By Shoshana Milgram
Howard Hawks has been acclaimed as the only movie director to achieve greatness in every genre from Westerns to war stories, from effervescent comedies to intense dramas. His pictures, moreover, convey an inspiring perspective on reality; they are simultaneously entertaining and uplifting. In the Hawksian universe, happy endings are more than a Hollywood cliché: they are earned.
The course, which offers an overview of Hawks's body of work, focuses on four films that illustrate the triumph of efficacious rationality over arduous obstacles—To Have and Have Not, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday and Rio Bravo—and on two films (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Monkey Business) featuring Marilyn Monroe, whose performances, according to Ayn Rand, projected a "radiantly benevolent sense of life, which cannot be faked." This course explores their distinct artistic virtues by identifying the relation of theme to story and style, and by contrasting Hawks's pictures to the adapted source material (e.g., the Hemingway novel from which To Have and Have Not was adapted) and with other films (such as High Noon and Casablanca) that share some of their features.
The course examines three thematic elements that, integrated, constitute the world of Hawksian cinema: work, comradeship and romance. The basic test for any story, according to Ayn Rand, is to ask if the experience is "worth living through for its own sake." The films of Howard Hawks provide that sort of experience in full measure. Through professional skill and moral integrity, the heroes of his films achieve victory and happiness. Romantic couples—witty, well-matched equals—begin as antagonists, and become lovers and allies. These stories appeal to the best within us.
By grasping the meaning, method and merits of these classic American movies, we sharpen our understanding, enhance our enjoyment, and acquire skills and standards that enrich our appreciation of films as art.
This course was recorded at the 2010 Objectivist Summer Conference in Las Vegas, NV.
(MP3 download; 4 hrs., 41 min., with Q & A, 193 MB)