Silver Screenings and Font and Frock are co-hosting this blogathon celebrating our screen crushes. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
I have a great many screen crushes, but one character who I really adore is a Jane Austen man. Forget a certain chap called Mr. Darcy, I want you all to put him right out of your minds now.
Say hello instead to a gentleman called Mr. Knightley. He is the dashing leading man featured in Jane Austen’s 1815 comedy romance novel, Emma.
Knightley is a playful, gentle, teasing, smouldering, kind, tender and all round adorable and decent guy.
As played by the talented Jeremy Northam in Emma(1996), Knightley is also one of the sexiest and hottest men ever seen on the screen. Be still my beating heart! 😉
Why do I like Knightley so much? Well for starters because he is the kind of guy who mates for life. He loves Emma with all of his heart, and you just know that he will never hurt or betray her.
Knightley also loves Emma for her personality, rather than desiring her for the extremely shallow reason of mere physical attractiveness alone.
He is also not afraid to be brutally honest with Emma and he will tell her if she has done something nasty or morally wrong. I think that part of true love means being able to be completely honest and open with one another, and also to be able to point out and question unforgivable behaviour that one or both of you may exhibit. Knightley does just this when he tells Emma off for her cruel words to Miss Bates at the picnic and points out why those words were so horrible for her to say.
Knightley is the type of man that we all long to have in our lives (if we’re being honest with ourselves), someone who is a friend, a soulmate, a lover, and someone who accepts you for who you are warts and all.
Northam’s Knightley also gets to deliver the most romantic and touching proposal speech I’ve ever heard. The proposal scene itself is gorgeous to watch. Knightley and Emma are in a wood and they are both bathed in sunlight. The words that Knightley utters to Emma in this moment are sincere, romantic, and they really touch my heart.
Knightley: “Marry me. Marry me, my wonderful, darling friend.”
Part of the proposal scene. Screenshot by me.
Aww! I’m telling you that this scene is the stuff that dreams are made of. 🙂
If the beautiful proposal speech were not enough to get you wishing that he was your man, then the way Knightley looks at Emma in this scene should certainly do it. He looks at her with such tenderness and with a warm smile which will melt your heart. You can see how much he loves her and how much she loves him.
You can also see how desperately Knightely wants Emma to accept his proposal. Emma gazes back at him with an expression of equal love and desire on her face. It’s a beautiful moment and Jeremy Northam does such a fantastic job with his portrayal of Knightley. Quite how Jeremy has not become a bigger star over the years is beyond me.
Emma is one lucky lady. I hope she truly realises what a gem of a man she has in Knightley. Right then, I’m off to rewatch Emma (again)and spend some time in the company of the gorgeous Mr. K.
Howard Hawks is one of my favourite classic era American film directors. I love how the main focus of his films is always on the characters. He really lets us see his characters personalities, and he lets us get a good sense of what they are enduring as the film goes along.
Howard shows us his characters strengths, their flaws, and their quirks; he makes his characters come across to us as real people who we can connect to in some way. I really like that in his films men and women are depicted as being equals, this is refreshing to see.
His films also show us that men can have moments where they are vulnerable, and more importantly that it is perfectly fine for them to be vulnerable. Howard Hawks shows us that men don’t have to be tough guys every second of every day. He also shows us that women are not delicate and fragile beings to be protected, they can be as tough, daring, and capable as any man can be.
I especially love the female characters found in Howard Hawks films. Known as Hawksian Women, these female characters can match the male characters every step of the way. Howards’s female characters are strong, tough, witty, determined, sexy and opinionated gals.
They can verbally spar with men with great ease. They are confident and they can easily become one of the boys.
I also like that the Hawksian women retain their femininity and that they do not become overly masculine, unlike some of the female characters found in James Cameron’s films for example; women such as Vasquez in Aliens or Sarah Connor in Terminator 2.
Hawksian women carry both female and male qualities within them, but they never have to grow big muscles and act all macho to prove that they can be one of the boys.
These characters also gave some of the finest actresses of the day a chance to deliver performances which rank amongst their greatest and most unforgettable film work.
Although there were many other tough, smart, and strong female characters to be found in other films in the classic era, such female characters were always a regular feature in Howard Hawks films.
