Soon after that, I found out that Hawks had directed two of my favorite films when I was a 10-year-old (also favorites of my parents, who had first taken me to see them): Red River and I Was a Male War Bride. It turned out he had also directed another family favorite: Sergeant York, the only film for which he got a directing Oscar nomination. All this coincided with my becoming friendly with two American French-influenced “auteurists”—Andrew Sarris and Eugene Archer (then the fourth-string film critic for The New York Times)—who were full of admiration for, and erudition on, Howard Hawks.
Because I wanted so badly to see every picture Hawks had directed, I devised a plan to get Paramount to pay for a Hawks retrospective (the first in America) at the Museum of Modern Art, in conjunction with the 1962 release of Hawks’ latest film, Hatari! (also with John Wayne). “The Cinema of Howard Hawks” became a monograph I wrote—featuring my first interview with Hawks—as well as the name of the Museum’s complete, six-month retrospective. By then, Scarface, Twentieth Century, Bringing up Baby, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep had joined the others as favorites of mine. They still are.
Recently, when Warners sent me this deluxe edition of Rio Bravo (they interviewed me for the DVD featurette, which also has Hawks’ voice from our interviews together), I figured to just look at the opening and see how the print was (it’s exceptional). Naturally, I watched the whole thing. And this experience was the most completely engrossing and emotional of my life with this almost 50-year-old work. By now, of course, the film had reverberations particular to me: I had known Hawks pretty well and loved him, and Wayne a bit, had met Martin and Dickinson. But, most important, I had grown up with the movie, and it had only deepened with age—its own and mine. What I think moved me most, apart from the humanity Hawks explores with such generosity, is the simplicity of gesture, the easy invisibility of the craft behind the art of golden age picturemaking that the film so beautifully embodies.