Howard Hawks, Part 1
February 1–April 18
Howard Hawks was one of Hollywood’s most consistently entertaining directors, and one of the most versatile, directing exemplary comedies, melodramas, war pictures, gangster films, films noir, Westerns, sci-fi thrillers and musicals, with several being landmark films in their genre.
Hawks never won an Oscar—in fact, he was nominated only once, as Best Director for 1941’s SERGEANT YORK (both he and Orson Welles lost to John Ford that year)—but his critical stature grew over the 1960s and '70s, even as his career was winding down, and in 1975 the Academy awarded him an honorary Oscar, declaring Hawks “a giant of the American cinema whose pictures, taken as a whole, represent one of the most consistent, vivid and varied bodies of work in world cinema.” Howard Hawks, Part 2 continues in April.
“I consider Howard Hawks to be the greatest American director. He’s the only director I know to have made a great movie in every genre... In my opinion, the man literally invented American cinema. He showed us ourselves, the way we are, the way we should be.” – John Carpenter
“Howard Hawks is the supreme storyteller and entertainer. He’s just too damn enjoyable.” – Quentin Tarantino
"If one does not love the films of Howard Hawks, one cannot love cinema." – Eric Rohmer
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all screenings in the Howard Hawks series.
THE CRIMINAL CODE
Inmate Phillips Holmes, once a promising law intern, now doing ten years for accidental manslaughter, is near the end of his rope when warden Walter Huston intervenes and gives the young man a plum job as his chauffeur. Huston intends the criminal code to rehabilitate men after they’ve repaid their debt to society. But the prison’s hardened criminals, most notably Holmes’ cellmate Boris Karloff, live by their own code and enforce their own brand of justice. To survive, Holmes must navigate the narrow margin between the law of the jungle and the law of society in Hawks’ landmark prison drama.
DIR/PROD Howard Hawks; SCR Fred Niblo, Jr., Seton I. Miller, from the play by Martin Flavin; PROD Harry Cohn. US, 1931, b&w, 97 min. NOT RATED
THE DAWN PATROL aka FLIGHT COMMANDER
Fri, Feb 1, 1:00; Sun, Feb 3, 1:00; Tue, Feb 5, 5:15
During WWI, hard-drinking veteran RFC flyers Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., resent their CO Neil Hamilton for sending new recruits out unprepared for the demands of air combat. With the German flying ace “The Baron” and his fighter squadron mowing down men at an alarming rate, desperate measures are called for. Hawks’ assured debut working with sound film features outstanding cinematography, including dazzling aerial footage, by the pioneering lensman Ernest Haller.
DIR/SCR Howard Hawks; SCR Seton I. Miller, Dan Totheroh, from the story “The Flight Commander” by John Monk Saunders; PROD Robert North. US, 1930, b&w, 108 min. NOT RATED
HIS GIRL FRIDAY
Fri, Feb 1, 3:00; Sat, Feb 2, 11:00 a.m.; Wed, Feb 6, 5:15
Perhaps Hawks’ most inspired bit of cinematic alchemy was to remake Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s play “The Front Page” (already a successful film in 1931) with reporter Hildy Johnson recast from a he to a she, her love-hate relationship with hard-driving editor Walter Burns now complicated by the fact that they were formerly married. Add Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant in career-defining roles, an ensemble of crackerjack character actors in the newsroom, and Ralph Bellamy in the Ralph Bellamy role, and you have one of Hollywood’s greatest screwball comedies, a dazzling showcase for Hawks’ great themes of professional camaraderie and amour fou.
DIR/PROD Howard Hawks; SCR Charles Lederer, from the play “The Front Page” by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. US, 1940, b&w, 92 min. NOT RATED
Thu, Feb 14, 5:15; Fri, Feb 15, 7:20; Sat, Feb 16, 5:10; Sun, Feb 17, 11:00 a.m; Wed, Feb 20, 5:15
Reckless, ruthless gangster Tony “Scarface” Camonte shoots his way to the top of Chicago’s criminal syndicates in Howard Hawks’ landmark gangster film—shockingly violent and amoral even today. Reworking a number of motifs from Josef von Sternberg’s silent UNDERWORLD, which both Ben Hecht and Hawks had also worked on, Hawks’ film is notable for its visual style, energetic story-telling and early mastery of sound technique. Paul Muni is riveting as the unpredictable, dangerously childlike Scarface, overly possessive of his sister Ann Dvorak, to the vexation of both his vinegary moll, Karen Morley, and loyal lieutenant George Raft.
