What do the classic and near-classic films I Was a Male War Bride, Scarface, Twentieth Century, Bringing Up Baby, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, Sergeant York, Ball of Fire, Air Force, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Red River and Rio Bravo have in common with such first-rate entertainments as I Was a Male War Bride, Monkey Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Land of the Pharaohs, Hatari!, Man's Favorite Sport? and El Dorado? Aside from their displays of great craftsmanship, the answer is director Howard Hawks, one of the most celebrated of American filmmakers, who ironically, was little celebrated by his peers in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences during his career.
Although John Ford--his friend, contemporary, and the director arguably closest to him in terms of his talent and output--told him that it was he, and not Ford, who should have won the 1941 Best Director Academy Award (for Sergeant York), the great Hawks never won an Oscar in competition and was nominated for Best Director only that one time, despite making some of the best films in the Hollywood canon. The Academy eventually made up for the oversight in 1974 by voting him an honorary Academy Award, in the midst of a two-decade-long critical revival that has gone on for yet another two decades. To many cineastes, Howard Hawks is one of the faces of American film and would be carved on any film pantheon's Mt. Rushmore honoring America's greatest directors, beside his friend Ford and Orson Welles (the other great director who Ford beat out for the 1941 Oscar). It took the French "Cahiers du Cinema" critics to teach America to appreciate one of its own masters, and it was to the Academy's credit that it recognized the great Hawks in his lifetime.
Hawks' career spanned the freewheeling days of the original independents in the 1910s, through the studio system in Hollywood from the silent era through the talkies, lasting into the early 1970s, with the death of the studios and the emergence of the director as auteur, the latter a phenomenon that Hawks himself directly influenced. He was he most versatile of all American directors, and before his late career critical revival, he earned himself a reputation as a a first-rate craftsman and consummate Hollywood professional who just happened, in a medium that is an industrial process, to have made some great movies. Recognition as an influential artist would come later, but it would come to him before his death.
He was born Howard Winchester Hawks in Goshen, Indiana, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1896, the first child of Frank Winchester Hawks and his wife, the former Helen Howard. The day of his birth the local sheriff killed a brawler at the town saloon; the young Hawks was not born on the wild side of town, though, but with the proverbial silver spoon firmly clenched in his young mouth. His wealthy father was a member of Goshen's most prominent family, owners of the Goshen Milling Co. and many other businesses, and his maternal grandfather was one of Wisconsin's leading industrialists. His father's family had arrived in America in 1630, while his mother's father, C.W. Howard, who was born in Maine in 1845 to parents who emigrated to the U.S. from the Isle of Man, made his fortune in the paper industry with his Howard Paper Co.
Ironically, almost a half-year after Howard's birth, the first motion picture was shown in Goshen, just before Christmas on December 10, 1896. Billed as "the scientific wonder of the world," the movie played to a sold-out crowd at the Irwin Theater. However, it disappointed the audience, and attendance fell off at subsequent showings. The interest of the boy raised a Presbyterian would not be piqued again until his family moved to southern California.
Before that move came to pass, though, the Hawks family relocated from Goshen to Neenah, Wisconsin, when Howard's father was appointed secretary/treasurer of the Howard Paper Co. in 1898. Howard grew up a coddled and spoiled child in Goshen, but in Neenah he was treated like a young prince. His grandfather C.W. lavished his grandson with expensive toys. C.W. had been an indulgent father, encouraging the independence and adventurousness of his two daughters, Helen and Bernice, who were the first girls in Neenah to drive automobiles. Bernice even went for an airplane ride (the two sisters, Hawks' mother and aunt, likely were the first models for what became known as "the Hawksian women" when he became a director). Brother Kenneth Hawks was born in 1898, and was looked after by young Howard. However, Howard resented the birth of the family's next son, William B. Hawks, in 1902, and offered to sell him to a family friend for ten cents. A sister, Grace, followed William. Childbirth took a heavy toll on Howard's mother, and she never quite recovered after delivering her fifth child, Helen, in 1906. In order to aid her recovery, the family moved to the more salubrious climate of Pasadena, California, northeast of Los Angeles, for the winter of 1906-07. The family returned to Wisconsin for the summers, but by 1910 they permanently resettled in California, as grandfather C.W. himself took to wintering in Pasadena.
C. W. Howard eventually sold his paper company and retired. He continued to indulge his grandson Howard, though, buying him whatever he fancied, including a race car when the lad was barely old enough to drive legally. C.W. also arranged for Howard to take flying lessons so he could qualify for a pilot's license, an example followed by Kenneth.
