Howard Hawks | Fig Leaves
| The Criminal Code
| Scarface | The Crowd Roars
| Twentieth Century | Come and Get It
| Ball of Fire | The Big Sleep
| A Song Is Born | The Thing from Another World
| Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
| Rio Bravo | Hatari!
| Man's Favorite Sport? | Red Line 7000
| El Dorado | Rio Lobo
Classic Film and Television Home Page
Howard Hawks is an American film director.
Some common subjects in the films of Howard Hawks:
Music, Culture and Scholars:
- Gizmos (sand alarm clock: Fig Leaves, convict shoots out search light: The Criminal Code,
paper cup: Come and Get It,
burning rope at end: Ball of Fire,
mechanical brain on plane: Air Force,
hero shoots out searchlight: To Have and Have Not,
hidden camera at Geiger's, guns under dashboard: The Big Sleep,
falling drum at end: A Song Is Born,
electrocution trap: The Thing from Another World,
sand device at end: Land of the Pharaohs,
shooting reins, rope across stairs: Rio Bravo,
the revolving bar, Piano Museum toys: Man's Favorite Sport?,
model car races: Red Line 7000,
church bells: El Dorado,
ropes used to crash train, greasing the rails, listening to rail, tube to breathe under water: Rio Lobo)
- Matches (warden lights cigar to defy crowd: The Criminal Code, Scarface strikes on cop badges: Scarface,
drum boogie: Ball of Fire)
- Men with leg injuries (General Sternwood: The Big Sleep, Walter Brennan: Rio Bravo,
Hatari!, Robert Mitchum: El Dorado, Confederate soldier after robbery, crooked Sheriff: Rio Lobo)
- Women in bed (Fig Leaves, Ball of Fire, Rio Bravo, O'Neill: Rio Lobo)
- Sources of money, often difficult (job hunting: The Crowd Roars,
swindling government programs: Come and Get It, patron funding research: Ball of Fire,
customer evading payment, trying to collect payment after killing: To Have and Have Not,
payoffs to private eye: The Big Sleep,
payments to men impounded after Bond's death: Rio Bravo, refused job by Wayne at start: El Dorado,
stealing gold: Rio Lobo)
- Rich criminals exploiting natural resources (timber: Come and Get It, water rights: El Dorado)
- Gambling houses and roulette (Barbary Coast, Come and Get It, The Big Sleep)
- Games (checkers among convicts: The Criminal Code, bowling: Scarface,
shell game: Come and Get It, poker: The Thing from Another World, model car races: Red Line 7000)
- Lunch stands (at racetrack: The Crowd Roars, lumberjack hall: Come and Get It, Rio Lobo)
related (prison kitchen: The Criminal Code, chuck wagon on cattle drive: Red River)
- Tossed coins (Raft flips coin, gives to organ grinder, Cesca tosses coin to Raft: Scarface,
Akins throws coin in spittoon: Rio Bravo) related
(coins put in Piano Museum toys: Man's Favorite Sport?, coins in jukebox: Red Line 7000)
- Thrown items, often in fights (stone newspaper: Fig Leaves,
dynamite, tear gas, bowling ball: Scarface, paint: Twentieth Century,
trays: Come and Get It, rifle: Sergeant York,
rifle, knife: Red River, kerosene, equipment: The Thing from Another World, deer catapulted: The Big Sky,
flower petals in front of Pharaoh: Land of the Pharaohs,
dynamite: Rio Bravo, rifle, knife: El Dorado,
hornets, smoking brand tossed in rail car, pants, chicken: Rio Lobo)
- Pushed items (Karloff wheels tea cart: The Criminal Code, racecar pushed into garage: The Crowd Roars)
- Work trucks used in chases (beer truck: Scarface, garbage truck: Ball of Fire,
ice wagon: To Have and Have Not, medicine show wagon: Rio Lobo)
- Race cars (The Crowd Roars, Red Line 7000) related (cars used to catch animals: Hatari!)
- Motorcycles (police: Scarface, forest scooter: Man's Favorite Sport?)
- Aviation (The Air Circus, The Dawn Patrol, Ceiling Zero, Only Angels Have Wings,
Air Force, The Thing from Another World)
Characters and Relationships:
- Museums and related displays of collections (dinosaur museum: Bringing Up Baby,
greenhouse, Public Library: The Big Sleep, musical instruments: A Song Is Born,
collecting animals for zoos: Hatari!, Piano Museum, store full of sports equipment: Man's Favorite Sport?)
- Percussion instruments: (triangle for calling meals: Come and Get It, maracas: Only Angels Have Wings,
Gene Krupa: Ball of Fire, black drummers in Martinique: To Have and Have Not,
Kaye and drum, Lionel Hampton on marimba, musical instruments: A Song Is Born,
carried by procession marchers: Land of the Pharaohs, drummer boy at funeral: Rio Bravo,
church bells: El Dorado, guitar used as percussion at the end of credits, drum on stage at hotel: Rio Lobo)
- Pianos and piano players (casino: Come and Get It,
night club: Ball of Fire, Hoagy Carmichael: To Have and Have Not,
night club: A Song Is Born, suspense in saloon: El Dorado)
- Brass instruments (night club: Ball of Fire,
Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong on trumpet: A Song Is Born, Bull's bugle: El Dorado,
Union bugler: Rio Lobo)
- Women who sing jazzy songs with a group of male musicians casually surrounding
(Bacall: To Have and Have Not, Bacall: The Big Sleep, Russell: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)
- Men studying language or music (linguistics professors: Ball of Fire,
code machine: Air Force,
hero studies book in code: The Big Sleep,
music professors: A Song Is Born, Colorado explains secret meaning of song: Rio Bravo)
- References to famous writers or dramatists (Maugham's "Sadie Thompson": Scarface,
Maugham's "Sadie Thompson": Twentieth Century, Orson Welles: Air Force, Proust: The Big Sleep,
mention of Hawks' film "Sergeant York": The Thing from Another World,
Poe: El Dorado)
- Scientists (Bringing Up Baby, Ball of Fire, The Thing from Another World, Monkey Business)
- Very young men who are highly competent and decent (hero's brother: The Crowd Roars,
inventor Joel McCrea: Come and Get It, new crewman: Air Force, guard Ricky Nelson: Rio Bravo)
- Siblings who are close (Scarface, hero and brother: The Crowd Roars, Sternwood sisters: The Big Sleep,
villains: Rio Bravo)
- East Asians in technical jobs (praise for the Chinese as technically skilled: Come and Get It,
Chinese undertaker: Rio Bravo, George Takei as racecar pit boss: Red Line 7000)
- Marriage proposals (The Crowd Roars, Come and Get It, Ball of Fire,
talked about: Air Force, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)
- Humor about transvestism: (assistant acts part of wife: Fig Leaves,
men's jewelry called effeminate: Scarface, Barrymore acts woman's role: Twentieth Century,
Grant in nightgown: Bringing Up Baby,
Grant at end: I Was a Male War Bride, women get man in woman's dressing gown: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,
Wayne and woman's pants: Rio Bravo,
hero gives woman's driver's license to cop: Man's Favorite Sport?,
"man" revealed as woman: El Dorado)
- Servants with hidden sides (convicts as servants: The Criminal Code,
butler with financial authority: The Big Sleep)
- Drinking problems (drunkenness leads to killing: The Criminal Code,
hero at end: The Crowd Roars, sidekick: To Have and Have Not,
Carmen Sternwood: The Big Sleep, Martin: Rio Bravo, Mitchum: El Dorado,
heroine's late husband: Rio Lobo)
- Characters under threat of death (informer: The Criminal Code,
architect to be killed when finished with pyramid: Land of the Pharaohs,
heroes: Rio Bravo, heroes: El Dorado)
- Heroines who get faint after bravely taking part in shoot-outs (Dickinson and flower pot: Rio Bravo,
O'Neill and hotel: Rio Lobo) men (reporter faints after taking part in attack: The Thing from Another World)
- Sociologically revealing portraits of crowd members (country club: Bringing Up Baby,
black people in Martinique: To Have and Have Not, casino patrons: The Big Sleep,
jazz club patrons, black and white: A Song Is Born)
- Corrupt dictatorial authority figures (railroading DA, brutal prison guard: The Criminal Code,
Nazis: To Have and Have Not,
tyrannical boss: Red River, crooked Sheriff: Rio Lobo)
- Private eyes (The Big Sleep, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)
- French officials (Martinique: To Have and Have Not, I Was a Male War Bride,
courtroom, judge, police: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)
- WWI France (The Dawn Patrol, Today We Live, The Road to Glory)
Animals (noted as a Hawks theme by Stuart Byron):
- Fishing (Tiger Shark, discussed: Come and Get It, To Have and Have Not, Man's Favorite Sport?)
- Buckets of water (pail of bread and water for prisoner: The Criminal Code,
water thrown on Brennan in steam bath: Come and Get It,
glass of water thrown in face, buckets of kerosene: The Thing from Another World,
to revive Wayne: Rio Bravo, baby elephants in lake: Hatari!, on drunken Mitchum: El Dorado)
- Characters moving into shallow water (fight near start: Red River, baby elephants: Hatari!,
Man's Favorite Sport?, rock near beginning: El Dorado,
tracking stolen gold, Confederates escape at Union camp, finale: Rio Lobo)
- Water draining from objects (car pulled from ocean: The Big Sleep,
Hudson upside down in waders: Man's Favorite Sport?) related (dripping blood into beer: Rio Bravo)
- Chickens (with race car in comic crash: The Crowd Roars, outside spy house: To Have and Have Not,
at villain's: El Dorado, thrown: Rio Lobo)
- Birds (stork at start: Fig Leaves, Mabel's pet birds: Scarface,
geese in town: Only Angels Have Wings, pet bird: Land of the Pharaohs, ostriches: Hatari!)
- Animals (monkey, dinosaurs, snake: Fig Leaves, organ grinder's monkey: Scarface,
leopard, dinosaur skeleton: Bringing Up Baby, dog: Air Force, cattle: Red River,
sled dogs: The Thing from Another World,
camels: Land of the Pharaohs, donkey: Rio Bravo,
elephants, rhino, giraffe: Hatari!, aquariums: Man's Favorite Sport?,
hornets: Rio Lobo)
- Ocotillo shrubs (near Dean Martin at shootout: Rio Bravo, Caan recites poem: El Dorado, Elam's cabin: Rio Lobo)
- Other large, unusual plants (plane flies between two brush-like plants: Air Force, tree fern in greenhouse: The Big Sleep)
related (alien as giant plant: The Thing from Another World)
- Information collected by phone or wire (airport control room: Ceiling Zero,
Hudson in fishing store: Man's Favorite Sport?, telegraph at start: Rio Lobo)
related (reporter gives story, warns world by radio: The Thing from Another World)
- Earphones (man at phone in control room: Ceiling Zero, pilots: Air Force,
racetrack announcer: Man's Favorite Sport?)
