Howard Hawks is regarded as one of the great filmmakers who excelled in all major movie genres. He may not be a household name, but the legendary american director is widely considered by many as one of the true greats of cinema.
In 2007, Total Film magazine ranked Hawks as Number 4 in its “100 Greatest Film Directors Ever” list.
Over a period of 40 years, Hawks directed 47 films including Scarface (1932), Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday (1940), To Have and Have Not (1944) and Rio Bravo (1959).
Below, we’ve put together a list of our favorite Howard Hawks covering all aspects of the filmmaking process. If you find this quote article helpful then don’t forget to share with other filmmakers.
Howard Hawks Filmmaking Quotes
I’m a storyteller, that’s the chief function of a director. And they’re moving pictures, let’s make ’em move!
You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen.
For me the best drama is one that deals with a man in danger.
When talking pictures came about they asked all of us – Jack Ford and everyone – what we knew about dialogue. I responded, ‘nothing. I just know how people talk. I was out of work for a year and a half because they said I knew nothing about dialogue.
I tried to make my dialogue go fast. Probably twenty percent faster than most pictures.
Sometimes we put a few unnecessary words in the front of a sentence and a few on the end so that people can overlap in their talking and you still get everything they wanted to say…we held a discussion and butt in to what each other was saying and it worked, we’d hear what each other was saying. But our little trick of adding the words in front and at the end makes it come out as clear as it can be. To me it sounds more like reality.
While making The Big Sleep I found out for the first time that you don’t have to be too logical, you should just make good scenes. Faulkner and Leigh Bracket, a young girl who wrote like a man, wrote the entire script in eight days because they didn’t want to change anything. They said Chandler’s stuff was so good they wanted to leave it alone.
There’s action only if there’s danger.
I find that when you open on a group of people sitting down and talking, the scene sits down with them. The best antidote for that is an entrance. Begin the scene with someone entering, and somehow it’s more interesting.
I don’t think plot as a plot means much today. I’d say that everybody has seen every plot 20 times. What they haven’t seen is characters and their relation to one another. I don’t worry much about plot anymore.
I think probably the last picture that worked out well is your favorite for a while, and then you start thinking about it and you go back a little further. Not that you’re trying to make every scene a great scene, but you try not to annoy the audience. If I can make about five good scenes and not annoy the audience, it’s an awfully good picture.
If I can make five good scenes and not annoy the audience, I’ve got a good picture. I get annoyed when directors try to blow up a scene that isn’t there.
Hawks on Working with Actors
Cary Grant was so far the best that there isn’t anybody to be compared to him.
John Wayne represents more force, more power, than anybody else on the screen
[on John Wayne] Way back on Red River (1948) he asked my theory about acting and I said, “Duke, you do two or three good scenes in a picture and don’t offend the audience the rest of the time.” So even today he says, “What’s coming up next?” and I say, “This is one of the ones that you’re liable to offend them. Get it over with as soon as you can. Don’t do anything.”
I am not very fond of using established actresses. They like only the left-side of their face photographed and…that’s too much trouble. So if I can I always find new actresses and put them in the picture to work with the men who are so good. And they help her. In that way I found quite a number of stars – Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth, Angie Dickinson, Lauren Bacall. All of them made their first picture with me.
The camera likes some people and other people it doesn’t. If it likes people those people can’t do any wrong. Almost everything they think comes out when you photograph them.
More Filmmaking Wisdom
If you want to make pictures and enjoy making them, you better go out and make something that a lot of people want to see. And then they’ll turn you lose and let you make what you want. And then maybe you can do some of the things that you want to do. But as a beginner, you haven’t got a chance.
Frank Capra, until he went into the army, was one of the greatest directors we ever had. Made great entertainment. After that he couldn’t make anything. He started to analyze his pictures, and put messages in them. He put messages into his other pictures, but he didn’t think about it. He did it naturally. When he got to thinking about his messages, oh brother, he turned into really . . . ah, no good.
I never made a message picture, and I hope I never do.
When you find out a thing that goes pretty well, you might as well do it again.
I never believed in being under contract and never was under contract. Consequently I can choose…or if I like a story that a studio has I can say in advance, ‘I’m gonna change it. And they’d say, ‘well, go ahead.’ And if you get lucky the way I did, well they’d let you do about what you want to do.
I guarantee you that two directors that are any good can take the same story, change the name of the characters, change the name of the town and make an entirely different picture.
Howard Hawks Quotes Final Words
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