--- In firstname.lastname@example.org
, Luke Aspell <l_aspell@...> wrote:
> I hope I'm not too late to note a favourite zoom into a red
light, just before a race begins, in Red Line 7000. One El Dorado
zoom I certainly recall is an underlining zoom of the Sheriff (Robert
Mitchum) being hit in the face with a pan. Strangely, this zoom in El
Dorado I recall as seeming less unobtrusive than those in Red Line
7000, perhaps because it's magnifying an actor's reaction, or
possibly because something like that happening to Hawks' Western
space (if I may be permitted to conflate space with milieu) seems
more startling than its happening to his modern, technical space.
That's not to say it isn't enjoyable.
> Hawks' seamlessness seems to accomodate the zoom lens rather
nicely. Or rather, he allows it its (some would say) intrinsic
vulgarity, enjoys it as a device of sudden emphasis in a way
reminiscent inspecifically of the following decade. I even suspect
the zoom on the red light in Red Line 7000 has frames pulled, though
I wouldn't swear to it at this distance.
> Luke Aspell
I'm a little late on this too but just wanted to note that what
David Ehrenstein said about the zooms in "El Dorado"
being "restrained" is certainly true, specifically in terms of how
often it is used. The one Luke describes is, I'm fairly certain,
the second of only two--used to have a certain effect in a comic
moment, it's very different than the first.
The first occurs when Cole/John Wayne intervenes in the action between
Mississippi/James Caan and friends of the man Caan has just killed
with a thrown knife. Hawks zooms in on Wayne drawing his gun and
firing, and from this event a friendship, at first casual, begins
between Cole and Mississippi. Also present in the interaction that
follows is Nelse McLeod/Christopher George, like Mississippi
introduced in this scene. Could Cole's intervention been done a
more classical way, without the zoom? Surely it could, but I thought
the zoom was effective--Hawks' use of it is so selective in the film,
not lazy at all, that I believe he was thinking creatively.
I must admit that one reason I'm good with this one is that this
sequence, which ends with Nelse's line "Call it professional courtesy"
as he parts from the other two outside, is my favorite sequence in
I know "Rio Bravo" of eight years earlier well enough to say with
some confidence there are no zoom shots in it, and am pretty
confident that this is the case with "Hatari" and "Man's Favorite
Sport?" too. That means "Red Line 7000" introduced it into his
work. But what accounts for more zooming in "Red Line" than
"El Dorado" is that there is a lot of second unit work in "Red Line"
directed by Bruce Kessler. Most of the zooms, including the one
Fred Camper cited, were undoubtedly filmed by him--possibly some
were directed by Hawks too, if they weren't wide coverage of the
races. In the credits, there is a zoom into the dashboard to show
that "red line" as I recall, highly deliberated and effective. But
mostly, it's in the second unit. Of course, Kessler directed under
Hawks' authority and was answerable to him, so clearly this was not
a case of Hawks prohibiting zooms.
It seems that finally, in "Rio Lobo" there is more use of the zoom
lens. I don't think this was careless or lazy, necessarily, but
the zoom had become so common in usage by then (unfortunately) that
Hawks seems to be integrating it more into his style.
Two additional points about this, and one fits into Yoel's question
about Hawks' projects. David Ehrenstein rightly pointed out that
the classical American cinema which had nurtured Hawks was pretty
well gone by the time of "Rio Lobo"--look at it in relation to other
films of that time and it looks very out of time, not to its discredit
I would add. Hawks is hardly unique in this. It could be argued
that most of the greats of Hollywood past were in some way
floundering, commercially or artistically or both, in this period,
trying to find their way. And I say this as one with deep affection
for many of the films they made then, more affection than I have for
many more fashionable 70s films. But they weren't finishing on an
easy road. Of course, Hawks had projects--most directors do until
the day they die. But there is a point, unfortunately, where now
matter how well-regarded and how commercial they might once have
been, it just becomes difficult to sustain a career in the same way.
The 70s in American cinema is such a good example. A few guys, like
Aldrich and Siegel, did very well, as well as in the best of their
earlier films--I'm just speaking artistically but they did have
commercial successes too in the later part of their careers.
Related, on the subject of the zoom, I once heard William Clothier,
who shot "Rio Lobo" among other movies, speak about the zoom. He
didn't like it at all (and retired in 1973). He said something very
interesting--that he would prefer to never take it out of the box.
And he said that on four John Ford films he photographed, he did
never take it out of the box. But for Andrew McLaglen, he was asked
to use it, and he worked for McLaglen a lot but wasn't happy about
use of the zoom lens.
Fred Camper's earlier post about the effect of the zoom on space was
pretty eloquent on the point, and I note that he was not so
doctrinaire as to say it should never be used, citing a positive
example in De Toth for example. He also stressed that it could be
made part of an aesthetic, as with Rossellini, and attain the same
aesthetic value as anything else. I totally support that view. In
the late 60s and 70s I would assert that Luchino Visconti is another
director who was highly deliberative in making the zoom a part of
But for Howard Hawks, I think Fred Camper's more negative view about
its effects on some films would generally apply. I'm not complaining
about its use in those last Hawks films ("Red Line 7000" I would
stress is, for many reasons, one of my favorite Hawks films, as much
for its aesthetic qualities as for any other reason). But one of the
great qualities of Hawks is the movements, postures, choreography
of character/characters in the frames, and in relation to each other
--you need a feeling of real space to do what he does with this. It
will not have the same flow without it. Think of "Only Angels Have
Wings" and the characters in those (relatively few) interiors, for
example. Hawks keeps a balance, a flow, almost musically, in the
movements of the people within the interiors, and it seems to me that
a zoom would destroy the filmic reality he creates there.
Just to take one example of a key moment in Hawks for me--the
entrance of Frances Farmer as Lotta (the first one) in "Come and
Get It!" There's a roomful of people standing around a gambling
table or something, and suddenly a few people move and there she is--
just there in the middle of the frame. It's really magical, and
there isn't the least camera flamboyance or anything. It's magical
partly because there isn't. She's there, in character--it's all
very natural, and part of that Hawksian flow.
> Fred Camper <f@...> wrote:
> "Red Line 7000" has zooms. They are used in the race
track scenes --
> zooms in on the smoke from a car wreck. I haven't seen this film in
> decades, but did see it 13 times. If I'm wrong, then, well, my
> really starting to go. For a long time I called it my favorite
> It's my impression from reading "Variety" in the 60s and early 70s
> Hawks simply couldn't get financing any more. "Red Line 7000" was
> only a huge flop but was critically trashed. Hawks didn't even
> it. I don't think "Man's Favorite Sport?" did so well. "El Dorado,"
> remember right, did pretty well but not as well as some other Wayne
> films of the time. I think the only reason Hawks got to make "Rio
> was that Wayne agreed to star in it. Note the long gap without any
> after "El Dorado," the longest in Hawks's career. And I
> Lobo" flopped too.
> I remember Hawks describing two possible projects. The both sounded
> they could have been great. One was a Vietman war film. He talked
> how the US troops found themselves in unpredictable environments.
> sounded like it would mix his "adventure" films with out of control
> aspects of his comedies. The other was an around the world oil
> two guys (two guys who loved each other as friends, if I remember
> searching for oil, if I remember right. Others?
> Fred Camper
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