- Local communication (intercom in warden's office: The Criminal Code, radio between plane crew: Air Force,
intercom at base: The Thing from Another World)
- Barbershops and shaving (warden shaved by convict: The Criminal Code,
Scarface, shaving on cattle drive: Red River, barber chair in saloon, Martin shaved: Rio Bravo)
- Bathtubs (model bath tub in plumbing office: Fig Leaves, steam baths: Come and Get It,
huge room with baths: Land of the Pharaohs, Martin: Rio Bravo,
Elsa Martinelli: Hatari!, Mitchum: El Dorado, bath in back of Feeney's saloon: Rio Lobo)
- Men get dressed (Martin in fancy clothes: Rio Bravo,
racer puts on coveralls: Red Line 7000, Wayne at start: El Dorado, Captain: Rio Lobo)
- Detection episodes (Bogart figures out roadhouse hoax: The Big Sleep,
Martin tracks man to saloon: Rio Bravo, Mitchum figures where man hides in saloon: El Dorado,
tracking men with stolen gold, deducing Wayne is going North: Rio Lobo)
related (scientists do detective-like work to deduce facts about spaceship, reconstruct landing: The Thing from Another World)
- Heroes set intellectual traps to expose bad guys (Scarface sets phone call to figure out who tried to kill him: Scarface,
Bogart and nonexistent rare books: The Big Sleep)
- Cross cutting (Wayne and Martin patrol town: Rio Bravo,
preparing train robbery at three locales: Rio Lobo)
- Camera movement of people walking past or through architecture
(police leave station, entering nightclub, hero enters DA's office, train depot, Karloff traps prisoner in warden's office: The Criminal Code,
opening, newspaper, Scarface leaves police station, to saloon manager's office, from office, ward club lobby,
up aisle of theater, into nightclub, across club floor, secretary walks while shot: Scarface,
pan of heroes entering garage, pan as Cagney exits garage, pans of race, entering and exiting train station: The Crowd Roars,
entering casino, going up casino stairs for first time: Come and Get It,
Hildy enters newspaper office: His Girl Friday,
York enters bunkhouse: Sergeant York,
Ridgely crosses field, Garfield crosses under wing, hospital: Air Force,
Kaye enters night club, Mayo enters stage, Mayo leaves stage, Kaye goes to front door at night, Mayo enters foundation: A Song Is Born,
reporter enters Officer's Club, first views of base interior: The Thing from Another World,
Martin enters saloon, Akins walks through town, Wayne and Martin patrol town: Rio Bravo,
Hudson enters sports store, boss' lobby and office, revolving bar: Man's Favorite Sport?,
Mitchum walks through bar at start: El Dorado, many shots: Rio Lobo)
- Tracks through an environment (car drives through race track at start: Red Line 7000, poem read in desert: El Dorado)
- Camera movements through walls (opening at police station: The Criminal Code, opening: Scarface)
- Pans that set scenes, often of challenges to hero (convicts in yard defy warden: The Criminal Code,
Mobsters under new boss: Scarface,
night club: Ball of Fire,
start of drive showing cattle and cowboys ending with Wayne: Red River, bridge over creek at finale: Rio Lobo)
- Vertical camera movements (down bunks in convicts cell: The Criminal Code)
- POV camera movements (Wayne's ride to villain's ranch: El Dorado)
- Characters first meet in tilted-angle shots (Wayne and Martin in saloon: Rio Bravo,
Hudson and Prentiss in her car: Man's Favorite Sport?)
Geometry and Architecture:
- X imagery (Scarface, priest's robe at end: Land of the Pharaohs,
love scene in arbor lattice at night: Red Line 7000)
- Chevron-like stripes (blackboard at racetrack: The Crowd Roars,
Farmer's blouse on train: Come and Get It, Hildy's hat: His Girl Friday, bartender: Rio Bravo)
- Numbers transformed (2:15 turned into face drawing: The Criminal Code,
room number tilted upside down: Ball of Fire)
- Other (diamond with square in door: The Criminal Code,
men form giant circle over spaceship: The Thing from Another World)
- Circular rooms (night clubs: A Song Is Born, revolving bar: Man's Favorite Sport?)
related (plane interior: Air Force, round spaceship: The Thing from Another World)
- Revolving architecture (pavilion on night club dance floor: Scarface,
liquor cabinet door: The Big Sleep, officer wants revolving door for office: The Thing from Another World,
revolving bar: Man's Favorite Sport?)
- People getting stuck in small region (steam baths: Come and Get It, porthole: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,
hero in heroine's tiny sports car at start: Man's Favorite Sport?)
- People live in neighboring rooms (across hall: Fig Leaves,
apartments: The Crowd Roars, hotel rooms of hero and heroine: To Have and Have Not,
paired bookstores: The Big Sleep, hotel rooms of hero and heroine: Rio Bravo)
- Strange doors (armored doors and windows: Scarface,
giant garage doors contain human door: The Crowd Roars,
Eddie Mars' office with door behind gambling region: The Big Sleep,
sheriff's door with opening: Rio Bravo, barred window with small door on train: Rio Lobo)
- Glass-walled rooms (plumbing office: Fig Leaves,
warden's office: The Criminal Code, newspaper, barber shop: Scarface,
garage: The Crowd Roars,
control room: Ceiling Zero, bunkhouse: Sergeant York,
control room, plane gunner area, hangar at start: Air Force,
greenhouse: The Big Sleep, stained glass in hallway: A Song Is Born,
giant windows by air control desk: The Thing from Another World,
outside elevator, Piano Museum with stained glass windows and doors, restaurant: Man's Favorite Sport?,
Sheriff's office: Rio Lobo)
- Interiors with equipment on walls (garage with fenders: The Crowd Roars,
store with sports equipment: Man's Favorite Sport?)
- Stairs used for staging and dramatic emphasis of characters' movements
(ladder to hut: Fig Leaves, outside warden's office: The Criminal Code,
Mother's home, Scarface's home: Scarface,
spiral staircase on stage: Twentieth Century, steps up to wall map: Ceiling Zero,
casino, mansion: Come and Get It, cantina: Only Angels Have Wings,
foundation: Ball of Fire,
hotel: To Have and Have Not, apartment: The Big Sleep,
hotel: Rio Bravo, hotel: Rio Lobo)
- Men who work at desks (plumber hero: Fig Leaves, warden: The Criminal Code, cop, news editor: Scarface,
control room: Ceiling Zero, reporters: His Girl Friday,
scholars: Ball of Fire, Marlowe: The Big Sleep, radio desk: The Thing from Another World,
Wayne's Sheriff desk: Rio Bravo, boss: Man's Favorite Sport?)
- Reflections in horizontal surfaces (primitive heroine reflected in bowl of water: Fig Leaves,
Barbara Stanwyck's face reflected in table: Ball of Fire,
Martin sees himself in water trough: Rio Bravo)
- Dust (first racetrack: The Crowd Roars, finale with dynamite: Rio Bravo, animals, vehicles: Hatari!,
opening shot, heroine's horse at start: El Dorado, after stopped train, before finale: Rio Lobo)
related (tear gas, face powder: Scarface, train smoke: Rio Lobo)
Costumes and Color:
- Brown clothes matching brown wall backgrounds (Nelson: Rio Bravo,
Hudson, Prentiss and store, office, gold revolving bar: Man's Favorite Sport?,
Mitchum's gray-with-touch-of-brown clothes matching walls at start: El Dorado,
Captain's copper leather shirt and walls of hotel: Rio Lobo)
- Yellow flowers (Kaye's table at club with Mayo: A Song Is Born,
woman sells on Paris street: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Confederates and train robbery: Rio Lobo)
- Yellow or gold rooms (revolving bar: Man's Favorite Sport?, hotel rooms, bar: Red Line 7000)
- Yellow cars (taxi: A Song Is Born,
heroine's car, taxi: Man's Favorite Sport?, racecar: Red Line 7000,
train car with gold: Rio Lobo)
- Red cars and equipment (hero's car interior, scooter, gas pumps: Man's Favorite Sport?,
racecar, toolbox: Red Line 7000, train engine, cowcatcher, medicine show wagon: Rio Lobo)
- Red-green color schemes (green walls and red fire hatchet backstage: A Song Is Born,
green dressing room and red clothes at start: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,
Prentiss-Hudson evening walk: Man's Favorite Sport?,
good guys dinner with red clothes, tablecloth, green glasses: El Dorado)
- Red color schemes (Mayo in red coat with red Broadway lights behind her: A Song Is Born)
- Sidekicks in green shirts and brown leather (Martin's blue-green shirt and brown vest: Rio Bravo,
Native American in green shirt and brown belt: Man's Favorite Sport?)
- Racecar drivers and crews in white outfits (The Crowd Roars, Red Line 7000)
- Leather cowboy clothes (Clift, Wayne: Red River, Dewey Martin: The Big Sky,
Nelson's buckskin shirt: Rio Bravo, James Caan: El Dorado, Captain: Rio Lobo)
- Leather jackets (pilot: Ceiling Zero, pilots: Only Angels Have Wings,
pilots: Air Force, Carol Lundgren, police: The Big Sleep, pilots: The Thing from Another World)
- Gangsters in snazzy double-breasted clothes (Scarface, Ball of Fire, The Big Sleep,
George's double-breasted vest: El Dorado)
others (announcer: The Crowd Roars, hero: His Girl Friday)
- Layered clothes (mechanic's coverall over suit: The Crowd Roars,
pilot's leather coat over leather jacket: Ceiling Zero,
outdoor clothes worn over leather flight jackets, leather apron: The Thing from Another World,
waders over clothes: Man's Favorite Sport?, racer's coveralls: Red Line 7000,
hornet protection veils: Rio Lobo)
- Women in suits (Frances Farmer: Come and Get It, Arthur: Only Angels Have Wings,
Bacall: To Have and Have Not, Miss Totten: A Song Is Born, Dickinson: Rio Bravo,
Prentiss and friend at start: Man's Favorite Sport?, O'Neill at first: Rio Lobo)
- Cloth tied around women's hats (Prentiss at start: Man's Favorite Sport?, O'Neill at first: Rio Lobo)
- Shiny clothes (cowboy at casino: The Big Sleep, rain slickers: Red River,
Hawkins: Land of the Pharaohs, George's vest: El Dorado)
Fig Leaves (1926) is a comedy about a married couple.