The young Howard Hawks grew accustomed to getting what he wanted and believed his grandfather when C.W. told him he was the best and that he could do anything. Howard also likely inherited C.W.'s propensity for telling whopping lies with a straight face, a trait that has bedeviled many film historians ever since. C.W. also was involved in amateur theatrics and Howard's mother Helen was interested in music, though no one in the Hawks-Howard family ever was involved in the arts until Howard went to work in the film industry.
Hawks was sent to Philips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, for his education, and upon graduation attended Cornell University, where he majored in mechanical engineering. In both his personal and professional lives Hawks was a risk-taker and enjoyed racing airplanes and automobiles, two sports that he first indulged in his teens with his grandfather's blessing.
The Los Angeles area quickly evolved into the center of the American film industry when studios began relocating their production facilities from the New York City area to southern California in the middle of the 1910s. During one summer vacation while Howard was matriculating at Cornell, a friend got him a job as a prop man at Famous Players-Lasky (later to become Paramount Pictures), and he quickly rose trough the ranks. Hawks recalled, "[I]t all started with Douglas Fairbanks, who was off on location for some picture and phoned in to say they wanted a modern set. There was only one art director . . . and he was away on another location. I said, 'Well, I can build a modern set.' I'd had a few years of architectural training at school. So I did, and Fairbanks was pleased with it. We became friends, and that was really the start."
During other summer vacations from Cornell, Hawks continued to work in the movies. One story Hawks tells is that the director of a Mary Pickford film Hawks was working on, The Little Princess, became too inebriated to continue working, so Hawks volunteered to direct a few scenes himself. However, it's not known whether his offer was taken up, or whether this was just one more of his tall tales.
During World War I, Hawks served as a lieutenant in the Signal Corps and later joined the Army Air Corps, serving in France. After the Armistice he indulged in his love of risk, working as an aviator and a professional racing car driver. Drawing on his engineering experience, Hawks designed racing cars, and one of his cars won the Indianapolis 500. These early war and work experiences proved invaluable to the future filmmaker.
He eventually decided on a career in Hollywood and was employed in a variety of production jobs, including assistant director, casting director, script supervisor, editor and producer. He and his brother Kenneth shot aerial footage for motion pictures, but Kenneth tragically was killed during a crash while filming. Howard was hired as a screenwriter by Paramount in 1922 and was tasked with writing 40 story lines for new films in 60 days. he bought the rights for works by established authors like Joseph Conrad and worked, mostly uncredited, on the scripts for approximately 60 films. Hawks wanted to direct, but Paramount refused to indulge his ambition. A Fox executive did, however, and Hawks directed his first film, The Road to Glory in 1926, also doubling as the screenwriter.
Hawks made a name for himself by directing eight silent films in the 1920s, His facility for language helped him to thrive with the dawn of talking pictures, and he really established himself with his first talkie in 1930, the classic World War I aviation drama The Dawn Patrol. His arrival as a major director, however, was marked by 1932's controversial and highly popular gangster picture Scarface, a thinly disguised bio of Chicago gangster Al Capone, which was made for producer Howard Hughes. His first great movie, it catapulted him into the front rank of directors. Scarface remained Hawks' favorite film, and under the aegis of the eccentric multi-millionaire Hughes, it was the only movie he ever made in which he did not have to deal with studio meddling. Scarface leavened its ultra-violence with comedy in a potent brew that has often been imitated by other directors.
Though always involved in the development of the scripts of his films, Hawks was lucky to have worked with some of the best writers in the business, including his friend and fellow aviator William Faulkner. Screenwriters he collaborated with on his films included Leigh Brackett, Ben Hecht, John Huston and Billy Wilder. Hawks often recycled storylines from previous films, such as when he jettisoned the shooting script on El Dorado during production and reworked the film-in-progress into a remake of Rio Bravo.
The success of his films was partly rooted in his using first-rate writers. Hawks viewed a good writer as a sort of insurance policy, saying, "I'm such a coward that unless I get a good writer, I don't want to make a picture." Though he won himself a reputation as one of Hollywood's supreme storytellers, he came to the conclusion that the story was not what made a good film. After making and then remaking the confusing The Big Sleep (1945 and 1946) from a Raymond Chandler detective novel, Hawks came to believe that a good film consisted of at least three good scenes and no bad ones--at least not a scene that could irritate and alienate the audience. He said, "As long as you make good scenes you have a good picture - it doesn't matter if it isn't much of a story."
