We decided awhile back that our quizzes should occasionally include directors and producers, as well as stars. And one famous director from Hollywood’s Golden Era who many have heard about, but probably know little about, is Howard Hawks.
There may be a reason for that. Although he has become the lavishly praised director of 46 pictures from the silent era (1926’s Road To Glory marked his debut) until the early Seventies — movies that featured just about every big star from the classic era — Hawks has sometimes been dismissed as a glorified commercial director, who successfully mined the studio system.
British critic David Thomson believes that cinema historians are prone to the view that Hawks is old-fashioned, subject to the limitations of the entertainment film, prone to a romantic view of men of action; in short, a movie-maker for boys never quite grown up.
But, Thomson adds, far from the meek purveyor of Hollywood forms, he has always chosen to turn them upside down. ‘To Have and Have Not’ and ‘The Big Sleep,’ ostensibly an adventure and a thriller, are really love stories.
Much is made of Hawks’ versatility. He directed gangster pictures, screwball comedies, musicals, sci-fi outings, and westerns starring the likes of Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson (not to mention John Wayne). Hawks is the supreme figure of classical cinema, concludes Thomson. Because he is so unassuming an innovator, so natural an entertainer, his work has still not been surpassed.
(For more on all this why not consult Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood, a 1997 biographical study written by Todd McCarthy, a former Variety colleague of ours?)
Ok, on to our Quiz. here we go.
1) Question: One of Hawks’ most notable outings, 1932’s Scarface starring Paul Muni as a Chicago gangster (the characterization inspired by Al Capone), was coproduced by Hawks and a fairly new man-about-Hollywood. Can you identify this fellow (hint: he later became the head of RKO).
2) Question: Hawks never married because he believed, as did many of the characters he directed did, that skirmishing with a romantic partner was a prelude to disillusion. a) True; or b) False.
3) Question: The pairing (and budding offscreen romance) of Humphrey Bogart and a very young Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not was virtually repeated by two costars in Hawks’ most famous western, Red River. Who were the actors involved in the second film?
4) Question: Hawks was a keen judge of onscreen talent. Which of the following performers were discovered or brought to professional life by the director. a) Louise Brooks; b) Jane Russell; c) Boris Karloff; or d) James Caan.
5) Question: Hawks was a drinking buddy of a prominent American novelist, who co-wrote scripts for at least two of the directors’ movies. Who is this famous novelist? a) Ernest Hemingway; b) John Steinbeck; c) William Faulkner; or d) J.D. Salinger.