At the heart of every Howard Hawks action movie is the concept of the professional doing his job, and doing it well, despite the imminent threat of death, an idealized code of conduct Hemingway called "grace under pressure." We're all going to die sooner or later, Hawks seems to be saying, can't we at least do it with a bit of dignity and honor and laughter and good company?
After nearly three decades of genre defining action pictures—from Dawn Patrol to Only Angels Have Wings to Red River to The Thing From Another World—Hawks topped himself with Rio Bravo, if not the best Western ever made then certainly the most entertaining.
It's also Hawks at his most compassionate, not an attribute I would always associate with his brusque heroes and no-nonsense women. But John Wayne watches over his ragged crew—a drunk, a cripple, and later a girl, a young gunslinger and even the manager of the local hotel—like a mother hen, with a love that is sometimes tough and sometimes tender, but always genuine.
There's a lesson here for purveyors of the modern summer blockbuster: don't confuse a slowing of the action with a flagging of the audience's interest. If you don't give us a reason to invest ourselves in the characters on the screen, the non-stop action, no matter how well choreographed, eventually becomes a tedious bore.
Hawks, for example, takes time after one character's particularly intense personal crisis for a trademark song (here, "My Rifle, My Pony and Me") which not only allows the audience to catch its breath, but also adds another dimension to the friendship between the four men involved that makes the final payoff (one of the greatest shootouts in movie history) so much more satisfying—because by then you really care.
I'll take Rio Bravo with its ups and downs of pacing and mood over all the empty, rote action movies ever made.
winner: Rio Bravo (prod. Howard Hawks)
nominees: Anatomy of a Murder (prod. Otto Preminger); Ben-Hur (prod. Sam Zimbalist); Imitation of Life (prod. Ross Hunter); North By Northwest (prod. Alfred Hitchcock); Shadows (prod. Maurice McEndree); Room at the Top (James Woolf and John Woolf)
winner: Some Like It Hot (prod. Billy Wilder)
nominees: I'm All Right Jack (prod. Roy Boultin); The Mouse That Roared (prod. Walter Shenson); Our Man In Havana (prod. Carol Reed); Pillow Talk (prod. Ross Hunter and Martin Melcher); Sleeping Beauty (prod. Walt Disney)
PICTURE (Foreign Language)
winner: Les quatre cents coups (The 400 Blows) (prod. François Truffaut)
nominees: Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) (prod. Satyajit Ray); Ballada o soldate (Ballad of a Soldier) (prod. M. Chernova); Hiroshima mon amour (prod. Anatole Dauman and Samy Halfon); Ningen no jôken (The Human Condition) (prod. Shigeru Wakatsuki); Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) (prod. Sacha Gordine); Ukigusa (Floating Weeds) (prod. Masaichi Nagata)
winner: Cary Grant (North By Northwest)
nominees: Peter Cushing (The Hound of the Baskervilles); Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur); Jean-Pierre Léaud (Les quatre cents coups a.k.a. The 400 Blows); Dean Martin (Rio Bravo); Paul Muni (The Last Angry Man); James Stewart (Anatomy of a Murder); John Wayne (Rio Bravo)
winner: Jack Lemmon (Some Like It Hot)
nominees: Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot); Alec Guinness (Our Man In Havana); Rock Hudson (Pillow Talk); Peter Sellers (The Mouse That Roared and I'm All Right Jack)
winner: Simone Signoret (Room At The Top)
nominees: Audrey Hepburn (The Nun's Story); Katharine Hepburn (Suddenly Last Summer); Eva Marie Saint (North By Northwest); Lana Turner (Imitation Of Life)
winner: Marilyn Monroe (Some Like It Hot)
nominees: Dorothy Dandridge (Porgy And Bess); Doris Day (Pillow Talk)
winner: Howard Hawks (Rio Bravo)
nominees: John Cassavetes (Shadows); Alfred Hitchcock (North By Northwest); Masaki Kobayashi (Ningen no jôken a.k.a. The Human Condition); Otto Preminger (Anatomy of a Murder); Douglas Sirk (Imitation of Life); François Truffaut (Les quatre cents coups a.k.a. The 400 Blows); William Wyler (Ben-Hur)
winner: Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot)
nominees: Marcel Camus (Orfeu Negro a.k.a. Black Orpheus); Michael Gordon (Pillow Talk); Yasujirô Ozu (Ohayô a.k.a. Good Morning); Carol Reed (Our Man In Havana)
winner: Walter Brennan (Rio Bravo)
nominees: Joe E. Brown (Some Like It Hot); Ben Gazzarra (Anatomy of a Murder); Hugh Griffith (Ben-Hur); Martin Landau (North By Northwest); James Mason (North By Northwest); Arthur O'Connell (Anatomy of a Murder); Tony Randall (Pillow Talk); George C. Scott (Anatomy of a Murder); Orson Welles (Compulsion)
winner: Juanita Moore (Imitation Of Life)
nominees: Eve Arden (Anatomy of a Murder); Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo); Susan Kohner (Imitation of Life); Jessie Royce Landis (North By Northwest); Lee Remick (Anatomy of a Murder); Shelley Winters (The Diary of Anne Frank)
winner: Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, from the story by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan (Some Like It Hot)
nominees: Karl Tunberg, from the novel by Lew Wallace (Ben-Hur); Ernest Lehman (North By Northwest); Graham Greene, from his novel (Our Man In Havana); François Truffaut (scenario and adaptation), Marcel Moussy (dialogue and adaptation) (Les quatre cents coups a.k.a. The 400 Blows); Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett, from the short story by B.H. McCampbell (Rio Bravo)
Saul Bass (Career Achievement Award); Jazz on a Summer's Day (Documentary); William A. Horning and Edward Carfagno; Hugh Hunt (Ben-Hur) (Art Direction-Set Decoration); Franklin E. Milton (Ben-Hur) (Sound); Ralph E. Winters and John D. Dunning (Ben-Hur) (Film Editing); Elizabeth Haffenden (Ben-Hur) (Costumes); A. Arnold Gillespie, Robert MacDonald and Milo Lory (Ben-Hur) (Special Effects)