It was Hawks' directorial skills, his ability to ensure that the audience was not aware of the twice-told nature of his films, through his engendering of a high-octane, heady energy that made his films move and made them classics at best and extremely enjoyable entertainments at their "worst." Hawks' genius as a director also manifested itself in his direction of his actors, his molding of their line-readings going a long way toward making his films outstanding. The dialog in his films often was delivered at a staccato pace, and characters' lines frequently overlapped, a Hawks trademark. The spontaneous feeling of his films and the naturalness of the interrelationships between characters were enhanced by his habit of encouraging his actors to improvise. Unlike Alfred Hitchcock, Hawks saw his lead actors as collaborators and encouraged them to be part of the creative process. He had an excellent eye for talent, and was responsible for giving the first major breaks to a roster of stars, including Paul Muni, Carole Lombard (his cousin), Lauren Bacall, Montgomery Clift and James Caan. It was Hawks, and not John Ford, who turned John Wayne into a superstar, with Red River (shot in 1946, but not released until 1948). He proceeded to give Wayne some of his best roles in the cavalry trilogy of Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande, in which Wayne played a broad range of diverse characters.
During the 1930s Hawks moved from hit to hit, becoming one of the most respected directors in the business. As his fame waxed, Hawks' image replaced the older, jodhpurs-and-megaphone image of the Hollywood director epitomized by Cecil B. DeMille. The new paradigm of the Hollywood director in the public eye was, like Hawks himself, tall and silver-haired, a Hemingwayesque man of action who was a thorough professional and did not fail his muse or falter in his mastery of the medium while on the job. The image of Hawks as the ultimate Hollywood professional persists until this day in Hollywood, and he continues to be a major influence on many of today's filmmakers. Among the directors influenced by Hawks are Robert Altman, who used Hawksian overlapping dialog and improvisation in MASH and other films. Peter Bogdanovich, who wrote a book about Hawks, essentially remade Bringing Up Baby as What's Up, Doc?. Brian De Palma remade Scarface in 1983. Other directors directly indebted to Hawks are John Carpenter and Walter Hill.
Hawks was unique and uniquely modern in that, despite experiencing his career peak in an era dominated by studios and the producer system in which most directors were simply hired hands brought in to shoot a picture, he also served as a producer and developed the scripts for his films. Hawks was determined to remain independent and refused to attach himself to a studio, or to a particular genre, for an extended period of time. His work ethic allowed him to fit in with the production paradigms of the studio system, and he eventually worked for all eight of the major studios. He proved himself to be, in effect, an independent filmmaker, and thus was a model for other director-writer-producers who would arise with the breakdown of the studio system in the 1950s and 1960s and the rise of the director as auteur in the early 1970s. Hawks did it first, though, in an environment that ruined or compromised many another filmmaker.
Hawks was not interested in creating a didactic cinema but simply wanted to tell give the public a good story in a well-crafted, entertaining picture. Like Ernest Hemingway, Hawks did have a philosophy of life, but the characters in his films were never intended to be role models. Hawks' protagonists are not necessarily moral people, but they tend to play fair, according to a personal or professional code. A Hawks film typically focuses on a tightly bound group of professionals, often isolated from society at large, who must work together as a team if they are to survive, let alone triumph. His movies emphasize such traits as loyalty and self-respect. Air Force, one of the finest propaganda films to emerge from World War II, is such a picture, in which a unit bonds aboard a B-17 bomber, and the group is more than the sum of the individuals.
Aside from his interest in elucidating human relationships, Hawks' main theme is Hemingwayesque: the execution of one's job or duty to the best of one's ability in the face of overwhelming odds that would make an average person balk. The main characters in a Hawks film typically are people who take their jobs with the utmost seriousness, as their self-respect is rooted in their work. Though often outsiders or loners, Hawksian characters work within a system, albeit a relatively closed system, in which they can ultimately triumph by being loyal to their personal and professional codes. That thematic paradigm has been seen by some critics and cinema historians as being a metaphor for the film industry itself, and of Hawks' place within it.