Who can forget Jean Arthur being one of the lads in Only Angels Have Wings? Lauren Bacall as the tough and vulnerable Slim in To Have and Have Not? Rosalind Russell as the fast talking newspaper reporter in His Girl Friday? Charlene Holt and Michele Carey as two very different women in terms of how they dress and make a living, but both being Hawksian women in El Dorado? Barbara Stanwyck as the saucy and wisecracking dancer in Ball Of Fire? Ann Sheridan as the wisecracking Army Lieutenant in I Was A Male War Bride?
I love that in Howard’s films even very minor female characters make quite an impact. Two of of my favourite minor Hawksian women can be found in The Big Sleep(1946).
The first is Dorothy Malone as the woman who works in the bookshop.
She steals every second of the scene she is in with Bogie.We see right away that she is intelligent, observant, focused, sexy, and that she is more than up for something to break up the ordinary rhythm of her working day.
The banter between her and Bogie is first rate and also very risque, and that coupled with the way they eye each other up and down makes you wonder how this scene ever made it past the censors.
I also love how Bogie calls her pal. In so many cases the Hawksian woman is accepted as a friend by men, she becomes one of the gang, and there is usually an emotional connection developed long before a relationship turns sexual. I think Hawksian women represent what marriage and relationships are ideally meant to be all about; friendship, equality and sexual desire.
My other favourite minor character in this film is the taxi driver played by Joy Barlow who helps Marlowe tale a guy who he is after. I love the way she delivers her lines in the back and forth banter between her character and Marlowe.
The taxi driver also stands out because she is a woman doing a job traditionally done by a man. I think that she represents the millions of women who found their independence during WW2 and wouldn’t give up working after the men came home.
Undoubtedly the quintessential Hawksian woman is Lauren Bacall. Lauren was discovered by Howard’s second wife, Nancy “Slim” Keith, who saw Lauren’s photo in a magazine and showed it to Howard. He then cast Lauren alongside Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not.
Lauren’s character in this is called Slim, and Bogie’s is called Steve. In real life those names were the nicknames that Howard and Nancy called one another by. Nancy was the Hawksian woman for Howard in real life, and Lauren was the perfect Hawksian woman in his films.
Lauren conveys all of the necessary Hawksian qualities in her performances as Slim in To Have and Have Not and as Vivian in The Big Sleep. It is really hard for me to imagine any other actress playing those characters in way that Lauren did.
Sadly the appearance of the Hawksian Woman on screen declined in the late 50’s and early 60’s. In the 80’s and 90’s some film and TV characters appeared who had all of those Hawksian qualities. Characters like Marion Ravenwood in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Melanie in One Fine Day, Laura Holt in Remington Steele(TV series) and Jennifer Hart in Hart To Hart(TV series). Going further back in time, I would also class Nora Charles in The Thin Man films and Tess Harding in Woman Of The Year to be Hawksian Women.
I love watching Howard Hawks films and seeing all of those smart, strong, inspirational, sexy, funny and fiercely independent women. So many of these characters could serve as role models as they are women who go after what they want and won’t be held back, who can work alongside men and fit in with them without sacrificing their femininity in the process, and who are smart and determined.
My favourite Hawksian women are the following.
Bonnie Lee in Only Angels Have Wings. I love how fun loving and bubbly she is. I also love how she overcomes her shock and anger at how the men in this film deal with grief. It isn’t easy for her to change to their way of dealing with grief and loss, but she gives it a go and she becomes a valued and beloved member of the group of pilots and ground crew.
Slim in To Have and Have Not. I love how she is a survivor, she has been on her own for so long and hasn’t had the best life but she takes care of herself. She is tough but she is also deeply vulnerable and can be easily hurt. When she meets Steve she can let her guard down, he knows she is tough, smart and tough talking, but he also sees what is beneath all that and knows what she has been through and tries to help her see she isn’t alone any more.
The bookshop lady in The Big Sleep. Smart, observant, and sexy. As a glasses wearer myself, I also really love that she is a character who wears glasses, as there are so few female characters I’ve come across in films of this time who wear them. I always get so mad when things get physical between them and Bogie makes her take them off! LOL
What are your thoughts on Hawksian Women? Who are your favourite female characters in Howard Hawks films?