Anachronism and Animals: The Opening
Fig Leaves has a delightful opening, showing Adam and Eve. While in some ways these
are the Biblical figures, they are set against a pseudo-primitive background, with the pair living a life
like modern times, complete with "primitive" versions of alarm clocks, streetcars and newspapers.
The whole thing very much anticipates such modern comedies as The Flintstones.
The hut in which the characters live also recalls Gilligan's Island.
Even at this early date, we see Hawks' love of gizmos:
We also see an early example of Hawks' interest in prehistoric animals. If the scientist in
Bringing Up Baby is reconstructing a dinosaur skeleton, here we have in actual dinosaur,
including a most charming Brontosaurus, just like the skeleton in Bringing Up Baby.
The interest in evolution will return in Monkey Business.
- The alarm clock involves sand. This anticipates the running sand device of Land of the Pharaohs.
- The thrown newspaper anticipates the catapulted deer of The Big Sky, and all the other thrown
and tossed items in Hawks.
- The hero sees her reflection in a horizontal surface, here a bowl of water.
This anticipates Stanwyck's reflection in the night club table top in Ball of Fire, and
Dean Martin's reflection in the water trough in Rio Bravo.
The Hero's Office
In the modern-day main portion of the film, O'Brien plays a plumber. His office contains
a lot of Hawksian features:
- A large window makes it another of Hawks' glass-walled rooms.
- A telephone is prominent.
- The hero has a desk.
- There is a surreal bathtub in the office: a model for sale by the plumber. It anticipates
the barber chair in the saloon of Rio Bravo, and the bath area in the saloon of Rio Lobo.
We see Hawks following in the footsteps of John Ford, at least in his choice of star.
George O'Brien had had a huge success in Ford's The Iron Horse (1925). O'Brien is back,
and showing off his famous chest, shirtless in a waking-up in bed scene.
O'Brien also wears his hair long, as the primitive Adam. O'Brien seemed to change his hair style a lot,
including a before-and-after hair cut in Sunrise (Murnau, 1927).
The Criminal Code
The Criminal Code (1931) is a prison melodrama.
Links to El Dorado
The opening anticipates El Dorado. In both, a man kills someone, in what he believes
to be self defense. In both he soon learns that there were complicating circumstances that
made the killing stupid and unnecessary. El Dorado differs in that the man understands this,
and defends himself. But in The Criminal Code, the naive hero doesn't understand
anything, and winds up railroaded to prison.
It is appalling that the DA is willing railroad him. It is also disturbing that the judge
does not speak up, but goes along with this.
Huston's walk through the yard, defying the prisoners who've jeered him, perhaps anticipates the
scene in El Dorado where Wayne rides through the villain's compound.
There is much suspense in The Criminal Code, about an informer who is threatened with death
by the other prison inmates. This anticipates the way the heroes of Rio Bravo and
El Dorado are under siege and threatened with killing.
Links to Scarface
The Criminal Code resembles Scarface, in being a thriller about tough criminals.
Both have a suspense scene involving shaving. The heroes of both films display their toughness by
striking matches in defiance of opponents watching them: in The Criminal Code this occurs
when the warden walks through the jeering prisoners in the yard.
Links to To Have and Have Not
The scene where the convicts shoot out the guards' search light, gets echoed in
To Have and Have Not. In that film, it is hero Bogart who shouts out the lights of police
from a corrupt government.
Both films have men stuck in a world ruled by an opposing force. In To Have and Have Not,
that ruling force is evil: a Nazi-aligned government. The prison in The Criminal Code
is far more morally ambiguous. Still, between a D.A. who railroads men to prison, and a
brutal head guard who uses torture in his dungeon, the prison is very much an illegitimate world.
In The Criminal Code, the warden and head guard try to get the hero to speak up,
and tell what he knows about a killing. He refuses: being against squealing is the Criminal Code
of the film's title. In To Have and Have Not, the alleged good guys want to get information
out of the Gestapo leader, and they are willing to use torture to do it. The two films have
a similar situation, but their morality is reversed. In The Criminal Code, the hero who
won't speak is the good guy, in To Have and Have Not, his torturers are the so-called good guys.
I believe the apparent conclusion of To Have and Have Not, that "torture works and is good",
is not backed up by reality. Most experts think torture doesn't work, but instead corrupts
and endangers societies who use it.
Work and professionalism are often glorified in Hawks. But The Criminal Code differs,
in that the hero has a breakdown while working in the prison jute mill. This scene is
closer to The Dawn Patrol, in which the heroes' war work is nightmarishly stressful.
The hero does greatly benefit from his chauffeur work.
The D.A./warden's big speech near the end, about how he only only does his job and duty,
rings hollow. We've seen him do dishonest things; we've seen him bow to pressure from
The convicts get employed as servants in the warden's home. This leads to
servants with hidden sides. a Hawks tradition. Boris Karloff has a dark comedy
field day, with his role as a butler. He is polite, soft spoken and endlessly creepy,
wheeling trays around and saying "Tea is Served!" The giant Karloff looks infinitely menacing,
a butler right out of a horror movie about an Old Dark House. Karloff might be compared
to the butler in The Big Sleep, a man who turns out to have hidden duties and unusual
financial powers in the household.
The hero gets a job as chauffeur. Chauffeurs in crime stories of the 1930's were often figures
of unlimited sexual potency, wearing sharp uniforms and driving huge machines. The hero's uniform
does not look as tough as some of the drivers in pulp magazine tales or other movies.
But it is a full dress uniform all the same, one that gives him plenty of working class appeal.
The hero might be compared to Rusty Regan in The Big Sleep, a "good guy" servant who also
has a personal or romantic relationship with a member of a household.
Camera Movement: Tracking Through Architecture
The Criminal Code has a fair amount of camera movement. Some of it involves that Hawks
standard, men walking through architecture seen for the first time:
There are similar camera movements, that go through buildings we have already seen:
people leaving the night club, Karloff in the warden's office.
- The opening in the police station.
- The entrance into the night club where the killing took place.
- The hero and heroine outside at the train depot.
Most important, are a pair of visually similar camera movements, that show the hero entering Huston's office.
He does this once when he enters the DA's office; and once again later, when he enters the office of
Huston-as-warden for the first time. Both lateral tracks send the hero past bookcases on the wall,
up to the warden's desk. The plot situations and dialogue underscore the parallels in these two scenes.
The opening shot in the police station goes through a wall, like the opening camera movement
Camera Movement: Other
The defiance-in-the-prison-yard scene has one of Hawks' pans, across the convicts in the yard. Hawks' pans
often show obstacles faced by the hero.
There is a vertical camera movement, down a column of bunks in the prison cell.
Huston gets some camera movements. There is a track-in on him, showing him seated at his desk.
And the camera accompanies him, as he moves through the yard.
Scarface (1932) is a famous gangster film.
Camera Movement: Tracking Through Architecture
Scarface is full of camera movement. These are likely the most complex camera movements in all
of Hawks. Many are of that classic Hawks type, men walking through architecture seen for the first time:
Camera movement on this scale will return in Rio Lobo. Such camera movements are present in many
other Hawks films, but they are not usually quite so numerous or elaborate. Still, they are a signature
element of Hawks' style.
- The opening long take: a virtuosic sequence,
- The trip through the newspaper office near the start,
- Scarface leaves the police station,
- Scarface walks through a narrow bar to the saloon manager's office,
- Scarface returns from the office, after intimidating the manager: a shorter take than his entrance,
- Through the ward club lobby, a path that is shown once during the day, and later in the film, at night,
- Up the aisle of the theater,
- Into the nightclub,
- Across the night club floor, after Scarface spots his sister (two camera movements),
- In the final shoot-out, the secretary walks through Scarface's home while shot.
There is also a camera movement following the mother and daughter walking upstairs. It differs from the other
shots, in that it is not the first time we've seen such architecture.
Camera Movement: Panning Over Challenges
Most importantly, there is a completely different kind of camera movement in Scarface.
This is the pan around the mobsters assembled in the first view of the Ward Club. This shot might
be construed as a Point of View (POV) shot: it might be what the heroes are seeing from the door of the club,
as they pass their eyes over the assembled hoods. But the shot is not explicitly marked as a POV shot.
It more seems to be a panorama of an elaborate scene: like the shot sweeping over the night club
early in Ball of Fire.
Such shots in Hawks sometimes show challenges facing the hero:
for example, the pan in Red River at the start of the drive showing cattle and cowboys, ending with Wayne.
Scarface's team have to control and "herd" the recalcitrant mobsters, just as Wayne has to drive
the cattle and cowboys north. In Rio Lobo, the pan near the end shows the terrain (bridge and creek)
in which the heroes will have to shoot it out with the bad guys. Even in Ball of Fire,
the night club is a locale the professor hero is struggling to understand, analyze and record.
Both the newspaper office towards the start, and the barbershop, are Hawksian rooms with glass walls.
The night club set has a pavilion in the center, that revolves as patrons dance. It anticipates
the revolving bar in Man's Favorite Sport?.
The taxi has a huge view through its rear window. We see a moving view of the city unfolding behind the characters,
as the taxi ride progresses. Hawks will later do something similar, but more spectacular, in A Song Is Born.
In A Song Is Born, the taxi view shows the lights of Broadway at night, lights whose red color echoes
the heroine's red coat.
Scarface also has its city lights: the sign saying "The World Is Yours".
Scarface delights in his fancy clothes - and one suspects his director does too. Scarface gets all
dressed up in spiffy double-breasted clothes, including an overcoat and a black tuxedo. These are the same
two items that will be worn by John Ridgely's handsome, charming gangster in The Big Sleep.
Both men look especially good in their double-breasted black tuxedos.
Being a gangster in Hawks seems to give one license to get dressed up. There is a tremendous sexual charge,
in this ability.
