953- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes||R|
|1955- Land of the Pharaohs||R|
|1959- Rio Bravo||MP|
|1967- El Dorado|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives