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The Head Of Fox Once Taught Legendary Director Howard Hawks A Lesson He Never Forgot


There’s some tension hidden in that advice. “Make a picture people want to look at” conjures images of directors being off in their own worlds making pretentious, esoteric movies with extremely limited viability as opposed to leaning into crowd-pleasing material, and that tension has fueled generations of storytellers for the entirety of Hollywood’s history, resulting in the “one for me, one for them” mentality that drove several mainstream directors in the 1990s and 2000s (before the landscape evolved to such a degree where that mentality has essentially been wiped out and most filmmakers, unless they’re working in the indie space, are left with nothing but “ones for them”).

As for who the “head of Fox” was at this time, this interaction happened in the mid-1920s, before Fox merged with Twentieth Century Pictures and became 20th Century Fox, so William Fox was still the sole owner of the studio. But since William Fox was based out of New York, it seems likely the person Hawks was actually speaking to on that golf course was Sol M. Wurtzel, who Fox put in charge of his West Coast operations out in Los Angeles in the early days of the company.

Regardless of who actually gave him the “make a picture people want to look at” advice, Hawks took the lesson to heart. In addition to the credits mentioned above, he also directed classics like “Only Angels Have Wings” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” and was at least partially responsible for 1951’s “The Thing From Another World,” which inspired John Carpenter’s 1982 film “The Thing,” itself among the best sci-fi films ever made. Not too shabby, indeed.

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