One wonders why honest men can't wear such clothes, too. One such man in Hawks does: Cary Grant's newspaper
editor in His Girl Friday. However, while Grant is financially honest, he has the personality
of a con-man. He has lots of anti-social energy that also finds expression in Hawks' gangsters.
In all of these men, the anti-social elements give the men a sexual charge and thrill.
The announcer in The Crowd Roars also gets to wear such clothes, as part of his profession.
In an age that idolized radio and sound technology in general, the well-dressed, glamorized announcer
was a figure of public admiration.
Still, most honest men in Hawks' modern day films are much more plainly dressed. Case in point: the awful looking
suits worn by the cops throughout Scarface. These are the dowdiest, worst dressed men imaginable.
After sabotaging the cops' appearance throughout the whole film, there is a sudden reversal at the end.
For the first time, we see policemen in uniform. And these are the dressiest uniforms imaginable.
They are a full fig expression of macho style. They are worn with complex harnesses, and white shirts and ties.
The police caps are especially pointed in front, giving an ultra-stylish and ultra-aggressive appearance.
We also see motorcycles, searchlights and sirens, all elements of the police mystique, for the first time.
While the dowdy looking actors playing cops in most of Scarface badly need a trip to the gym,
the actors in the finale are superb physical specimens.
Scarface includes a trip to the theater: a performance of the play Sadie Thompson.
Hawks will soon make a comedy about life backstage in the theater, Twentieth Century. It too will
reference Sadie Thompson, but its main theatrical focus will be a jaundiced, satirical look at another
over-heated melodrama, this one set in the Deep South.
Scarface seems to regard the theater, as a place where men dress up in costumes - Marines or "the collar" -
and women then decide which is more sexually attractive. This recalls the use of male costuming in
The Crowd Roars
The Crowd Roars (1932) is a racecar melodrama.
The numerous cameos by famous racecar drivers, might have inspired the athletes in small roles
at the end of Big City (Frank Borzage, 1937), or the artists
in Artists and Models (Raoul Walsh, 1937). All of these now form a
precious record of these real-life achievers.
There are lots of discussions, about the heroine wanting to get married. Marriage proposal
intrigue plays a big role in Ball of Fire, although in quite a different way.
The hero owns his racecar and has a mechanic working for him. This anticipates To Have and Have Not,
whose hero owns a fishing boat he rents out, and who employs an assistant to help him run it (Walter Brennan).
The hero's brother (Eric Linden) is very young and boyish, like Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo.
Animals show up in The Crowd Roars, early on when a racer comically crashes into a farm full of chickens.
Racing and Red Line 7000
Years later, when Hawks would film a second racecar thriller Red Line 7000 (1965), the races
would have many common features with those in The Crowd Roars:
Maybe all this means is that the real-life basic structure of racing was similar in 1932 and 1965.
One difference: the announcers are alone in the booths in 1932; they are in a group in 1965.
- Drivers and crews in white uniforms,
- Announcers, nicely dressed, with microphones in high open booths,
- Blackboards used by pit crews to send messages to the drivers,
- Girlfriends watching from the stands,
- Scoreboards showing the positions of the drivers.
The politics of The Crowd Roars is strange. Much of the country was unemployed in 1932,
due to the Depression. The hero loses his racing job towards the end of The Crowd Roars. He is
shown in frightening scenes of looking for work, and trying to get enough to eat. But the reason
he has no job, is that he is drinking and "on the skids": it's a psychological problem! The hero is going
through the same unemployment problems as much of the audience - but for completely different reasons.
The shots of Cagney looking for work, and receiving help from his old girlfriend at the lunch counter,
are powerful and emotionally involving. They anticipate Rio Bravo. and the attempt of his friends to
help Dean Martin.
The Crowd Roars has a number of pans:
Most of these shots show characters walking through architecture. In this, they resemble a bit
the opening long take in Scarface, although they as not as flamboyant. They are also pans,
not a track as in Scarface. The first garage pan is full of posts, like the track in Scarface.
- The camera follows the heroes, as they enter the father's garage, pushing the racecar.
- Soon, Cagney will exit the garage, in a fairly long shot that is a slow, stop-and-start pan.
- Several shots following the cars around the first racetrack are pans. Some are silhouetted by
the pillars of the stands, in front of the shots.
- A pan shows the heroes walking into the LA train station for the first time.
- Soon, another pan shows the mechanic and his family leaving the station.
- Cagney's first trip to the lunch counter, towards the end, is a brief pan.
There is also a push-in on the announcer at the first race track, perhaps designed to generate
a little dynamism for a character who simply stands and talks.
Crews, Wrecks and Rio Lobo
The Crowd Roars has scenes of the crew taking a racecar off a train. These
anticipate the opening train robbery in Rio Lobo. Rio Lobo shows one group loading the train,
and others preparing the robbery. Both groups resemble the crew in The Crowd Roars.
The Crowd Roars later has shots of wrecks occurring on the racetrack. This also resembles
the big robbery in Rio Lobo, which involves the elaborate stopping of the train.
The heroine gets a job serving food at a lunch counter at the track. This also anticipates
a woman in Rio Lobo, who serves food in a cantina.
The mechanic wears his white coverall, over a full suit and tie. Hawks' likes such
layered clothes. In the movie Ceiling Zero, the pilot at the start wears
a leather coat over a separate leather jacket, which itself is worn over a shirt and tie.
Not to mention the fisherman's waders in Man's Favorite Sport?.
Hawks' technique in Twentieth Century (1934) is apparently simple:
The terminology above "medium shots", and "medium close shots"
comes from film historian Barry Salt.
His statistical analysis in his Film Style and Technology:
History and Analysis (1983, 1992) shows that they are the
dominant camera lengths in many Hawks films.
- Groups: Medium shots. The majority of the shots show all the actors involved
in a scene at once. Usually there are just two actors, engaged
in a dialogue, sometimes 3 or more. The camera is as close as
it can be, and still see both actors, their arm movements, and
any props necessary in the scene.
- Single Actor: Medium Close shots. Occasionally Hawks cuts into
a closer, but not too close, shot of just one of the actors. The
cutting can highlight a line, or an entrance of the actor to the
scene. This cutting can add visual variety to a scene; it can
also give a rhythm to the scene, where the film alternates between
a group shot and a single actor shot.
There is little reverse
angle cutting. Instead, Hawks shoots the scenes as if someone
were looking on and watching. There is an invisible viewer in
Hawks who watches everything.
Occasionally the single actor shots
change an angle, for example, the shots of the characters entering
or leaving train cars. These are set at around a 60 degree angle
to the previous frontal shots. The angle seems "natural":
it is the best view an onlooker could get of the character entering
Come and Get It
Come and Get It (1937) is a historical drama, set among the lumber trade
Come and Get It offers a look at rapacious capitalism. The lumber baron destroys
a natural resource, trees, and is opposed to any kind of re-planting or conservation.
Later in El Dorado, a rich crook will try to steal water rights.
McCrea's speech about the invention of paper by the Chinese, and his high praise
for the Chinese as inventors in general, is typical of a thread running through
Hawks showing East Asians as technically skilled.
It is easy to interpret the marriages in Come and Get It as
the sort of marriages homosexuals entered into to achieve social success. The
Edward Arnold character gives up his true love, to marry a rich man's daughter.
This is similar to the way gay men have abandoned their love relationships, to enter
into loveless heterosexual marriages.
Come and Get It is full of Hawks imagery:
- The triangle used to call meals is a Hawks percussion instrument.
- There is a lunch stand in the lumberjack hall at the start.
- The men take a steam bath: one of many scenes of men bathing in Hawks.
- Brennan is also trapped in the tiny neck opening of the steam bath: one of
many men trapped in small spaces.
- Water is thrown on Brennan in the steam bath.
- We have a crooked casino with roulette. The attempt to walk out with winnings,
opposed by thugs sent by management, will return in The Big Sleep, with variations.
- There is a piano in the casino.
- The trays used in the casino fight are another Hawks tossed item.
- Staircases used for staging action appear at the casino and Arnold's mansion.
- Joel McCrea is another highly competent young man in Hawks.
- The dress worn by Frances Farmer on the train is full of chevron stripes.
The casino scene has two of Hawks' camera movements of people walking through architecture:
As is typical for Hawks, both introduce new locales.
- One shows the hero entering the casino, and going to its bar.
- Another shows the couple moving through the casino and up
the stairs to the balcony for the first time.
Ball of Fire
Ball of Fire (1941) is one of Hawks' best comedies.
Hawks includes some striking panoramas, shot at slightly elevated
angles over large sets:
Both the night club and the foundation shots emphasize that group activities
are going on, enterprises pleasantly shared by large groups of people.
- In the night club scenes, Hawks pans over
the huge set, filled with people of all sorts, patrons and musicians.
- In the foundation work room, one shot shows the professors arriving
in the morning, taking off their jackets, and seating themselves
at their desks. This panorama encompasses many different
desks at once, spread out over the large room.
Ball of Fire came out the year when Hollywood was first
beginning to produce film noir in quantity, 1941. It has features that look back
to the earlier Hollywood paradigm for crime movies, the gangster
film. All of the crooks in Ball of Fire are gangsters,
and they behave in gangland ways, bumping off opponents, and holding
people captive with Tommy guns. They are also pursued by a tough,
incorruptible District Attorney. The heroine of the film is a
gangster's moll. On the surface, this film fits in to the traditional
gangster film genre.
But Ball of Fire also has elements that look forward to
the new genre, film noir:
- The movie revolves around a choice made
by the heroine, whether to marry the honest hero of the film,
or its gangster villain. This anticipates the similar dilemma
in The Big Sleep, in which heroine Vivian Sternwood (Lauren
Bacall) seems sometimes to be involved with gangster Eddie Mars,
and sometimes with detective Philip Marlowe. In both films, the
gangster is a man of tremendous personal charm, played by a leading
man type, and dressed in high fashion suits. The subject of a
sexual and romantic duel, fought within the heroine's feelings,
links these films to the emotional obsessions that are so important
in film noir.
- The foundation home is dominated by two giant staircases,
frequently used by Hawks to stage the action. Such staircase imagery
is common in noir.
- We see the heroine in bed, also a noir locale.
- The sharp double breasted suits worn by the crooks will soon
be the uniform of countless noir characters.
- The wedding clothes worn by everyone, both crooks and honest characters,
at the end of the picture, will also show up in many noir films, which
frequently include weddings as a subject.
