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Howard Hawks

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Howard Hawks
Howard Winchester Hawks

(1896-05-30)May 30, 1896
DiedDecember 26, 1977(1977-12-26) (aged 81)
Occupation(s)Movie director, producer, screenwriter
Years active1916–1970
Athole Shearer
(m. 1928; div. 1940)

Slim Keith
(m. 1941; div. 1949)

Dee Hartford
(m. 1953; div. 1960)
Children3, including Kitty Hawks

Howard Winchester Hawks (May 30, 1896 – December 26, 1977) was an American movie director, producer and screenwriter of the classic Hollywood era. The classic Hollywood era was the time between 1917 and 1960 when American films first started to be created. During the classical Hollywood era, directors learned how to make films tell stories in ways that are still used today.

Hawks made many different kinds of films. He made funny films, dramas, gangster films, science fiction, film noir, and westerns.[1] He made many popular movies. Some of them are Scarface (1932), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Red River (1948), The Thing from Another World (1951), and Rio Bravo (1959). Hawks often included strong women who talked a lot in his films. This kind of woman was in so many of Hawks's films that people now call that type of woman a "Hawksian woman."[1]

In 1942, other movie people in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated Hawks for the Academy Award for Best Director for his work making Sergeant York. In 1975 the Academy gave Hawks an Honorary Academy Award[2] Hawks's work has influenced some of the most popular movie directors such as Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, John Carpenter, and Quentin Tarantino.[3]

Early life and education[change | change source]

Family[change | change source]

Howard Winchester Hawks was born in Goshen, Indiana, the first child of Frank W. Hawks (1865–1950), who made his money making paper, and his wife, Helen (née Howard; 1872–1952), the daughter of a businessman with money. Hawks's family on his father's side were American pioneers and his old family member John Hawks had come from England to Massachusetts in 1630. The family lived in Goshen and by the 1890s was one of the richest families in the Midwest, because the Goshen Milling Company made a lot of money.[4]: 18–19 

The dad of Hawks's mom, C. W. Howard (1845–1916), lived in Neenah, Wisconsin in 1862 at age 17. In 15 years he had made his money in the town's paper mill and other business moves.[4]: 25  Frank Hawks and Helen Howard met in the early 1890s and married in 1895. Howard Hawks was the oldest of five kids and his birth was followed by Kenneth Neil Hawks (August 12, 1899 – January 2, 1930), William Bellinger Hawks (January 29, 1901 – January 10, 1969), Grace Louise Hawks (October 17, 1903 – December 23, 1927) and Helen Bernice Hawks (1906 – May 4, 1911). In 1898, the family moved to Neenah, Wisconsin where Frank Hawks started working for his father-in-law's Howard Paper Company.[4]: 27–29 

Education[change | change source]

Between 1906 and 1909, the Hawks family started to live in Pasadena, California because of the cold Wisconsin winters. This helped Helen Hawks's ill health. Little by little they started to live in Wisconsin only in the summers. They then moved to Pasadena for good in 1910.[4]: 31  The family lived in a house down the street from Throop Polytechnic Institute (later known as the California Institute of Technology). The Hawks children started going to the school's Polytechnic Elementary School in 1907.[4]: 34–35 

Hawks did okay in school. He did not do well in sports, but by 1910 he made up coaster racing, an early kind of soapbox racing. In 1911, Hawks's younger sister Helen died suddenly of food poisoning.[4]: 34–36 [5] From 1910 to 1912, Hawks went to Pasadena High School. But in 1912, the Hawks family moved to Glendora, California. Frank Hawks had orange trees there. Hawks ended his junior year of high school at Citrus Union High School in Glendora.[4]: 36  When there he flew planes for performers.[6]

He was then sent to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire from 1913 to 1914. His family's money may have been a part his being let into the high-end private school. He was only seventeen, but he was let in as a student the same level of a sophomore. While in New England, Hawks went to the movie houses in Boston. In 1914, Hawks went back to Glendora and graduated from Pasadena High School that year.[4]: 36 

That same year, Hawks was let into Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He studied mechanical engineering and was a part of Delta Kappa Epsilon. School friend Ray S. Ashbury remembered Hawks spending more of his time playing craps and drinking alcohol than studying. Hawks also loved reading popular American and English books in school.[4]: 36–39 

While working in the movie industry in his 1916 summer vacation, Hawks made an attempt to change schools to Stanford University. He was not let in. He went to Cornell that September. He left in April 1917 to join the Army when the United States joined World War I. Like a lot of students who joined the armed services in the war, he got a degree in absentia in 1918. Before Hawks went to war, he went back to Hollywood and by the end of April 1917 was working on a Cecil B. DeMille movie.

Early film career[change | change source]

In 1916, Hawks met Victor Fleming, a Hollywood filmmaker who had fixed cars and flown planes. Fleming started in the movie industry when a friend, Marshall Neilan, told movie director Allan Dwan that Fleming could fix his car. (Fleming left an impression on Dwan by quickly fixing his car and a broken camera.) By 1916, Fleming was a cinematographer.

Hawks met Fleming when he started racing and working on a Mercer race car—bought for him by his grandfather, C.W. Howard—during his 1916 summer vacation in California. They say he met Fleming when the two men raced on a dirt track and caused an accident.[4]: 39–42  [4]: 39–42 

Fleming gave Hawks's his first job in the movie industry, as a prop boy on the Douglas Fairbanks movie In Again, Out Again (on which Fleming worked as the cinematographer) for Famous Players-Lasky.[4]: 42–44  Hawks said, a new place to be filmed needed to be made quickly when the studio's set designer could not be there, so Hawks offered to do the job. He did a good job. Fairbanks was happy. He then worked making things used in the movie and general helper on an unknown movie put together by Cecil B. DeMille. (Hawks never said what film in interviews and DeMille made five movies about in that time).

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, A Short History of Film (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press) p. 99—101. ISBN 9780813542706.
  2. "Awards." Archived 2004-01-07 at the Wayback Machine IMDb. Retrieved: July 1, 2016.
  3. Horne, Philip. "Howard Hawks: The king of American cool." The Daily Telegraph (London), December 29, 2010. Retrieved: July 1, 2016.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 McCarthy, Todd (1997). Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-3740-1.
  5. Wakeman, John (1987). World Film Directors, Volume 1, 1890–1945. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company. pp. 446–451. ISBN 978-0-8242-0757-1.
  6. Barson, Michael. "Howard Hawks, American director". Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 7 September 2017.