Howard Hawks as Auteur (Discussion)

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Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema

  1. How does Sarris characterize Hawks' visual style?
  2. What does Sarris mean by "professionalism" and how have we seen that in Hawks's films (not His Girl Friday)?

Peter Wollen (in John Caughie, ed., Theories of Authorship)

  1. Wollen writes, " a process of comparison with other films, it is possible to decipher...a structure which underlies the film and shapes it.... It is this structure which auteur analysis disengages from the film" (146).
    • What does he mean by a "structure"? On the next page, he puts "Hawks" in quotation marks and refers to it (him?) as a structure. (Remember: Edward Buscombe quoted Wollen in last week's readings.)
  2. A lot of this essay contrasts the work of Howard Hawks with that of John Ford. What "master antinomy" does Wollen see in Ford's work (and what does "antinomy" mean?)?

From Howard Hawks American Artist

V. F. Perkins

  1. What function does language serve in Hawks's comedies? How is that evident in Ball of Fire?
  2. How does Hawks use humiliation in his comedies? How is that evident in Ball of Fire?

Lee Russell (Peter Wollen)

  1. How does Russell characterize the Hawksian group?
  2. What aspects of Hawksian "professionalism" does Russell discuss?
  3. What does he believe are the two principal themes of Hawks's comedies?

Naomi Wise

  1. Wise sees Bonnie Lee in Only Angels Have Wings as the quintessential "Hawksian woman." What characteristics does she see associated with the Hawksian woman?
  2. Wise maintains that Hawks's films "frequently show a merging of sexual roles for the benefit of both sexes" (113). What does she mean by this? Have you seen evidence for this in the films we've watched (not His Girl Friday)?
  3. In the end, Wise claims that "a central theme throughout Hawks is the shedding of sexual roles" (118). Do you agree?

Jacques Rivette

  1. According to Rivette, what is the relationship of Hawks's comedies and dramas? (It differs from what was discussed in lecture.)
  2. Rivette claims that Hawks "sticks to the same story--the intrusion of the inhuman... into a highly civilized society." Do you agree? Have you seen this in the films we've watched?

André Bazin

  1. How does Bazin defend the auteurist emphasis on the director?


  1. Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema, 52-56.
  2. From Theories of Authorship, John Caughie, ed. (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981):
    1. Peter Wollen, "The Auteur Theory," 138-151.
  3. From Howard Hawks American Artist, Jim Hillier and Peter Wollen, eds., (London: British Film Institute, 1996):
    1. Jacques Rivette, "The Genius of Howard Hawks," 26-31.
    2. André Bazin, "How Could You Possibly be a Hitchcocko-Hawksian," 32-34.
    3. V. F. Perkins, "Hawks's Comedies," 68-71.
    4. Lee Russell (Peter Wollen), "Howard Hawks," 83-86.
    5. Naomi Wise, "The Hawksian Woman," 111-119.
      • Sample "Works Cited" citation according to The Chicago Manual of Style:
        • Author-Date format (or you may use the "Notes and Bibliography" format):
          • In the works cited: Wise, Naomi. 1996. "The Hawksian Woman." In Howard Hawks: American Artist, edited by Jim Hillier and Peter Wollen, 111-119. London: British Film Institute.
          • In the body of the essay: (Wise 1996, 112)