In a sense, Hawks' oeuvre can be boiled down to two categories: the action-adventure films and the comedies. In Hawks' action-adventure movies, such as Only Angels Have Wings, the male protagonist, played by Cary Grant (a favorite actor of his who frequently starred in his films between 1947 and 1950), is both a hero and the top dog in his social group. In the comedies, such as Bringing Up Baby, the male protagonist (again played by Grant) is no hero but rather a victim of women and society. Women have only a tangential role in Hawks' action films, whereas they are the dominant figures in his comedies. In the action-adventure films, society at large often is far away and the male professionals exist in an almost hermetically sealed world, whereas in the comedies are rooted in society and its mores. Men are constantly humiliated in the comedies, or are subject to role reversals (the man as the romantically hunted prey in "Baby," or the even more dramatic role reversal, including Cary Grant in drag, in I Was a Male War Bride). In the action-adventure films in which women are marginalized, they are forced to undergo elaborate courting rituals to attract their man, who they cannot get until they prove themselves as tough as men. There is an undercurrent of homo-eroticism to the Hawks action films, and Hawks himself termed his A Girl in Every Port "a love story between two men." This homo-erotic leitmotif is most prominent in The Big Sky.
By the time he made Rio Bravo, over 30 years since he first directed a film, Hawks not only was consciously moving towards parody but was in the process of revising his "closed circle of professionals" credo toward the belief that, by the time of its loose remake, El Dorado, he was stressing the superiority of family loyalties to any professional ethic. In Rio Bravo, the motley group inside the jailhouse eventually forms into a family in which the stoical code of conduct of previous Hawksian groups is replaced by something akin to a family bond. The new "family" celebrates its unity with the final shootout, which is a virtual fireworks display due to the use of dynamite to overcome the villains who threaten the family's survival. The affection of the group members for each other is best summed up in the scene where the great character actor Walter Brennan, playing Wayne's deputy Stumpy, facetiously tells Wayne that he'll have tears in his eyes until he gets back to the jailhouse. The ability to razz Wayne is indicative of the bond between the two men.
The sprawl of Hawks' oeuvre over multiple genres, and their existence as high-energy examples of film as its purest, emphasizing action rather than reflection, led serious critics before the 1970s to discount Hawks as a director. They generally ignored the themes that run through his body of work, such the dynamics of the group, male friendship, professionalism, and women as a threat to the independence of men. Granted, the cinematic world limned by Hawks was limited when compared to that of John Ford, the poet of the American screen, which was richer and more complex. However, Hawks' straightforward style that emphasized human relationships undoubtedly yielded one of the greatest crops of outstanding motion pictures that can be attributed to one director. Hawks' movies not only span a wide variety of genres, but frequently rank with the best in those genres, whether the war film (The Dawn Patrol), gangster film (Scarface), the screwball comedy (His Girl Friday); the action-adventure movie (Only Angels Have Wings), the noir (The Big Sleep), the Western (Red River and Rio Bravo), the musical-comedy (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and the historical epic (Land of the Pharaohs). He even had a hand in creating one of the classic science-fiction films, The Thing from Another World, which was produced by Hawks but directed by Christian Nyby, who had edited multiple Hawks films and who, in his sole directorial effort, essentially created a Hawks film (though rumors have long circulated that Hawks actually directed the film rather than Nyby, that has been discounted by such cast members as Kenneth Tobey and James Arness, who have both stated unequivocally that it was Nyby alone who directed the picture).
Though Howard Hawks created some of the most memorable moments in the history of American film a half-century ago, serious critics generally eschewed his work, as they did not believe there was a controlling intelligence behind them. Seen as the consummate professional director in the industrial process that was the studio film, serious critics believed that the great moments of Hawks' films were simply accidents that accrued from working in Hollywood with other professionals. In his 1948 book "The Film Till Now," Richard Griffin summed this feeling up with "Hawks is a very good all rounder."
Serious critics at the time attributed the mantle of "artist" to a director only when they could discern artistic aspirations, a personal visual style, or serious thematic intent. Hawks seemed to them an unambitious director who, unlike D.W. Griffith or the early Cecil B. DeMille, had not made a major contribution to American film, and was not responsible for any major cinematic innovations. He lacked the personal touch of a Charles Chaplin, a Hitchcock or a Welles, did not have the painterly sensibility of a John Ford and had never matured into the master craftsman who tackled heavy themes like the failure of the American dream or racism, like George Stevens. Hawks was seen as a commercial Hollywood director who was good enough to turn out first-rate entertainments in a wide variety of genre films in a time in which genre films such as the melodrama, the war picture and the gangster picture were treated with a lack of respect.
