Sunday, August 14, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks

Popular American director Howard Hawks was tied at 11th with 8 titles in the top 1000 (along with Chaplin, Bresson, Renoir, Powell, and Visconti), but was only 18th in total points, the director with the most titles in the top 1000 without any in the top 100. [Our 2011 update of our film polls compendium is here at Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.]

It seems like Hawks makes lots of very good films, but no real masterpieces, and that the polls pretty much correctly placed him. His films tend to mostly be macho American men films, where the men control both the action and the ladies that hang around them, who seem resigned to the fact that this is how real men act, with a take the bull by the horns spirit.

In 2009, he had 11 titles in the top 1000, but three have fallen just out, so I listed those below, led by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, now just outside at 1060. Hawks also had a low average total per film at 3168 – the only other directors with this many titles and a lower per film average were the Coen Brothers, at 2680 pts per film, but with 10 titles cracking the top 1000 this time, compared to just six in 2009, which I first compiled all the polls into one big one.

1. His Girl Friday (1940) #147
2. The Big Sleep (1941) #154
3. Bringing Up Baby (1938) #217
4. Rio Bravo (1959) #346
5. Red River (1948) #371
6. To Have and Have Not (1944) #505
7. Scarface (1932) #518
8. Only Angels Have Wings (1939) #584

Previously ranked in the top 1000, new rankings
9. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) #1060
10. Hatari! (1962) #1217
11. El Dorado (1966) #1409

I think they got his best two correct, His Girl Friday followed by The Big Sleep. I’d also rank them that way. Both feature crsip dialogue and briskly moving plots, though the plot of Sleep gets a little muddled and one killing appears to be unsolved, a mystery to the screenwriters as well, according to one source. Yet it remains one of a handful of classic American noir from the 40's, one that helped define the genre.

However, I see Bringing Up Baby and Rio Bravo as just exercises in silliness (and always overrated), easy writing if any at all (especially true of Bravo, which reeks as a serious western, and it certainly isn't funny either), neither one has ever made me laugh or get involved in any way, though I did want to belt the Hepburn character in Baby with a baseball bat just to shut her up – one of the most irritating people in cinema history. Red River is just more homage to John Ford stuff, nothing new but still another classic western in that genre canon.

To Have and Have Not, though it made Lauren Bacall famous, was much better filmed in 49 as The Breaking Point, with John Garfield and Patricia Neal (who was even smoother than Bacall and not as obvious), the version Hemingway preferred as well. Scarface is pretty standard gangster fare.

Only Angels Have Wings deserves a higher ranking, even with it’s totally cheesy special effects featuring aircraft landings on a small jungle airstrip in South America that are akin to kids' wooden models landing on a card table with plastic trees, I swear you can see cables on the planes at one point. Otherwise it’s a moving story with some good performances, typical of Hawk’s best works, when ensemble casts click and appear to mesh smoothely onscreen. This cast is led by Cary Grant and Jean Arthur (always one of my favorites), with a welcome intrusion by a young Rita Hayworth.

The ensemble clicking like machinery was especially true of His Girl Friday, it’s a classic of the genre, non-stop dialogue and plot movement, which tried to simulate news flashes in style, as it was about crime reporters on a big breaking story about a killer escaping prison. It was a remake of the previously filmed The Front Page, co-penned by Billy Wilder.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition


Dr Blood said...

I quite enjoyed Rio Bravo but I liked Dean Martin in it. I'm not much of a John Wayne fan so I can see what you mean about it being overrated.

Jose Sinclair said...

I always think of Dean with "when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore".. I can't shake his image as an oily lounge singer.. some people define a persona so strong that they stereotype themselves and can't break free. Add to this list Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Red Buttons, Mickey Rooney, Mae West, Sammy Davis Jr., Groucho Marx, W.C. Fields.. and many others..

for good or bad, the iconic images each of these developed overshadowed any role or attempted acting they performed.. I would also put Sinatra in this category, though others would disagree due to Manchurian Candidate and From Here to Eternity, but I always expected him to sing in these parts as well..

Jackie Gleason was someone who broke out of his stereotypes quite well, in The Hustler and Requiem for a Heavyweight, two powerful dramatic performances with nary a false note.

I'm prejudiced regarding certain people! Especially Rat Packers (Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford had NO apparent talent)..

"that's just my opinion, I could be wrong" - Dennis Miller

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Jim Beaver said...

Wilder didn't have anything to do with the 1931 version of Charles McArthur's and Ben Hecht's THE FRONT PAGE. Wilder remade it in the 1970s, though.