Friday, March 08, 2013

Every Howard Hawks Film Ranked

With submission coming of my completed dissertation, The Early Hawks: Howard Hawks and His Films, 1926-1936, I thought it only fitting to provide some form of commemoration in this space. Feeling the momentary fatigue of writing, re-writing and revising the four-chapter project - The Early Hawks consists of "Regarding Eve's Rising Hemline" (on Fig Leaves), "Hawks Before the Hawksian" (on the pictured Paid to Love, The Cradle Snatchers and Fazil, with a Scarface coda), "The Dawn Patrol, the Group and Male Homo-sociality," and "Professionalism, the Protestant Ethic and the New Deal in Hawks" (mostly on The Criminal Code, Tiger Shark, Come and Get It and Ceiling Zero), in addition to an "Introduction" and "Conclusion," naturally - I have decided instead to go with an ill-advised, certain crowd-pleaser: a list of every Howard Hawks directed film, categorized by achievement and ranked in approximate order of preference. Enjoy, and I look forward to your own Hawks rankings (and fiery recriminations) in the comments section.

Supreme Masterpieces:
1. Rio Bravo (1959)
2. Scarface (1932)
3. His Girl Friday (1940)
4. Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Additional Masterworks:
5. Hatari! (1962)
6. To Have and Have Not (1944)
7. Monkey Business (1952)
8. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
9. Ceiling Zero (1936)
10. I Was a Male War Bride (1949)
11. Twentieth Century (1934)
12. Red River (1948)

Signature and Other Major Works:
13. The Dawn Patrol (1930)
14. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
15. Air Force (1943)
16. The Criminal Code (1931)
17. The Big Sleep (1946)
18. Fig Leaves (1926)
19. The Thing from Another World (1951)*
20. A Girl in Every Port (1928)

Varying Degrees of Good:
21. The Big Sky (1952)
22. Come and Get It (1936)
23. El Dorado (1966)
24. The Cradle Snatchers (1927)
25. Man's Favorite Sport? (1964)
26. Tiger Shark (1932)
27. The Crowd Roars (1932)

Essential if More Mixed in Their Success:
28. Ball of Fire (1941)
29. Red Line 7000 (1965)
30. The Road to Glory (1936)

Minor Achievements:
31. Sergeant York (1941)
32. Barbary Coast (1935)
33. Paid to Love (1927)
34. Rio Lobo (1970)
35. Today We Live (1933)
36. A Song is Born (1948)

Deeply Flawed and Failed Pictures:
37. Fazil (1928)
38. The Ransom of Red Chief (1952)
39. Land of the Pharaohs (1955)
40. Trent's Last Case (1929)

Notes: Though The Thing from Another World [*] technically was directed by Christian Nyby, with Howard Hawks credited as "producer," few films are more expressive of the filmmaker's unique auteurship. For this reason, and for the persistent rumors of Hawks's greater involvement, it has been included in this accounting.

However, two films from which Hawks was let go shortly after shooting began, The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933) and Viva Villa! (1934), have been excluded. Neither, in the opinion of this writer, is particularly interesting in view of or germane to Hawks's larger body of work.

Likewise excluded are Hawks's two lost features, his directorial debut The Road to Glory (1926) and his first partial talking picture The Air Circus (1928). Of these two, there is every reason to believe that The Air Circus is the more substantial achievement.

1 comment:

Bob Klevay said...

Congrats on submitting your dissertation! Must be a relief. I look forward to reading your work on Hawks wherever it shows up! Reminds me that I've wanted to see Scarface again for a while...