Okay, so at the outset I’m going to admit my own personal bias about Howard Hawks: he has to be one of the most amazingingly versatile directors ever. I mean he did everything from screwball comedies (Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday) to action/adventure (Only Angels Have Wings) to westerns (Red River, El Dorado) to film noir (The Big Sleep) to early sci-fi stuff (The Thing) to musicals (Gentleman Prefer Blondes) to gangster films (Scarface) and on and on and on… Where do you start with someone like that? By the by, you can watch clips and original trailers for many of his films at my favorite movie site TCM.
Now, The Big Sleep (1946) with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall is one of those movies that is a classic I think more for the mood and style of the film than for anything very redeeming in the plot. Not that is doesn’t have one; it does. Actually, what it has is too much plot; to say it’s confusing is to do it an injustice. This is the Raymond Chandler book, remember, in which the Sternwood’s chauffer is killed in the beginning, but Chandler never reveals who did it. I mean you get to the end, and you realize that one of the murders hasn’t been solved, and there’s this really wierd moment where you wonder, well, what happened, did he just forget about it?
[By the by, if you want to see a great Raymond Chandler book filmed, check out Murder My Sweet with Dick Powell. You can actually follow the plot on this one; and I think Powell is a much better Philip Marlowe than Bogart. The Chandler book this one came from was actually called Farewell, My Lovely, but seeing as Dick Powell was a fabulous song and dance man in his former life, studio execs were afraid people might think the movie was a musical, so they changed the name to avoid any associations with Busby Berkeley.]
Anyways, this post is getting a mind of it’s own. Back to Howard Hawks. He actually did make some silent films back in the day, but for the most part they are pretty forgetable. Not so his “talkies.” His Girl Friday has to be one of the funniest movies ever, and it’s really a matter of Hawks’ direction and the pace he sets. Because of the speed with which the characters talk and because much of the dialogue overlaps, the 191 page script turned into only a 92 minute movie. But it’s 92 minutes of pure hilarity.
If you want to read more about Hawks or see some of his films, check out what we have here at the Alameda County Library.