- The main crooks are played by Dana Andrews and Dan Duryea,
two actors that will become noir icons. Both will frequently appear
in films for Fritz Lang. It is odd to see
Dana Andrews in a bad guy role - he mainly played heroes throughout
his career. He has a snarling viciousness here under his surface
charm that is very menacing.
- Clocks per se will rarely show up in Ball of Fire. But
there will be constant discussion of time and schedules.
- Mirror effects mainly show up in the match drumming sequence, with Barbara
Stanwyck's face reflected in the polished table surface.
- Gene Krupa's enthusiastic drumming scene here anticipates Elisha
Cook's famous drumming scene in Robert Siodmak's
film noir Phantom Lady (1944). Oddly enough, Elisha Cook
is present in this scene, too, as a waiter in the night club where
Krupa plays. In both films, the drumming carries an explosive
The ending of the film, in which the group of scientist heroes
struggles against the gangster villains, anticipates Hawks' great
final Westerns, Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1967).
In both films, the good guys seem weak and powerless against the
bad guys. But the good guys show brains, determination and pluck,
and eventually triumph over their sinister opponents.
The most effeminate of the professor heroes (played by the delightful
Richard Haydn) is the one that shows the most courageous resistance
to the gangsters here. This is an unexpected and imaginative development.
It is part of Hawks' celebration of homosexuality, something that
runs throughout his filmmaking career. The bonding between the
professors here, like that of the good guy groups in the Westerns,
is also deeply homosexual in nature.
The Big Sleep
The original, pre-release version of The Big Sleep (1945)
seems to me to be vastly superior to the 1946 version, the only
one that has been available for most of the time since 1946. It
is not that there is anything wrong with the new scenes Hawks
added to beef up Lauren Bacall's role. Rather, the extensive cuts
made in the original continuity rendered the story nearly incomprehensible.
I am not the only person who found the 1946 version hard to follow
- a long list of critics have recorded their complete bafflement.
By contrast, the 1945 version tells a complete, logical story.
This film is based on the 1939 detective novel by
Seeing the complete version has profound effects on how we view
the characters. Humphrey Bogart's detective now seems like a person
of substance. He works hard and achieves what he sets out to do:
find the whereabouts of the missing good guy Sean Regan, and protect
blackmailed daughter Carmen Sternwood from the hoods who are threatening
her. These are worthwhile tasks. Accomplishing them is a grown-up
moral victory, something anyone can admire and be proud of. It
also justifies Bogart's defiance of the police: he is on a mission
to help the powerless, and his independence is a form of gallantry.
Bogart's detective also becomes one of Hawks' long line of professionals:
someone who sticks to his job in an admirable fashion. Similarly,
the Lauren Bacall character is a person who is similarly admirable
and stalwart in trying to aid first her sister, then Bogart as
All of this is chopped to mincemeat in the 1946 version. The story
seems absurd in the literal sense of the term: just a series of
meaningless, incomprehensible events stuck together. Nothing in
it seems to have any significance. It is virtually an abstract
dance the characters go through. Bogart seems to be posing as
a detective or going through the motions, but nothing meaningful
or coherent is occurring. Some critics deeply admire this abstraction,
reading all sorts of existential profundities in it, suggesting
it conveys the alleged meaninglessness of life. They also view
it as a satire a detective fiction, a genre they plainly hate.
This is a point of view that deeply grates on me.
The 1945 version has other positive effects as well. There is
now much more male bonding between Bogart and policeman Regis
Toomey, such camaraderie being a Hawks specialty. We see Bogart
similarly interacting with other police characters, as well. Several
later cut scenes show Bogart doing detective work, something that
enhances his status as a detective professional. There is more
atmosphere in this version, with grading between different scenes,
and a logical progression of mood. The film seems more like a
lived experience, and less like an absurd jumble of scenes.
Hawks filmed two of the most famous mystery novels ever written:
E.C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case (1913)
and Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep (1939).
And one of the theater's best-known crime plays, The Front Page.
Respect for Dorothy Malone's book seller is established, when she shows she knows her subject well.
She has a strong professional knowledge of rare books, unlike the clerk in the book store
across the street. This echoes Hawks' constant respect for professionals who are good at their jobs.
The butler also becomes more interesting, when it is learned that he has duties beyond those
of a conventional butler. He seems to do these tasks well.
Eddie Mars' office has two elaborate doors. One is the regular door, the other is a special
exit that comes out behind the gambling tables. These are discussed, and later we see Mars using
the second door, from the other side. The doors are both unusually styled:
neither looks like a conventional door.
One recalls another mobster in Scarface, whose doors and windows were heavily armored: see
that film's final siege.
We also see a liquor cabinet, with a door that opens with a circular shelf. In a small way,
it perhaps anticipates the giant revolving bar in Man's Favorite Sport?.
The front window and door of Geiger's house also play roles in the plot. Marlowe enters
through the window, and Mars has a major encounter with the door late in the film.
While the dialogue (taken right from Chandler's novel) talks about orchids in the greenhouse,
we don't get a good view of any orchids. Instead, the most conspicuous plant is a tall tree fern.
Hawks seems to like large plants with unconventional architecture, such as tree ferns: ocotillo shrubs
show up in his Westerns.
As in Ball of Fire, snazzy double-breasted clothes are worn by gangsters (John Ridgely
in The Big Sleep, Dana Andrews in Ball of Fire). These include Ridgely's overcoat,
and later his double-breasted tuxedo.
By contrast, the honest heroes of both films (Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart) are dressed in a plainer,
less ostentatious style.
Among the people watching the roulette game, is another man in a spectacular double-breasted suit.
These casino patrons also include a man in fancy cowboy clothes, including ornamental boots and
a satin cowboy shirt. This sort of "Western costume worn by a city dweller in a modern day city"
is not seen much in Hollywood films of the era. Hawks films sometimes include sociological portraits
using crowd scenes at night clubs. We learn a lot about the black citizens of Martinique, from the
numerous cameos of patrons at the night club in To Have and Have Not. The country club members in
Bringing Up Baby are also vivid. These are all people definitely having fun, and out for a good time.
A Song Is Born
A Song Is Born (1959) is a musical remake of Hawks' own comedy Ball of Fire. A Song Is Born
does not have a very strong reputation: many people (and Hawks himself) regard it as mediocre. But it has its moments.
One odd aspect: Danny Kaye functions as a straight man throughout the film, doing very little comedy.
He instead plays a romantic lead. This made sense when Gary Cooper starred in the original: Cooper was
a romantic lead. But it deprives the remake of Kaye's comic skills.
Two of the night clubs Kaye visits are circular rooms. These spectacular places anticipate
the revolving bar in Man's Favorite Sport?, which is also circular.
Percussion instruments run through Hawks, and never more so than in A Song Is Born.
Danny Kaye and the professors have a big number with drums early on. And Lionel Hampton shows
up with his marimba.
The opening scenes at the foundation are among the most repressed in terms of color in Hawks.
They are almost all earth tones. El Dorado also starts out with brown and gray. But
A Song Is Born pushes this to the limits.
Backstage at the heroine's nightclub, green walls are complemented by a red fire hatchet.
The Thing from Another World
The Thing from Another World (1951) is a science fiction movie. While credited to director
Christian Nyby, producer Howard Hawks is widely seen as contributing to the film.
The alien is an intelligent plant. Large, unusual plants run through Hawks' films,
including the tree fern in the greenhouse in The Big Sleep, and ocotillo shrubs in Westerns.
The alien is perhaps the largest and weirdest of such plants.
The Thing from Another World also includes a greenhouse, seen as the natural setting of the alien.
The alien looks male: he is played by giant Jim Arness. But the alien can reproduce through seeds.
There is no sign of pollination or sexual activity in the alien. Instead, the alien
seems to be a male who can reproduce without females. This is perhaps an extension of the
male groups that resemble families in Hawks' films.
Hawks showed Adam and Eve in the prologue to Fig Leaves. These are the archetypal male-and-female
progenitors of humanity. The alien who can reproduce without women is the diametric opposite.
The scientist hails the aliens' asexual reproduction as superior to humans' sexuality.
The idea that scientists are opposed to sex reflects deep-seated views of science as coolly rational and opposed to emotion.
The scientist especially opposes the "pleasure and pain" in sexuality.
Hawks likes animals. Here the sled dogs are loyal allies of the humans.
A dog is the only one not scared during the trip to the landing site: he remains standing,
when all the humans throw themselves on the ground.
The Thing from Another World is another of Hawks films featuring pilots and planes.
As usual in Hawks, leather pilots' jackets are prominent.
A Group Under Siege
The pilots become a group under siege, trapped together in rooms at the base.
They anticipate the good guys holed up in Sheriff's offices in Hawks' final trilogy of Westerns.
The reporter is both part, and not quite part, of the air crew. He is not quite fully accepted by them.
He shows bravery and solidarity in the final fight, thus causing him to be accepted by the crew.
He faints after the fight, while being brave during it: something associated with women
elsewhere in Hawks: Rio Bravo, Rio Lobo.
The opening shows the reporter as being excluded from the air crew group:
The effect is a bit like the roadhouse-casino in The Big Sleep: just as hero Bogart was an intruder
in a casino full of well-dressed gamblers, so is the reporter an outsider in an elite club
where the sharply-uniformed officers gamble on poker.
- The setting is an Officer's Club, where everyone but the reporter is a member.
- The crew are all in dress uniforms. The reporter is in civilian clothes.
- The crew act indifferent when introduced to the reporter, and largely ignore him.
- The crew are sitting and the reporter is standing.
But soon afterwards, the pilot is privately recommending to his superior that the reporter
accompany them to the Arctic. After the pilots' ritual exclusion of the reporter, they act
privately to include him.
The scientists do much reasoning, in the early parts of the film. First they reason out that the mysterious object cannot be a meteor,
but must be a spaceship. Then at the crash site, they reconstruct the landing events of the ship.
All of this reasoning is like detective work. While the scientists are not the film's heroes,
they do good detective work, a behavior of good guys in other Hawks films.
The lead scientist is a Nobel Prize winner, and one of the world's leading scientists.
His credentials are enumerated in a piece of dialogue.
This recalls the outstanding credentials scholar Gary Cooper recites when he is proposing to
Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire. Partly, one suspects this reflects
Hawks' interest in profesionalism: these men are good at their jobs.
The Short Story: Who Goes There?
