Haughty, Heavenly, Hawksian

Many of the great directors of Hollywood’s golden age are synonymous with the types of films they made. Hitchcock was the master of suspense, Billy Wilder was the king of comedy, and John Ford turned the western into an art form.Howard Hawks, is best remembered for presenting a new type of woman on screen. Strong, feisty, ahead-of-their-time women – from Carole Lombard in Twentieth Century to Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo. In later years film historians dubbed these incandescent dames “The Hawksian Woman.”Sadly, Hollywood’s recent feminine projections can’t hold a match to the distinctively sexy style, that defined Hawks’s gamine gals and smoky-voiced sirens. With that utterly predictable segue, I’d like to posit that Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan did give the Hawksian Woman a shot of adrenalin in the 1990s.Michelle begat the line of Hawksian leading ladies when she played Melanie Parker in One Fine Day. Every detail, each little piece of punctuation, creating a character of seriously sexy charm. Meg Ryan was even more screwballish in Addicted to Love, one of the darkest, most hallucinatory movies in her oeuvre.If I’m right and Pfeiffer was doing a Meg Ryan impersonation in the pratfall scene in One Fine Day, then Ryan returned the compliment in Addicted to Love. Her leather clad biker chick Maggie behaves like a blow-in from Batman Returns, at one point Matthew Broderick’s Sam even refers to her as Catwoman.The box office failure of both of these films stymied any thoughts of a screwball comedy revival. By the late 1990s, the studios had already begun looking for the next Michelle Pfeiffer and the new Meg Ryan. What they should have been looking for was another Billy Wilder, Peter Bogdanovich, or Howard Hawks.

Coming soon…

18 Comments

Filed under Retrospective