DIR Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson; SCR Ben Hecht, from the novel by Armitage Trail. US, 1932, b&w, 93 min. NOT RATED
BRINGING UP BABY
Fri, Feb 8, 5:15; Sat, Feb 9, 11:00 a.m.; Sun, Feb 10, 11:00 a.m.; Mon, Feb 11, 5:15, 9:10
Put-upon paleontologist Cary Grant is feeling the pressure: his brontosaurus skeleton is just one intercostal clavicle away from completion, he has an important meeting coming up with donor prospect May Robson, and his wedding to straitlaced Virginia Walker looms. Then he meets kooky free spirit Katharine Hepburn. Before Grant knows what hit him, he’s beating the bush in rural Connecticut, searching for Hepburn’s escaped pet leopard, Baby, and the valuable dinosaur bone that her dog buried. And falling in love. A legendary flop when first released, Howard Hawks' fast-talking, energetic masterpiece has over time come to be seen as the definitive screwball comedy.
DIR/PROD Howard Hawks; SCR Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde. US, 1938, b&w, 102 min. NOT RATED
Thu, Feb 14, 7:10; Fri, Feb 15, 5:15; Sat, Feb 16, 11:00 a.m.; Mon, Feb 18, 7:25
Carole Lombard ascended to comedic stardom opposite an exquisitely hammy John Barrymore in this fast-paced screwball comedy. Broadway impresario Oscar Jaffe (Barrymore) recasts lingerie model Mildred Plotka (Lombard) as “Lily Garland,” making her the star in a hit play and soon his love interest. But the tempestuous relationship between svengali and star leads to an acrimonious split, with Garland cashing in out in Hollywood while Jaffe suffers a string of expensive flops minus his leading lady. A chance meeting on the Twentieth Century Limited train offers Jaffe a chance to woo her for a comeback. Histrionic hilarity ensues!
DIR/PROD Howard Hawks; SCR Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, from the play “Napoleon of Broadway” by Charles Bruce Millholland. US, 1934, b&w, 91 min. NOT RATED
Fri, Feb 22, 7:00; Sun, Feb 24, 11:00 a.m.; Tue, Feb 26, 7:00; Thu, Feb 28, 8:45
When a love triangle threatens the delicate balance of power aboard a San Diego fishing trawler, one-handed captain Edward G. Robinson seeks revenge on his young bride Zita Johann and first mate Richard Arlen for their perfidy. Obsessed Ahab-like with the sharks that robbed him of his hand, Robinson throws Arlen overboard, intending to let the sharks adjudicate the matter, only to see strange justice served. An unusual, tour-de-force performance by Robinson.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR Wells Root, from the story “Tuna“ by Houston Branch. US, 1932, b&w, 77 min. NOT RATED
THE CROWD ROARS
Fri, Mar 1, 5:15; Sun, Mar 3, 11:00 a.m.; Mon, Mar 4, 5:15; Wed, Mar 6, 5:05; Thu, Mar 7, 5:30
Indy champ James Cagney returns home a conquering hero, but he’s not keen on little brother Eric Linden following in his tracks. After hypocritically warning Linden away from brassy dame Joan Blondell, he angers both his brother and his own main squeeze, Ann Dvorak, who’s been taking a back seat to Cagney’s career for too long. After a fiery crash, Cagney really hits the skids—only by regaining his nerve can he make amends and find redemption. A dynamite cast and great racing footage, with race car designer Augie Duesenberg serving as technical advisor on the stunt work and a half dozen former Indy 500 champs racing in supporting roles.
