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Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood Paperback – November, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

As producer and director, Howard Hawks mastered such diverse genres as screwball comedy, Western, science fiction, musical, and hard-boiled gangster film. He possessed a natural gift for storytelling and a keen eye for talent. He constantly bucked the studios and censorship boards, yet he made no "personal" films and considered any film a failure if it did not reach an audience. Despite the success of his films, Hawks was always scrambling for work thanks to gambling habits, free spending, and IRS claims for back taxes. On the centenary of the complex man's birth, the chief film critic at Variety has produced the first comprehensive biography of Hawks, detailing his privileged early life and his numerous relationships with "dames." McCarthy also discusses Hawks's aloof behavior both on the set and at home, as well as his working methods with such varied figures as Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Cary Grant, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner. This exhaustively researched warts-and-all biography is a major contribution to film literature and should lead to a renewed appreciation of Hawks. Highly recommended.
-?Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Howard Hawks (1896^-1977) was one of the leading directors of Hollywood's golden age, worked with its biggest stars (Bogart, Hepburn, Grant), and--pilot, notorious womanizer, Hemingway's drinking buddy--lived a colorful life straight out of one of his action movies yet has never been the subject of a full-scale biography. McCarthy obliges him, tracing Hawks' career from the silent era through his 1970 valedictory, Rio Lobo. Chief film critic for the show-biz trade paper Variety, McCarthy is an ideal chronicler of the life of this most commercial of great filmmakers. He uncovers the truth behind the oft-told anecdotes of the notoriously self-aggrandizing Hawks and reveals the secret of Hawks' success: the films he wanted to make--straightforward entertainments featuring big stars--were the same ones that the studios wanted to make and that, in most cases, the public wanted to see. So Hawks boasted an unmatched, unbroken string of 11 hits between 1938 and 1951, and while his contemporaries faltered after World War II, continued his career successfully into the 1970s. Gordon Flagg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (November 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802137407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802137401
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #635,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michael Samerdyke on September 10, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very good book. Hawks apparently left no papers, and some aspects of his life are undocumented. (For example, McCarthy keeps mentioning Hawks' great friendship with Gary Cooper, but because of both men being dead and no documentation, Cooper remains a very shadowy presence in this book. Hawks' friendship with William Faulkner gets far more space, since Faulkner left papers.)
So there is not a lot about "the inner Hawks." However, there is a lot about Hawks' films. Once the talkies begin, there is a chapter on practically every film Hawks made. I was fascinated by the stories behind the films, how long it took some films to get made (Hatari began as an idea for a movie with Cooper), the films Hawks never made (apparently a very traditional vampire film), and his frequent tangles with Howard Hughes.
McCarthy did a lot of research, and he does not uncritically accept the stories Hawks told (frequently told) about his work. So if you like the films of Howard Hawks and are familiar with books such as Hawks on Hawks and Howard Hawks Storyteller, this is a book that you will still get a lot out of.
To use a term from Hawks' films: "This book is good enough."
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Steven Daedalus on August 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Todd McCarthy has just about closed the book on Howard Hawks. It isn't that there is no more to be told about Hawks, particularly about his private life, it's that for one reason or another -- death or discretion -- no one is going to tell it.

"Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood" gives us everything we wanted to know about Hawks' professional life, his deals with the studios, his treatment of his performers and crew, and then it gives us more than we needed to know. I frankly got bogged down in his cross-chases with moguls like Darryl F. Zanuck and idiosyncratic millionaire nuts like Howard Hughes. But it has to be admitted that McCarthy did his homework. My God, what a heap of information on display, and what a Mount Everest of papers and documents and letters and memoranda he must have dug through in order to unearth this stuff, going back all the way to the businesses run by Hawks' grandparents. (Was the business a success? No power on earth could drag the answer from me.)

We also get a reasonably objective picture of Hawks' character. McCarthy is no fawning fan. When Hawks makes a stinker, McCarthy admits it and tries to figure out why. And we get Hawks as a person too. He was, in a word, dull. Dullness, it could be argued, was his most interesting trait. He was dull as the child of a wealthy Midwestern family and he didn't evolve over the trajectory of his life. He didn't even visit Europe until his professional responsibilities required it. Neither did President George W. Bush or Elvis Presley. This lack of curiosity could be called insular American. When you already are certain about things, why challenge yourself? This complacency is reflected in his plots (which he rewrote extensively during shoots) and even his technique.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Legreid on July 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Todd McCarthy is that too rare bographer. His books can be read with enjoyment, they are not scholarly tomes intended to pulverize the reader into accepting the author's analytical brilliance, but fun and chock full of insight and information. Most of all they are well organized proceeding in a thoughtful logical manner. As a subject film director Howard Hawks was among the most colorful men to helm major film productions so it is surprising that there are so few good fun books about the man. The man and his movies. Few directors can match Howard Hawks record for quality films so this book is an essential guide to many of the greatest films ever made. Todd McCarthy takes the reader through the process of making films as Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, To Have & Have Not and so many others, therefore this biography explores the intricate web of personalities involved, mini biographies of actors as diverse as Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Rosalind Russell, and so many more.

Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood Is a delightful book by a gifted writer who actually takes the time to research his subject rather than relying upon plagarized rewrites of tabloid trash. Todd McCarthy's brevity and wit are welcome in this realm of biography.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By C. M Mills on May 4, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a native Hoosier I was prepared to like Howard Hawks. Hawks was born into relative luxury in Goshen, Indiana. He was raised

in Pasedena, graduated with an engineering degree from Cornell,

served briefly in World War I and rose to directorial fame in

silent film.

Hawks wed three times. Wife one was Athole the daughter of

the lovely and nice Norma Shearer. His second wife "Slim"was a

social climbing fashion plate whose nickname was used by Lauren

Bacall in To Have and Have Not with Bogey. His third wife Dee

was an aspiring actress who wed the older Hawks to achieve a life of comfort. Hawks was a womanizer throughout his life who was unfaithful and often cruel in his dealings with women.

Repugnant!

Hawks was also a gambler losing fortunes and also known as a drinker of note matching bourbons with such buddies as William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and Gary Cooper. His closest friend was famed director Victor Fleming the director of Gone With the Wind and other classics.

Why then spend almost 700 pages on this taciturn, egocentric,

cruel man? Simply put -the great movies he directed. Hawks is

known for such classics as Dawn Patrol; Sergeant York; To Have and Have Not; the Big Sleep. Classic westerns directed by Hawks include Red River with John Wayne and Rio Bravo with the Duke.

Sophisticated comedy delivered at torrid rates of dialogue verbniage include His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind

Russell. Grant also stared in Hawks's Only Angels Have Wings

and "I Was a Male War Bride" with Ann Sheridan.
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