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Howard Hawks Blogathon- Rio Bravo, The Big Sleep

May 27, 2013

Today as part of  the blogathon, we take a look at two Howard Hawks classics, often been rated among the best movies too, the Western Rio Bravo and the noir flick The Big Sleep.

Paula has been a Detroiter since birth and a movie fan since the age of five. She has seen hundreds of classic and contemporary movies. Some of her favorites are Casablanca, The Big Sleep, Diabolique, The Great Escape, and anything by Powell and Pressburger. Her college experience included film and literature coursework and writing film reviews for the campus paper.  Here at Paula’s Cinema Club, she deconstructs one of Hawk’s finest movies, the noir thriller The Big Sleep.  Based on Raymond Chandler’s novel, this was one of the hardest to follow plot ever with  multiple cross connections and nothing being what it seems.  Without much ado,  check out  Paula’s  take on the Big Sleep here. In her own words.


Hawks’ The Big Sleep, which has a reputation for being a great yet somewhat incomprehensible film noir. No one can really deny the gritty atmosphere created by Hawks and his team, or the unmistakable chemistry between the leads, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, which Hawks displayed to great effect. But, due to factors beyond Hawks’ control, the plot is a bit difficult to follow, supposedly even for the author of the book on which the film was based, Raymond Chandler. Any Google search will turn up the story that, when asked (by Hawks and the film’s writers) which character killed another, Chandler didn’t know either.

Of all the gin joints in the world, if you  have a choice to walk into one, let it beAurora’s Gin Joint.    A die hard movie lover, who goes by the pseudonym of  @citizenscreen on Twitter, Aurora, shares a love for classic cinema, Golden Age Hollywood.  She had earlier contributed to the blogathon with a riveting pictorial tribute to Howard Hawks, with his own quotes, and  images from his movies here.  Here she reviews another Howard Hawk’s  classic  Rio Bravo, the counter movie to  High Noon. Yes the story of John Wayne being displeased by High Noon, which he called the most Un American movie ever mad, and then  as a counter to that, he teamed up with Hawks to make Rio Bravo.  In Hawks own words

I saw “High Noon” at about the same time I saw another western picture, and we were talking about western pictures and they asked me if I liked it, and I said, “Not particularly”. I didn’t think a good sheriff was going to go running around town like a chicken with his head off asking for help, and finally his Quaker wife had to save him. That isn’t my idea of a good western sheriff. I said that a good sheriff would turn around and say, “How good are you? Are you good enough to take the best man they’ve got?” The fellow would probably say no, and he’d say, “Well, then I’d just have to take care of you”. And that scene was in “Rio Bravo.”

And without much ado, walk through  Aurora’s take on  Rio Bravo, whose other favorite Westerns are incidentally High Noon and The Wild Bunch, both of them movies that Hawks hated. In her own words.

In a direct response to how he felt about High Noon, Hawks makes what I perceive as the central theme of Rio Bravo the idea of whether people are “good enough.”  And he does so in a not-so-subtle way as the line is repeated and the question posed at several key instances throughout the film.  As a comparison, one should note that the Sheriff in High Noon looks for back-up as a means to fight the bad guys in whoever would lend a helping hand.  And for the record, all that Hawks says about Noon makes sense.  Conversely, what we see in John T. Chance, the sheriff in Rio Bravo, is a man with much higher standards.  One who doesn’t settle.


  1. This was a great idea for a blogathon Ratnakar, I’m going back through all the posts and there’s so much Hawks goodness 🙂

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