I’ve been reminded of the source of that famous Howard Hawks line about how a good film always has “three great scenes and no bad ones.” It’s from Joseph McBride‘s “Hawks on Hawks,” which has just been republished by University Press of Kentucky. I referenced the line in last night’s “Howard Hawks Wants to Know” piece. But the broader Hawks quote contains a side-thought that nobody ever mentions these days.
“Not that you’re trying to make every scene a great scene, but you try not to annoy the audience,” Hawks tells McBride on page 36. “I told John Wayne when we started to work together, ‘Duke, if you can make three good scenes in this picture and don’t annoy the audience the rest of the time, you’ll be good.’ He said,’“Do you believe that?’ I said, ‘Yeah. If I make five good scenes in this picture, and don’t annoy the audience, I think I’ll be good.'” Wells insert: Now wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute…did Hawks believe that nailing three great scenes was all you needed, or did he believe that five was a much better tally and that three might not be enough?