DIR/SCR Howard Hawks; SCR John Bright, Kubec Glasmon, Seton I. Miller, Niven Busch. US, 1932, b&w, 85 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Mar 2, 11:00 a.m.; Mon, Mar 4, 7:00; Tue, Mar 5, 5:15
Federal Airlines’ Newark field boss Pat O'Brien welcomes
back maverick flyer James Cagney from a sojourn out west. But Cagney's thrill-seeking and eye for other men’s women threatens Federal's esprit de corps. Featuring two of the screen’s great fast talkers in Cagney and O’Brien, Hawks’ 1936 pilot drama plays like a trial run for his classic 1939 flyboy adventure, ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. “Tersely written, handsomely produced and played to perfection” – Frank Nugent, The New York Times.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR Frank Wead, from his play; PROD Hal B. Wallis, Jack Warner. US, 1936, b&w, 95 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Mar 9, 11:10 a.m.; Wed, Mar 13, 8:45
Easterner Miriam Hopkins arrives in the wild frontier town of San Francisco during the Gold Rush to discover that her fiancé has died under mysterious circumstances. Desperate and destitute, she reluctantly gives in to the advances of crooked saloon operator Edward G. Robinson, who puts her to work at his rigged roulette table. Ashamed at what she’s become, she lies about her identity to poet/prospector Joel McCrea, with whom she’s smitten— which doesn’t escape the watch of the vengeful Robinson. A handsome evocation of a too-little-seen corner of the Wild West; Ray June received an Oscar nomination for his fog-shrouded cinematography.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur; PROD Samuel Goldwyn. US, 1935, b&w, 91 min. NOT RATED
Live musical accompaniment by Ben Model
Fri, Mar 15, 5:05; Sat, Mar 16, 11:05 a.m.; Wed, Mar 20, 5:15; Thu, Mar 21, 5:15
Adam and Eve redux: after a comically anachronistic caveman prologue, George O’Brien (Adam) and Olive Borden (Eve) resume their eternal matrimonial struggle in 1920s New York. After clothes-crazy Borden lucks into a job as a model on Fifth Avenue, snake-in-the- grass neighbor Phyllis Haver puts the moves on hunky O’Brien.
DIR/SCR Howard Hawks; SCR Louis D. Lighton, Hope Loring; PROD William Fox. US, 1926, b&w, 70 min. Silent with live accompaniment. NOT RATED
THE ROAD TO GLORY
Youthful French army lieutenant Fredric March learns hard lessons serving in the trenches under combat-weary captain Warner Baxter in Howard Hawks’ excellent WWI drama. Baxter learns the hard way, too, losing the affections of nurse June Lang to the younger man and suffering the consequences of allowing his father, Lionel Barrymore, to serve past the age limit. Character actors Gregory Ratoff, John Qualen and Paul Fix all shine as soldiers in the unit. Moody, deep-focus, chiaroscuro cinematography by the great Gregg Toland; the authentic-looking battlefield inserts were taken from Raymond Bernard’s 1932 film WOODEN CROSSES.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR Joel Sayre, William Faulkner; PROD Darryl F. Zanuck. US, 1936, b&w, 103 min. NOT RATED
COME AND GET IT
Sun, Mar 17, 11:10 a.m.; Tue, Mar 19, 7:20
Wisconsin lumber baron Edward Arnold falls hard for young Frances Farmer, the daughter of the spunky saloon singer he loved but spurned years ago in order to marry into society. The trouble is, his son Joel McCrea falls for Farmer, too. Hawks largely eschews Edna Ferber’s source novel in the interest of Hawksian set pieces: an uproarious saloon fight featuring flying beer trays; a flirty kitchen fiasco and taffy-pulling session; and a montage of frontier logging (shot by second unit director Richard Rosson) that’s an impressive short documentary in its own right. Producer Sam Goldwyn wasn’t pleased, pulling Hawks off the picture and forcing William Wyler to finish it.
DIR Howard Hawks, William Wyler; SCR Jane Murfin, Jules Furthman, from the novel by Edna Ferber; PROD Samuel Goldwyn. US, 1936, b&w, 99 min. NOT RATED
A GIRL IN EVERY PORT
Live musical accompaniment by Andrew Simpson
Fri, Mar 22, 5:15; Sat, Mar 23, 11:00 a.m.
Sailors Spike Madden (Victor McLaglen) and Salami (Robert Armstrong) become rivals after Spike tires of finding Salami’s tattoo on every woman he woos, from Amsterdam to Rio to Bombay to Marseille. But after a barroom
brawl, the two become fast friends. When Spike falls for stunning French circus diver Marie (Louise Brooks, her star ascendant), their friendship will be put to the ultimate test.
DIR/SCR Howard Hawks; SCR James Kevin McGuinness, Seton I. Miller, Reggie Morris, Malcolm Stuart Boylan; PROD William Fox. US, 1928, b&w, 62 min. Silent with live accompaniment. NOT RATED
From the collection of George Eastman House.
