WEIRDLAND: Howard Hawks' screwball influence on Edgar Wright's Baby Driver

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Howard Hawks' screwball influence on Edgar Wright's Baby Driver

“Baby Driver” (2017) is exuberant, fast paced and tightly scripted. There’s not much in the way of fat—no scene goes on longer than it needs to. The picture isn’t just a collection of jokes and improve-y back and forths poorly glued together to resemble a feature length film. Edgar Wright firmly believes in narrative and structure to keep things organized and the action moving. Story and character come first, while the humor flows effortlessly out of them. “Baby Driver” keeps to a meticulous and playful comedic rhythm, sort of like a classic screwball comedy with more music, heavier cutting and a lot more action.

Edgar Wright also likes working within established genres. “Baby Driver” embraces a well-worn sub genre of the crime film—an expert criminal trying to get out that dangerous life but that life wont let him leave. In this case, that expert criminal is a young (talented) getaway driver known as “Baby” (Ansel Elgort). A good kid who mostly means well, he works for the master criminal Doc, (Kevin Spacey) doing jobs to pay off a debt he acquired years ago. “Baby Driver” is Wright’s hyper screwball take on films like “Thief” and “Drive.” It’s kinetic and cartoon-y, with a palpable undercurrent of violence and danger. Source:

Between the favorite films of Edgar Wright, there are several directed by Howard Hawks: "Scarface" (1932), "Bringing Up Baby" (1938) and "The Big Sleep" (1946). Source:

Between April and July 1974, Tom Luddy at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley ran the most complete Howard Hawks retrospective ever organized to date, in that it included the silent films until then thought to be lost: Paid to Love, The Cradle Snatchers, and Trent’s Last Case. His Girl Friday and To Have and Have Not received the usual rapturous receptions. While in Berkeley, Hawks agreed to speak with three representatives of a radical leftist film journal called Jump Cut. The interviewers were prepared to suspend their “aversion to his reactionary romanticism and hail him as a closet subversive, a repressed populist, perhaps even a right-wing anarchist.” The result was undoubtedly the oddest, most rambling, but in some ways most personal interview with Hawks ever published. In it he railed, as much of his generation did, against the “biased” media that “has turned people against Nixon,” against newfangled school textbooks, against political messages in motion pictures, and against “sick” pictures, which he defined as “pictures of psychopaths, pictures of strange people, pictures that are nauseating, people that you don’t like to look at or follow—those are sick pictures.” He expressed a revulsion at politics in general and at the “gradual erosion” of ideals in America. On the subject of Vietnam, Hawks said, “America lost all over the world by fighting there. I think that whoever started it in the first place was wrongly advised. They should have said, ‘Go over there and drop a couple of big bombs, and if you don’t feel like doing that, stay out of it.’”

Hawks was not an intellectual yet he was very intelligent; he possessed the wisdom of his years but remained an adolescent in his enthusiasms even in old age; he was innately conservative in his worldview yet daring and inclined to risk; he was embraced by many feminists in the 1970s for liberating his women characters from the home and placing them on the same field with men, yet he held an utterly conventional view of women’s role in his own life; he was stoic but reckless, reserved but excessive; he was celebrated but little known; he was a pragmatist but a poet; and he had the mind of an engineer but the subconscious of an artist. He was, above all, a modern artist. —"Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood" (2007) by Todd McCarthy

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