Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday (1940) teems with witty quips, perfect responses, and enough cigarette smoke to blot out the sun. Consider the film’s second scene where we are introduced to retired reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) and her former boss and ex-husband Walter Burns (Cary Grant). This meeting not only sets up the characters and their prior conflict, but through a momentary breakdown in the motor-mouth dialogue, we also get a glimpse at how the film will resolve itself.
Tag: Howard Hawks
Nineteen thirty-nine was a golden year for movies. A record number of films were made, more than 20 of them considered now to be classics of cinema, including Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and many others.
Howard Hawks’s Only Angels Have Wings (1939) did not fit the mold of movies being made at that time. Angels did not possess the maddeningly indefinable allure of Garbo in Ninotchka, the unwavering idealism of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the melodramatics of Dark Victory, or the unbearable tragedies of Wuthering Heights. Nor did it have the over-the-top fantasy world-whirl of the beloved Wizard of Oz, or the searing romanticism of Gone with the Wind, both made by Victor Fleming that same year.
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944) was the first film to throw together the now legendary on and off screen couple, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Their chemistry is immediately apparent on screen, full of clever jabs, inside jokes, Bacall’s sultry, taunting eyes, and Bogart’s amused half smile. From moment to moment it is a cat and mouse game between them, though you never know for sure who is the cat and who is the mouse. While the plot of the film falls a bit short and feels like a noir version of a CASABLANCA (1943) remake, Bogart and Bacall’s on screen spark ultimately makes this a great film. It’s like watching two kids with a chemistry set: each adding elements that may cause an explosion, and each watching the other to see who will flinch first. Bogart and Bacall are so great in this film just being the Bogart and Bacall we love, that the jumbled plot about the French resistance feels secondary, and separate from their romance.
Two silhouettes light up a cigarette, with their respective names “Humphrey Bogart” (playing Philip Marlowe) and “Lauren Bacall” (playing Vivian Rutledge) smoldering over them. After the figures inhale one puff, the camera dives down to an ashtray. The silhouettes’ hands briefly slip into the light to line up their cigarettes. Their fresh smoke comes off at the tips of them like miniature chimneys, while the credits continue scrolling.
Attending a double feature screening of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and THE BIG SLEEP is like going to the factory where they make Reese’s. You have the peanut butter (Humphrey Bogart) and the chocolate (Lauren Bacall). Both are independently delicious items, but items nonetheless. Paired together in just the right way, they make an indelible combination that is problematically delicious. It hits the spot. And you will want more. Lucky for you, in a double feature, that is exactly what you get.