BALL OF FIRE
Sequestered in a houseful of academics, Professor Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper) offers to take in exotic dancer Sugarpuss O’Shea (Barbara Stanwyck), who's on the run from the police, if she'll teach him everything she knows about slang for his encyclopedia entry. When her gangster boyfriend Joe Lilac (Dana Andrews) and pal Duke Pastrami (Dan Duryea) threaten to complicate matters, the intellectual Cooper discovers he has an animal side, too. “Oh, Pottsy...!” Hawks’ expertly crafted screwball gem boasts a Billy Wilder-Charles Brackett screenplay, cinematography by the great Gregg Toland and costumes by Stanwyck regular Edith Head.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder; PROD Samuel Goldwyn. US, 1941, b&w, 111 min. NOT RATED
PAID TO LOVE
Live musical accompaniment by Ben Model
Sat, Mar 30, 11:00 a.m.; Sun, Mar 31, 5:15; Wed, Apr 3, 7:00
American banker J. Farrell MacDonald travels to a Balkan kingdom to sort out its finances, and becomes embroiled in palace intrigue. “Hawks liberates his camera, and, in contrast to the static nature of his previous films, he tracks, pans and cranes, conferring on the action a sinuous mobility... Once again it utilizes the talents of George O’Brien, whose cheerful car-obsessed crown prince is an engaging character. Virginia Valli is moving and vibrant as the Apache dancer, putting flesh and bones on a very familiar character of romantic comedy. But the film is stolen by William Powell as the crown prince’s lecherous cousin. A Stroheimian cad, monocle and mustache-twirling, he is caught at one point rummaging through Valli’s drawers and delicately sniffing her underwear.” – Jeffrey Richards, “The Silent Films of Howard Hawks,” Focus on Film.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR William M. Conselman, Seton I. Miller, Benjamin Glazer, from a story by Harry Carr; PROD William Fox. US, 1927, b&w, 76 min. Silent with live accompaniment. NOT RATED
Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation.
Gary Cooper won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Alvin York, the most decorated American soldier of WWI, in Howard Hawks’ inspirational biopic. A hillbilly hell-raiser turned God-fearing man—enlightened by a lightning strike—York’s faith led him to embrace non-violence. Denied in his effort to register as a conscientious objector, York begrudgingly enlists in the Army, where his expert sharpshooting skills draw the attention of the top brass. Released in 1941, the film resonated with an American public confronted with the growing likelihood of being drawn into the second World War.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR Abem Finkel, Harry Chandlee, Howard Koch, John Huston, from the diary of Alvin C. York; PROD Jesse L. Lasky, Hal B. Wallis. US, 1941, b&w, 134 min. NOT RATED
THE CRADLE SNATCHERS
Live musical accompaniment
Sat, Apr 6, 11:00 a.m.; Sun, Apr 7, 11:00 a.m.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, as three society wives, fed up with their husbands’ dalliances with flappers, pick up three red-blooded college boys for a night out on the town.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR Sarah Y. Mason, from the play by Russell G. Medcraft, Norma Mitchell; PROD William Fox. US, 1927, b&w, 47 min. Silent with live accompaniment. NOT RATED Note: This feature film only exists in partial format.
Live musical accompaniment
TRENT’S LAST CASE
The authorities suspect financier Donald Crisp was murdered, and the clues point to his private secretary, who was romancing his wife. But is that something Crisp wanted? Amateur sleuth Raymond Griffith (as the titular Trent) investigates.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR Scott Darling, Beulah Marie Dix, from the novel by E. C. Bentley. US, 1929, b&w, 66 min. Silent with live accompaniment. NOT RATED
ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS
The professional code of honor among a group of hard-living, Hemingway-esque jungle pilots working on a South American airstrip is put to the test: head honcho Cary Grant has to choose between old flame Rita Hayworth, new squeeze Jean Arthur, and giving up the exciting life he truly loves; aging pilot Thomas Mitchell would rather go out in a blaze of glory than admit his eyesight is failing and give up his livelihood; loner Richard Barthelmess, marked by a disastrous past, finds redemption a long time coming. Director Howard Hawks blends action, adventure, comedy and moving pathos in one of his signature works.
DIR/PROD Howard Hawks; SCR Jules Furthman, from a story by Howard Hawks. US, 1939, b&w, 121 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Apr 13, 11:15 a.m.; Sun, Apr 14, 5:05; Thu, Apr 18, 7:00
Hawks deftly mixes tones in this exotic adventure, a comic fantasy eventually giving way to intense drama and tragedy. An Arab prince (Charles Farrell) marries a free-spirited Frenchwoman (Greta Nissen), but their cultural differences threaten to drive them apart.
DIR Howard Hawks; SCR Seton I. Miller, Philip Klein, from the play by Pierre Frondaie; PROD William Fox. US, 1928, b&w, 88 min. Silent with musical track. NOT RATED