Howard Hawks

Filmmaker

Born: 30 May 1896
Died: 26 December 1977
Birthplace: Goshen, Indiana
Best known as: The versatile film director who did Bringing Up Baby

Name at birth: Howard Winchester Hawks

Howard Hawks directed several classic Hollywood movies, including Scarface (1932), His Girl Friday (1940) and Rio Bravo (1959). Born into a wealthy midwestern family, Hawks grew up in Indiana and California and studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University in New York. He served as a pilot in World War I and worked on aircraft design before deciding on a career in Hollywood. He worked his way up the production ladder, sold stories to Paramount studios and financed a few movies of his own before making The Road to Glory for Fox in 1926. He went on to make movies for 45 more years, including the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby (1938, with Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and a leopard named Baby) and Sergeant York (1941, starring Gary Cooper). He also made the film versions of Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not (1944) and Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep (1946), and the John Wayne westerns Red River (1948, with Montgomery Clift) and Rio Lobo (1970, with Jennifer O'Neill).

Hawks was known as a versatile pro who could handle anything: he wrote, directed and produced, and he had equal success with gangster movies, romantic comedies, war stories and westerns. He always maintained he made movies for entertainment alone, but in the 1950s and '60s French film critics hailed him as one of the great cinema auteurs and began a serious examination of his artistry. Hawks is often ranked with Frank Capra and John Ford among the great moviemakers of classic Hollywood.

Extra credit: Nominated for only one Oscar during his career (Sergeant York), Ford was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1975... His 1932 film Scarface was a loose inspiration for the more famous 1983 cult hit Scarface... Film critic David Thomson said of him, "Hawks is at his best in moments when nothing happens beyond people arguing about what might happen or has happened."

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