The Thing from Another World is based on a famous science fiction novella (long short story),
"Who Goes There?" (1938) by John W. Campbell.
(Please follow the link to Campbell, for a discussion of "Who Goes There?".)
The film ignores key aspects of "Who Goes There?", such as the ability of the alien to change shapes
and impersonate people. It has been much criticized for leaving out such elements.
Hawks has instead turned "Who Goes There?" into a Hawksian film, by introducing and augmenting
favorite Hawksian subjects and themes.
Many of the most Hawksian features of The Thing from Another World are not present in "Who Goes There?".
They have been added for the film:
Other Hawks-like features have simple antecedents in "Who Goes There?", but have been greatly expanded for
The Thing from Another World:
- The alien being plant-based.
- The alien's ability to reproduce through seeds, outside of heterosexuality.
- The reporter.
- The woman heroine in a mainly man's world.
- The detective work about the ship and its landing path.
- The circular shape of the ship.
- The intercoms.
- The siege.
- While there is a pilot in "Who Goes There?", the role of pilots has been expanded.
- A simple debate between the botanist and the others in "Who Goes There?" has been turned into a
soldiers vs. scientists theme.
Technology: The Present vs The Future
Hawks greatly augments the use of radio, compared to "Who Goes There?".
Radio was seen in the 1930's and 1940's as THE high tech innovation of modern times, by many people.
By contrast, "Who Goes There?" is full of "marvelous inventions" based on advanced super-science,
used by the aliens. These have been eliminated in The Thing from Another World.
Hawks thus exalts current high technology, radio, but deletes any look at possible
This tends to make The Thing from Another World a look at the
present, including its technology and conflicts, rather than the future.
While science fiction as a whole often focuses on possible futures,
The Thing from Another World does not seem interested in exploring any such future.
Nor can I recall looks at the future in other Hawks films.
The buckets of kerosene thrown on the alien, are examples of the thrown items in Hawks.
Fairly typically for Hawks, they are part of a fight.
They also recall the buckets of water in other Hawks films. Earlier, a man gets a glass of water thrown in his face.
In the climatic battle, a crewman throws a piece of equipment,
to get the alien to move back into position towards the trap.
The base has intercoms, that can communicate from room-to-room. This recalls The Criminal Code.
The elaborate electrical trap at the end, can be seen as another of Hawks' gizmos.
Radio is used extensively for communication including the finale.
The officer in the opening wishes he had a revolving door in his office, to keep the
Alaskan cold out. This is an example of the revolving architecture in Hawks.
The men stretch out and make a circle, over the flying saucer shaped spaceship.
This emphasizes how circular the alien spacecraft is. In Man's Favorite Sport?,
the characters will go inside a huge revolving circular bar. The men standing in a circle is one of
the best images in The Thing from Another World. It measures a large object
in human scale, with dimensions compared to the human body.
The scientist is introduced looking at circular screens.
The Officer's Club at the start has circular porthole-like windows in its doors.
By contrast, human architecture in the film is mainly rectilinear.
Camera Movements Introducing Architecture
A fairly long take follows the reporter at the start, as he enters and walks through the Officer's Club.
Later camera movements follow men, as they move through the interior of the North Pole base
for the first time.
Hawks films often feature layered clothes: clothes worn on top of other clothes.
The pilots in The Thing from Another World strip off their heavy outdoor coats,
to reveal they are wearing their leather flight jackets underneath.
One of the scientists is wearing a leather apron over his other clothes.
This apron is a partly female image, but it also has masculine suggestions, being made out of leather.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) is a musical comedy. Hawks directed the non-dance sequences,
but reportedly left the dance numbers largely up to choreographer Jack Cole.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is one of several Hawks films set in France or French territories
such as Martinique (To Have and Have Not).
Hawks seems especially interested in French officials: police, Army officers, judges and courtrooms.
In her early shipboard scenes, Jane Russell's character seems mannish. She wears a jacket like a man's sport jacket,
and has a blunt, tough, direct way of talking. She reminds one of other Hawksian women who seem man-like,
such as Paula Prentiss' character in Man's Favorite Sport?. Like Prentiss and her fishing contest,
Russell hangs out and is right at home in a sports context: all the Olympic athletes and sports facilities on ship.
The dressing room and corridor outside (near the start) are in green. This is contrasted with the heroines'
red dresses. The green walls and overall look of the area reminds one of the backstage region in
A Song Is Born. So does the red-and-green color scheme.
When Jane Russell sings with the Parisian crowd on the street, a woman flower vendor has more of the
yellow flowers that run through Hawks.
Rio Bravo (1959) is the first of three related Westerns directed by Howard Hawks.
Rio Bravo attacks ageism. It shows that both very young people (like Ricky Nelson) and older people
(like Walter Brennan) are often undervalued, despite having much to contribute to society.
Rio Bravo might have been influenced by the TV show Maverick. Especially the pilot episodes,
which were directed by Budd Boetticher. In War of the Silver Kings (1957),
the hero helps a drunken judge reform, and the bad guys cruelly try to lure him back into drinking. And in
According to Hoyle (1957), we meet a beautiful woman gambler, who travels around the country.
In both episodes, the hero tries to clean up a crooked town.
A later episode of Maverick directed by Walter Doniger might also be an influence.
The Jail at Junction Flats (1958) ends with the hero Maverick hog-tied on the ground:
something that reportedly proved controversial with viewers. Martin is similarly hog-tied after he is captured by villains.
There are other aspects of Rio Bravo that recall Boetticher films. A shoot-out in the stable recalls Decision at Sundown (Boetticher, 1957).
And the main plot of Rio Bravo, the heroes being under siege by bad guys, recalls a bit the way the heroes are trapped in the
stable in Decision at Sundown. The prisoner exchange at the end recalls Buchanan Rides Alone (Boetticher, 1958).
The funeral in the streets recalls a similar procession in the film 3:10 to Yuma (Delmer Daves, 1957).
Rio Bravo has an opening sequence without dialogue. This is not too unusual in Hollywood sound films.
Other examples include The Informer (John Ford, 1935), although it includes a song,
and Man Hunt (Fritz Lang, 1941).
The Water Trough and Cocteau
Martin is attacked after he has cleaned up his appearance, and is admiring himself in the water trough.
The myth of Narcissus is evoked, and also sexual narcissism. Martin seems vulnerable, because he is showing too much
pride in his appearance. (He will later be attacked while cleaning up in the bath tub.)
The bad guys push Martin right into the water trough. The effect recalls the mirror imagery in the films of Jean Cocteau:
the hero moves into and through what at first looks like a solid mirror, but which turns into liquid. See Cocteau's
The Blood of a Poet (1930).
Martin is reflected in the horizontal water in the trough. In Ball of Fire, Barbara Stanwyck is reflected
in the horizontal surface of a polished table.
Rio Bravo has an episode of genuine detective work: when Martin traces the man he has shot into the saloon.
He uses a full range of clues and reasoning:
Such tracking trails of suspects in very much in the classical detective tradition, as found in many prose detective stories.
The detective work is sustained: it stretches from the start of the episode, to its conclusion.
- Watching the doors of the saloon,
- Seeing the man walk through a muddy puddle,
- Knowing he might have winged the suspect and looking for a wound or blood.
By contrast, the film has Wayne do a poor job, figuring out the cheating in the card game.
He has to be helped out by Ricky Nelson, to get the right culprit. This seems done deliberately, to establish
flaws in Wayne's skills.
Throughout the film, it is Martin who has to do the heavy thinking. He figures out the strategy
with Stumpy after Wayne and Martin are captured. And Martin's actions break the prisoner exchange at the end.
There are elements of detection in Hawks' The Big Sleep. Marlowe does a good job,
figuring out road house scene with Lauren Bacall and John Ridgely is a fake set-up.
Genuine detection is most associated in films with Joseph H. Lewis.
It runs through many of his movies.
If Martin is the source of thinking and ideas, Colorado (Ricky Nelson) is the film's keen observer.
In his introduction, he notices that Stumpy has a gun on him: the only character who notices this.
Later, he is the most observant about the crooked card game. And the one who understands the meaning of the song.
He keeps sharing his observations with John Wayne.
Links to To Have and Have Not
Ricky Nelson collects what the dead Ward Bond owes him in wages, from Bond's money. This recalls
To Have and Have Not, where Bogart similarly collects from his deceased customer. In both films,
the authorities step in and prevent this. Oddly, in To Have and Have Not, such authorities are sinister
(the Gestapo), while in Rio Bravo, the authorities are the town's legitimate Sheriff (John Wayne).
Wayne does say that the court will decide whether to award the money to Nelson: a democratic, rule-of-law authority.
While in To Have and Have Not, the money will only be returned, the authorities make clear, at the
whim of the Gestapo: probably never. This makes a contrast between a democratic and totalitarian society.
In To Have and Have Not, hero Bogart shoots out the searchlight of a pursuing Nazi ship.
In Rio Bravo, good guy Martin stops a bad man by shooting the reins of his horse. Both clever actions
involve an attack on technology, and are essentially non-violent ways of achieving the heroes' goals.
Both relate to Hawks' love of mechanical gizmos, perhaps, although neither strictly speaking is a gizmo itself.
The town's undertaker is a sympathetic, non-stereotyped Chinese man. Soon, Hawks would have another Asian actor
in a technical role: George Takei as the racecar pit boss in Red Line 7000. Takei would become much better
known a year later as the navigator Sulu in the original Star Trek (1966 - 1969).
Architecture and Sets
The rope stretched across the stairs is another of Hawks' gizmos. Wayne is slowed down and stopped by a rope:
something that later will be done to a locomotive in Rio Lobo.
The jail has a door with an opening panel. This is another of Hawks' unusual doors, like the armored doors
and windows at the end of Scarface.
Wayne is shown working at his Sheriff's desk. This recalls Bogart studying the coded book at his desk in The Big Sleep.
The hero and heroine have rooms across the hall from each other at the hotel, as in To Have and Have Not.
We even see the heroine standing near the door of the hero's room, as in the previous film.
Hawks' gets much staging mileage, having people go up an down the hotel stairs. This also recalls To Have and Have Not.
Several important camera movement scenes or shots in Rio Bravo show "characters walking through or past architecture".
This is an important kind of Hawks camera movement:
When Martin stops Bond's wagons during the funeral, there is a simple camera movement following Martin's brief walk.
The motion underscores Martin's action, making it seem important.
