Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood

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9780802137401: Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood

Howard Hawks is the first major biography of one of Hollywood's greatest directors, a filmmaker of incomparable versatility whose body of work includes the landmark gangster film Scarface, screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday, the Bogart-Bacall classics To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and aviation classics and Westerns like The Dawn Patrol and Rio Bravo. Sometime partner of the eccentric Howard Hughes, drinking buddy of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, an inveterate gambler and a notorious liar, Hawks was the most modern of the great masters and one of the first directors to declare his independence from the major studios. He played Svengali to Lauren Bacall, Montgomery Clift, and others, but Hawks's greatest creation may have been himself. As The Atlantic Monthly noted, "Todd McCarthy . . . has gone further than anyone else in sorting out the truths and lies of the life, the skills and the insight and the self-deceptions of the work." "A fluent biography of the great director, a frequently rotten guy but one whose artistic independence and standards of film morality never failed." -- The New York Times Book Review; "Hawks's life, until now rather an enigma, has been put into focus and made one with his art in Todd McCarthy's wise and funny Howard Hawks." -- The Wall Street Journal; "Excellent . . . a respectful, exhaustive, and appropriately smartass look at Hollywood's most versatile director." -- Newsweek.

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From the Inside Flap:

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Howard Hawks is now regarded as one of the greatest directors ever to work in Hollywood. His career stretched from the silent era through the seventies and left an indelible stamp on American cinema. A filmmaker of incomparable versatility, he made the landmark gangster film Scarface, aviation classics (The Dawn Patrol, Only Angels Have Wings, Air Force), several of the best screwball comedies (Twentieth Century, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday), an immortal war story (Sergeant York), two sizzling Bogart-Bacall melodramas (To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep), a dazzling musical (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), and several towering Westerns (Red River, Rio Bravo, El Dorado).

He was Hollywood's leading star-maker, having discovered or given important roles to Lauren Bacall, Montgomery Clift, Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth, Frances Farmer, Jane Russell, Paul Muni, Joan Collins, James Caan, and Angie Dickinson. He was the most modern of the great masters and one of the first directors to produce his own movies and declare his independence from the major studios. His work has exerted a powerful influence on such contemporary directors as Martin Scorcese, Brian DePalma, Robert Benton, John Carpenter, Walter Hill, and Quentin Tarantino.

Howard Hawks was the filmmaking partner of Howard Hughes; the drinking buddy and working colleague of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway; cofounder of Hollywood's first elite motorcycle gang; an inveterate gambler constantly in trouble with gangsters; and a self-styled ladies' man whose second wife was to become the celebrated Slim Keith. This first biography of Hawks penetrates the persona he so carefully constructed for himself and reveals one of the most formidable, complex, and enigmatic figures of Hollywood's Golden Age.

"Spectacular.... McCarthy's thick, rich biography...chronicles in vivid detail how perhaps the last great popular artist in the movies worked."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A fluent biography of the great director, a frequently rotten guy but one whose artistic independence and standards of film morality never failed."--The New York Times Book Review

"Hawks's life, until now rather an enigma, has been put into focus and made one with his art in Todd McCarthy's wise and funny Howard Hawks."--The Wall Street Journal

"Excellent...a respectful, exhaustive, and appropriately smartass look at Hollywood's most versatile director."--Newsweek

"McCarthy does a good job of distilling not so much a style as an unflinching philosophy of life.... He gives us the stoic, comic essence of Hawks and his films."--Entertainment Weekly

"McCarthy shrewdly identifies the peculiar kind of auteur Hawks was.... McCarthy does an excellent job of evoking the backgrounds to Hawks's life.... McCarthy gives lucid and balanced accounts of all the films too...and only occasionally loses patience with Hawks's boasting."--The New York Review of Books

"There had always been a mystique around Hawks the man...a WASP Monroe Stahr, Fitzgerald's Last Tycoon. Todd McCarthy...quietly dismantles much of this picture.... In area after area Hawks, skilled at inflating his achievements, made himself his most carefully constructed artifact.... As McCarthy breaks through Hawks's protective shell of misrepresentations, this golden figure takes on a poignant quality--all that effort to be what he was not."--The Atlantic Monthly

"Todd McCarthy has been engaged in this, the first biography of Howard Hawks, a long time. Every Hawksian is in his debt: There is never going to be a fuller record of the external life and work of Howard Winchester Hawks.... We see and feel the director on set, rewriting as he goes, coaxing his actors to extend and improvise, building scenes and fun-and keeping it all in balance.... As a working portrait of a great director and contriver, this book is beyond compare. Time and again, the detail adds to our pleasure with the films."--L.A. Weekly Literary Supplement

"McCarthy...provides Hawks with the major biography he deserves, exhaustively re

From Kirkus Reviews:

A pleasingly thorough, if not critically groundbreaking, retrospective of the works and life of Hollywood's most versatile (and, to some cineasts, best) director. Hawks was born into a successful midwestern mercantile family. Detailing the level and range of their business successes, film critic McCarthy (King of the B's, 1975) suggests how the confidence bred in Hawks by his family's position strengthened his determination when he came to Hollywood: He wanted to work in a number of different genres, and he wanted to remain independent of the big studios. Despite the odds, he did. McCarthy focuses with great and admirable detail on Hawks's films. His life was rowdy and colorful (he was a womanizer and a gambler), and McCarthy communicates the essentials without ever losing focus on the director's artistry. Especially fascinating is the chapter on Red River, a blend of the requisite quotes on the previously untapped acting ability of John Wayne (e.g., Ford's ``I didn't know the sonofabitch could act!''), tales of sparring between Wayne and costar Montgomery Clift and Hawks's dissatisfaction with Joanne Dru, a concise analysis of the movie's importance to Hawks's artistic freedom, and not too much about the film's already much- discussed homoerotic intonations. Highlights from other chapters include fresh discussions of overlapping dialogue in the romantic comedies, recaps of the sometimes surprising public response to his films (too-cynical Twentieth Century was a box office dud), and end-of-chapter roundups of critical views of each film, notable for including not only reviews of the time but the opinions of film historians like Jeanine Basinger and little-known critics like Jean-Pierre Coursodon. Though the most enjoyable book on Hawks remains Joseph McBride's Hawks on Hawks, this is an essential complement to it and to studies by Wood, Wollen, and others. It portrays in wide-screen format a life until now presented only in sketches. (16 pages photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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