The Howard Hawks method


I sometimes feel a bit guilty that I give the same talk more than once or return to the same topics for blogposts time and again. But then I think about Howard Hawks.

For those of you who do not know Hawks was a Hollywood movie director whose career straddled silent films and ‘talkies’. While he never won an Oscar (he did get an honorary statue late in life) he was a hugely influential director with a back catalogue of classic films in almost every genre.

For me though he is the man who created much confusion in my childhood due to three films he made starring John Wayne. Rio Bravo, El Dorado and Rio Lobo. Why was I confused? They are three versions of the same story — with almost identical plots, the same star, pretty much the same set pieces and some of the same dialogue. He basically just kept revisiting the same story as he had different ways to tell it and didn’t feel like he had quite cracked it.

When I was young I watched pretty much every Western that was shown on the three TV channels available (yes I’m old!) and I loved what my nan called the ‘cowies’. I could never understand why I was always misremembering this one John Wayne movie though! I knew the story but it always seemed a bit different and never less than entertaining.

This is I think what I hope to achieve with my own ‘performances’ and writing. I revisit the same stories, the same scripts (and slides!) but hopefully I am always trying to tell the story slightly differently and learning from experience to make it better for the audience. Like with Hawks I suspect the audience (well my blog readers or the conference organisers) will decide when enough is enough!

Hawks also did it with Ball of Fire and A Song is Born but I don’t remember seeing them until I was much older.