- Rio Bravo has an elaborate episode, showing Wayne and Martin patrolling the streets by night.
They walk down opposite sides of the street. The film cross-cuts between them. Each is followed by a moving camera.
Most often, we get a more or less lateral camera movement, as they walk along. Occasionally, the camera moves foreword,
more-or-less viewing them from the front as they walk.
- Earlier, when Martin enters the bar at the start, there is a slow pan showing him walk through the bar.
The pan shows us the various tables and regions of the bar, including a barbershop room. Like the pans in
The Crowd Roars, it is architectural, revealing regions of interior locales.
- When villain Akins walks down the street after the killing, the camera tracks with him. This anticipates the
Wayne-Martin night patrol.
When Dean Martin cleans up, he is in a shirt of blue-green, and a brown vest. Green-and-brown are colors
associated with Robin Hood, especially in the 1937 film.
Martin also gets polished black boots: something we saw John Wayne put on earlier. Wayne getting dressed for the day,
putting on his black boots, recalls a similar shot in A Lawless Street (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955),
where Marshall Randolph Scott puts on his boots.
Our initial view of a bedraggled, drunken Martin contrasts with a handsome, nicely dressed cowboy sitting
in front of him, at a table in the saloon. This man has a shirt in a striking yellowish tone, and a gray vest.
The distinctive yellowish color really attracts the eye.
Villain John Russell is another of Hawks' handsome, well-dressed mobsters, as in Ball of Fire and The Big Sleep.
He is simply the Western equivalent of such men. Like them, he is in a good suit. He also has conspicuous, huge spurs
on his boots.
Ricky Nelson is first seen in a buckskin shirt. He is one of several young Western men in Hawks in
leather clothes. However, he soon changes to another outfit.
Later, Nelson is framed against a brown door, making a color harmony with the brown in his costume.
The bartender, in the bar where Akins is first arrested, wears a vest with paired diagonal stripes.
The effect is somewhat like chevrons: recalling the chevron designs on the slate with messages to Cagney,
in the final race in The Crowd Roars.
Hatari! (1962) is a film about animal trappers in Africa.
Genre: The Trapper-for-Zoos Films
Hatari! belongs to a small but persistent genre of films
about big game hunters. Like other films in this genre, it is:
Real life trapper Frank Buck was a pioneer. His book Bring 'em Back Alive (1930)
was turned into the first of a series of Frank Buck films in 1932. Buck became a
huge celebrity, and was especially popular with kids.
- Shot on location.
- Set in Africa.
- Features trappers who capture animals alive and unharmed for zoos.
Prestige directors also worked in this mode. John Ford
shot Mogambo (1953) in Africa, with Clark Gable as the trapper-for-zoos.
The genre continued after Hatari!, with the popular TV series
Daktari (1966-1969) - although this is less about a trapper,
and more about a veterinarian. While the genre is small, and clearly not as developed as
such prolific genres as the Western, science fiction or film noir, it
still has its own niche.
Costumes and Color
Wayne's safari vest has big patches of brown.
The bathroom has brown walls and a brown tub.
When Kruger and Blain have their fist fight, Kruger is in khaki, and Blain is in black.
Man's Favorite Sport?
Man's Favorite Sport? (1964) is a comedy about a fishing contest.
Hawks had previously dealt with fishing in Tiger Shark and To Have and Have Not.
The contest aspects recall such car racing films as The Crowd Roars and Red Line 7000:
these are individual, not team sports, and scoreboards appear in these racer films,
as well as Man's Favorite Sport?.
Hudson upside down in his waders, with water streaming out of them, recalls in a comic way
the car pulled from ocean with water draining out in The Big Sleep.
Some of the locales and objects involve Kinetic Art or Architecture. These include:
Even the elaborate convertibles driven by the two leads in the opening, have
elements in common with Kinetic Art.
- The revolving bar.
- The outside elevator ride up to the bar.
- The mechanical musicians at the Piano Museum.
- The aquariums full of fish behind people in the office and restaurant.
- The scooter that gets out of control in the countryside.
- The final floating space which runs away on the water.
The final search by lantern over the lake at the end recalls Sunrise (Murnau, 1927).
Camera Movements Through Architecture
Hudson enters the fishing goods store the first time, in one of Hawks' patented
"camera movements following a character moving through architecture". Like other such camera movements
in Hawks, this one reveals region after region of the building Hudson is in.
This particular movement is a track, with occasional elements of panning. It is a slow,
stop-and-start movement. Hawks immediately follows it with a second camera movement shot,
following Hudson as he moves to a further room in the store.
Pans accompany Hudson's entrances into his boss' lobby and his boss' office: more entrances and architecture.
Some of Hawks' most complex movements involve the revolving bar. Here, it is not that the camera moves per se,
but rather that it is on the bar as it turns. One such movement passes a mirror on the wall, in which see
the reflections of Hudson's and Prentiss' backs.
Other Camera Movements
In the office, the camera pans right as Hudson walks over to the women, then pans back left
as Hudson walks back to his boss. A similar oscillating camera movement will eventually occur in
the lodge dining room.
Tilted Camera Angles
Hudson and Prentiss first meet in a pair of tilted angle shots, where she is below him in her car.
This recalls the first encounter of Wayne and Dean Martin in Rio Bravo.
In both films, the low angle shots of Wayne and Hudson really make them look big and imposing.
Yellow, Red Colors of Machinery: links to Red Line 7000
The heroine's car is yellow, and so is a taxicab. This anticipates the yellow racecar in
Red Line 7000.
The interior of the hero's convertible is red, and so is his scooter. We also see bright red gas pumps,
which color coordinate with these. This anticipates the red racecar and toolbox of Red Line 7000.
Costumes and Color
The brown sports coat Hudson wears at the start is far from the dressiest outfit he can wear.
It is a sports coat, not a suit. And brown is a "low prestige" color for men. Hudson would be
more dressed up, if he were in a gray or dark blue suit. He is immediately confronted with a cop,
who is in an authoritative navy blue uniform: dressier than Hudson. The film is comically
sabotaging Hudson, in its choice of clothes for him.
Hudson's brown clothes do harmonize with the brown walls and beige accessories of the sporting good store.
It suggests he is at home in this environment. They also match the brown clothes of his customer.
Later, Hudson's clothes match the brown walls of his boss' office, and harmonize with the gold walls
in the revolving bar. The Piano Museum is an off-red inside: it too harmonizes with the characters'
brown clothes, but more distantly and dramatically.
Later, Hudson's waders will look brown too, especially when soaking wet (they are more beige when dry).
Paula Prentiss and her friend at the start are also in brown suits. Hawks strongly favored suits
for women. Prentiss carries a phallic cane, recalling villain John Russell's whip in
Much later, Prentiss one evening is in a red blouse and white skirt. She is part of a red-green
complementary color scheme: she is seen against the green walls of the dining room-bar, and then the green forest.
The scene also includes red-and-white Native American art on the wall of the lodge, at the end.
This is linked to Prentiss, who is wearing the same colors.
The green shirt and brown leather belt worn by John Screaming Eagle when we first see him,
recall the colors of Dean Martin's blue-green shirt and brown vest, when he gets dressed up in Rio Bravo.
The sporting goods store, the revolving bar, the Piano Museum: all are artificial worlds.
The bright yellow circle into which the fishermen cast in the store is a striking image.
So are the stylized gold "trees" by the entrance to the revolving bar. They are covered with spherical gold
"fruits". One suspects these are the ancestors of the stylized "trees" in Perceval
(Eric Rohmer, 1976).
Red Line 7000
Red Line 7000 (1965) is a stock car racing tale.
One of things that causes Red Line 7000 to lack appeal are the clothes. The many men wear a series of
almost identical gray suits off the track: summer weight, solid color, Brooks Brother-ish early 1960's
gray suits. Everyone is dressed almost identically. It gives a conformist feel, of a society drowning in
demands that its men be all uniform and cut from a single mold. The women's clothes at least come in a variety
of colors - but they too seem to fall within nearly as narrow a range. The whole effect can seem oppressive.
It suggests a society in which the viewer would find it impossible to fit in.
The announcer is the only man that gets to wear jazzier clothes.
The racing coveralls are more examples of layered clothes in Hawks: they are put on over shirts and trousers.
We see a man getting dressed in coveralls right at the start of the film.
Color: Red and Yellow
Much of Red Line 7000 is in those two favorite colors of late Hawks: red and yellow.
Important racecars in the plot are in these shades. The film's title comes from a red gauge in the cars.
At the restaurant, the wall behind the bar is yellow,
the wall behind the musicians is red. The wait staff is in red jackets, some booths are red, and many of
the women customers are in shades of red, yellow or related colors such as orange or pink.
Walls of the hotel rooms seem yellow, at least in the night light.
The opening shot shows a silver racecar making its way through the racing track. Hawks' camera moves along with
the car, showing us the race track for the first time. It is very similar to a standard kind of Hawks shot:
a "camera movement following a person walking through architecture, seen for the first time". However,
this shot differs in that it features a car driving, not a man walking - and that it shows the whole
environment of the track, not a single piece of architecture. Its closest analogue in late Hawks might be
the camera movements following the heroes riding horses through a desert environment in El Dorado -
the shots where Caan recites the title poem.
A love scene takes place in a lattice outside the motel at night. The lattice can be seen as consisting
of hundreds of "X shapes". In this it recalls the X's in Scarface.
El Dorado (1966) is a Western, and a loose remake of Rio Bravo.
Many characters and situations from the earlier film return, always varied and transformed.
It also draws on a key scene of The Big Sleep: where the bad guys are forced out a door,
where they have set a trap for the hero.
Like Rio Bravo, El Dorado shows the influence of Budd Boetticher.
Mississippi (James Caan) is introduced at the end of a quest to kill the murderers of a
loved one: like Randolph Scott in Seven Men from Now (Boetticher, 1956).
Other filmmakers are also drawn on. The church shoot out recalls the finale of
Silver Lode (Allan Dwan, 1954).
Actors Johnny Crawford and Paul Fix, stars of the TV series The Rifleman (1958-1963),
appear in small but vivid roles in El Dorado. One might associate them with Sam Peckinpah,
who wrote the episodes of The Rifleman that introduce their characters. Or with
Joseph H. Lewis, who directed 49 episodes of The Rifleman.
Unpleasantly, both actors play characters in El Dorado who are far less competent than
those they played on The Rifleman.
One can see what might - or might not - be references to episodes of The Rifleman,
directed by Lewis. Dialogue refers to a "Shivaree", which is the title of one of Lewis' best episodes
of The Rifleman. And Caan first holds a gun up high, then lowers it to the horizontal:
a close echo of the duelist's gesture at the end of Lewis' episode "Duel of Honor" (1958).
The sheriff sleeps in a jail cell for safety, recalling A Lawless Street (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955).
Such Lewis imagery as tasseled curtains in doorways, and lamps with hanging cut glass prisms,
also occur in El Dorado - they are common in Westerns as a whole, as well, so this is not
necessarily a Lewis reference.
The characters in El Dorado seem much less skilled compared to their counterparts
in Rio Bravo, perhaps deliberately so on the part of the filmmakers:
Despite all this, I like the characters in El Dorado.
- John Wayne in Rio Bravo was a Sheriff and source of moral authority; Wayne in
El Dorado is a gunslinger for hire, whose moral mistake at the start, going to work
briefly for a corrupt town boss, will cost him and the other characters dearly.
- Dean Martin in Rio Bravo is an idea-man who does brilliant detective work,
tracking down a man in a saloon. Mitchum has a parallel scene manhunt in a saloon in
El Dorado, but his much simpler detective work is reduced to noticing a single clue.
- Young Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo is a highly competent professional guard, an expert shot,
and a man who observes things. His replacement James Caan in El Dorado is a good-natured amateur
with no particular skills other than with a knife. His incompetence with a gun is a running gag
in El Dorado.
There is dust in the air, in the opening shot of the town street. Dust is a recurring Hawks image.
When Joey rides out in anger from the farm, her horse leaves a big trail of dust behind.
The poem is recited in a rich desert landscape. It is full of archetypal desert plants.
We see several shrubs of Hawks' beloved ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), a plant
prominently featured in Hawks' late Western trilogy. There are also tall Saguaro cacti
(Carnegiea gigantea), and what look like palo verde trees (Parkinsonia florida).
This is similar to the desert ecosystem around Jack Elam's cabin in Rio Lobo.
(Pictures and information on all of these plants can be found through Internet searches.)
The ride through the desert features three long take lateral tracks. These are the biggest and
longest camera movements in El Dorado. They recall a bit the lateral camera movements in other Hawks,
which show "characters walking through architecture". Only here, the characters are riding horses,
and more importantly, what is being revealed in the background is not an architectural set,
but an outdoors ecosystem. Just as Hawks always shows his sets in beautiful clear detail in his
typical camera movements, here in in El Dorado we see every detail of the plants.
Caan's recital of the poem seems odd. He has a rough delivery, that destroys the poem's sense of meter.
The poem is also cut down to a few phrases, which tends to eliminate some of the rhymes.
El Dorado has some of Hawks' "camera movement past architecture". But these shots
tend to be shorter and simpler than those in some other Hawks movies:
Wayne's ride into the villain's ranch at the start, contains a POV camera movement. This is somewhat atypical
for Hawks. It is a largely lateral move past a building, linking it to a standard kind of Hawks shot -
but it does not show a man walking, instead being Wayne's POV when he rides past. POV camera movements
are associated with Alfred Hitchcock.
- Mitchum's walk through the town at the start.
- Mitchum's walk through the building to the washroom with Wayne, near the beginning.
Costumes and Color
Mitchum at the start wears a fancy shirt, in a color part way between gray and brown. Soon, he is color
coordinated with the walls of the bath tub room.
Christopher George eventually wears a fancy vest. It is double-breasted, like the gangsters' clothes in
The Big Sleep, and shiny, like the cowboy shirt worn by a modern-day man at the casino in The Big Sleep.
Unlike many Hawks heroines, none of the women in El Dorado wear suits.
Near the end, Mitchum wears a purple shirt, with a contrasting yellowish vest. Purple-and-yellow are complementary
colors. It is a color scheme often suggesting machismo in men, used for boxers, for example. It also a color scheme
associated with virile men in the films of Vincente Minnelli.
The dining scene near the end has a red-green color scheme. Each of the four diners wears some sort of red, pink or
purple shirt (as well as some neutral color, often). The tablecloth is red, the large hanging lamp is a matching red,
and there are green glasses on the table, to offer a touch of complementary color to all the red. This dinner unites
the film's good guys. It shows them inside a unified visual spectacle, as well, one with its own striking color scheme.
Rio Lobo (1970) is a beautiful movie. Much of it takes place in the
countryside. There is a renewed emphasis by Hawks on pictorialism.
Rio Lobo does not have an "invisible style", as people sometimes describe
In The Country
The countryside setting recalls Man's Favorite Sport?. So do the
prominent female characters - three major ones are "on the team" in Rio Lobo.
Both films have scenes where the characters move out into shallow water.
Animals - a persistent Hawks metaphor - show up, with hornets used in
the raid, and a memorable shot of a thrown chicken.
More surprisingly, plants play a big role. There are two contrasting ecosystems:
The heroine's name, Shasta, is that of a kind of plant: a daisy.
- The train robbery takes place in pine country. The pines, with their
sparse branches intermixed with ropes, make original compositions.
Shots of the Confederates hiding behind yellow yarrow flowers are also memorable.
There are also shots of unidentified yellow flowers of a different kind,
also hiding the Confederates.
(When Danny Kaye first sees Virginia Mayo at the nightclub in A Song Is Born,
yellow flowers are at his table.)
- Later, at Elam's cabin, we are in desert. The three good guys are
framed between a pair of ocotillo (those wiry shrubs). (This shot echoes one in Air Force,
where a plane flies between a pair of shrubs, each shrub having the same brush-like
architecture as an ocotillo.) Cacti are all around the cabin.
Once again, the Captain is shown sneaking behind low plants, here a shrub.
Rio Lobo has counter cultural themes, perhaps a reflection of 1970
politics and the Era of Relevance in films and comic books. The
characters are in revolt against a corrupt establishment and police
force. There are three Mexican good guys, and an evil deputy called
Whitey (he has white hair, but it is hard not to see a racial
reference.) Hawks has joined the Civil Rights movement, at last.
The heroine also gives some Women's Lib speeches.
The flirting between the Captain and Shasta recalls the meeting
between Caan and his girlfriend in El Dorado. It is far more
elaborate, and more egalitarian.
The Captain by this time is one of Hawks' Western heroes in leather gear,
like Dewey Martin in The Big Sky and James Caan in El Dorado.
He has to get dressed, in a key meet-cute scene.
The Train Robbery
The fancy scheme to rob the train, recalls a bit the scheme at the end
of Ball of Fire, to shoot the coin. Hawks likes this sort of Rube
Goldberg plot. The ropes, greasing the rails, and listening to the rail
are all part of Hawks' fondness for gizmos.
The robbery includes such tossed items as the hornet's nest, and
The engine is #17. Throughout the history of films and comic books, phallic symbol
numbers like 1, 4, 7 and 9 frequently appear. This is documented in my article
Sports Numbers and Their Symbolism. Rock Hudson's parking space
at the start of Man's Favorite Sport? is 19. James Cagney's racer at the start of
The Crowd Roars is #1. A major racer in Red Line 7000 is #71.
There are huge clouds of dust after the robbery: dust being a Hawks image.
The engine also produces big clouds of black smoke, before the robbery.
(When the heroes are walking through the town before the final shoot-out, there is
also much wind and dust.)
The robbery cross-cuts between three locales: two areas with Union soldiers, one with Confederates.
It is one of the longer and larger scale cross-cutting scenes in Hawks.
Hawks often favored percussion instruments. The credits show a guitar being played.
After Hawks' name comes on at the end, the guitarist stops playing the strings.
The hand instead starts rhythmically striking the guitar, treating it as a percussion instrument.
In the hotel dining or, a big drum is seen on stage. There are no musicians: this is the
day time, and the instrument is just sitting there on the empty stage.
After the robbery, Wayne and the Union soldiers track the stolen gold. They use such
classical detection devices as studying tracks, looking at how deep the tracks are to determine
weight carried, and looking for bits of clothing torn off by branches. This is an extended
sequence. It keeps cutting the Union forces in two, as they divide to look at forking trails.
Soon, the Confederates do a bit of detection themselves, as they deduce Wayne is leading them northward.
Before the robbery, both sides gain information from numerous telegraph messages.
This resembles the information by phone in Hawks' modern-day movies.
Rio Lobo has many camera movements, especially pans, of a frequent Hawks type.
These show men walking through an architectural region, usually our first glimpse of that architecture:
There is also another type of Hawks camera movement. Before the final shoot-out, the camera
pans over the landscape of the creek and bridge. Such pans establishing locales run through Hawks.
- The train station at the start.
- Men loading the box of gold on the train.
- The Lieutenant walks over to Wayne, at the station.
- The camera movement after the bugle call, crossing the railroad tracks.
- Wayne entering the discharge camp after the war.
- The brief camera movement down the line of discharging soldiers.
- Wayne leaving the discharge camp.
- Wayne crossing the saloon with the bath.
- Wayne and the Sheriff crossing the street in Blackthorne.
- Wayne crossing the hotel bar in Blackthorne.
- The bad guys entering the town of Blackthorne (on horseback).
- The bad guys going up the outside steps of the hotel in Blackthorne.
- People walking towards the final shoot-out through the town.
The saloon has a bath in the background, the way the saloon in Rio Bravo
has a barber chair in back.
The honest sheriff's office has large windows: virtually some of Hawks' glass walls.
The hotel steps are used for staging: a common Hawks strategy. The Captain makes an impressive
entrance on them.
The engine and its cow catcher are bright red; the railway car with the gold is yellow.
These colors are familiar from automobiles in other Hawks, such as Man's Favorite Sport?
and Red Line 7000. The yellow is echoed by the yellow yarrow flowers.
The medicine show wagon has a red curtain in front, and a red awning. Otherwise, it is more pink.
It still fits in to a large part to Hawk's red vehicles.
The Captain at first wears pink underwear, then red pants, along with his copper
(near brown) colored leather shirt.
Similarly, the heroine wears pink accessories to her brown clothes, when we first meet her.
The pink cloth tied around her hat, recalls in shape the light brown cloth around Paula Prentiss'
brown hat, at the start of Man's Favorite Sport?.
The Captain's copper-colored leather shirt is briefly color coordinated with the brown walls
of the hotel dining room, after the shoot-out.