One of the central ideas behind the modernist novel that dominated the first half of the 20th-century artistic consciousness (when the novel and the novelist were still considered the ultimate arbiters of culture in the Anglo-American world) was that the author should begin something new with each book, rather than repeating him-/herself as the 19th century novelists had done. This paradigm can be seen most spectacularly in the work of James Joyce. Of course, it is easy to see this thrust for "something new" in the works of D.W. Griffith and C.B. DeMille, the fathers of the narrative film, working as they were in a new medium. In the post-studio era, a Stanley Kubrick (through Barry Lyndon, at least) and Lars von Trier can be seen as embarking on revolutionary breaks with their past. Howard Hawks was not like this, and, in fact, the latter Hawks constantly recycled not just themes but plots (so that his last great film, Rio Bravo, essentially was remade as El Dorado and Rio Lobo). He did not fit the "modernist" paradigm of an artist.
The critical perception of Hawks began to change when the auteur theory--the idea that one intelligence was responsible for the creation of superior films regardless of their designation as "commercial" or "art house"--began to influence American movie criticism. Commenting on Hawks' facility to make films in a wide variety of genres, critic Andrew Sarris, who introduced the auteur theory to American movie criticism, said of Hawks, "For a major director, there are no minor genres." A Hawks genre picture is rooted in the conventions and audience expectations typical of the Hollywood genre. The Hawks genre picture does not radically challenge, undermine or overthrow either the conventions of the genre or the audience expectations of the genre film, but expands it the genre by revivifying it with new energy. As Robert Altman said about his own McCabe & Mrs. Miller, he fully played on the conventions and audience expectations of the Western genre and, in fact, did nothing to challenge them as he was relying on the audience being lulled into a comfort zone by the genre. What Altman wanted to do was to indulge his own artistry by painting at and filling in the edges of his canvas. Thus, Altman needed the audience's complicity through the genre conventions to accomplish this.
As a genre director, Hawks used his audience's comfort with the genre to expound his philosophy on male bonding and male-female relationships. His movies have a great deal of energy, invested in them by the master craftsman, which made them into great popular entertainments. That Hawks was a commercial filmmaker who was also a first-rate craftsman was not the sum total of his achievement as a director, but was the means by which he communicated with his audience.
While many during his life-time would not have called Hawks an artist, Robin Wood compared Hawks to William Shakespeare and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, both of whom created popular entertainments that could also appeal to elites. According to Wood, "The originality of their works lay not in the evolution of a completely new language, but in the artist's use and development of an already existing one; hence, there was common ground from the outset between artist and audience, and 'entertainment' could happen spontaneously without the intervention of a lengthy period of assimilation."
The great French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, who began his cinema career as a critic, wrote about Hawks, "The great filmmakers always tie themselves down by complying with the rules of the game . . . Take, for example, the films of Howard Hawks, and in particular Rio Bravo. That is a work of extraordinary psychological insight and aesthetic perception, but Hawks has made his film so that the insight can pass unnoticed without disturbing the audience that has come to see a Western like all the others. Hawks is the greater because he has succeeded in fitting all that he holds most dear into a well-worn subject."
A decade before Godard's insight on Hawks, in the early 1950s, the French-language critics who wrote for the cinema journal "Cahier du Cinema" (many of whom would go on to become directors themselves) elevated Howard Hawks into the pantheon of great directors (the appreciation of Hawks in France, according to Cinématheque francaise founder Henri Langlois, began with the French release of Only Angels Have Wings). The Swiss Eric Rohmer, who would one day become a great director himself, in a 1952 review of Hawks' The Big Sky declared, "If one does not love the films of Howard Hawks, one cannot love cinema". Rohmer was joined in his enthusiasm for Hawks by such fellow French cineastes as Claude Chabrol, François Truffaut and Jacques Rivette. The Cahiers critics claimed that a handful of commercial Hollywood directors like Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock had created films as artful and fulfilling as the masterpieces of the art cinema. 'Andre Bazin' gave these critics the moniker "Hitchcocko-Hawksians".
Jacques Rivette wrote in his 1953 essay, "The Genius of Howard Hawks," that "each shot has a functional beauty, like a neck or an ankle. The smooth, orderly succession of shots has a rhythm like the pulsing of blood, and the whole film is like a beautiful body, kept alive by deep, resilient breathing." Hawks, however, considered himself an entertainer, not an "artist." His definition of a good director was simply "someone who doesn't annoy you." He was never considered an artist until the French New Wave critics crowned him one, as serious critics had ignored his oeuvre. He found the adulation amusing, and once told his admirers, "You guys know my films better than I do."
Commenting on this phenomenon, Sarris' wife Molly Haskell said, "Critics will spend hours with divining rods over the obviously hermetic mindscape of Bergman, Antonioni, etc., giving them the benefit of every passing doubt. But they will scorn similar excursions into the genuinely cryptic, richer, and more organic terrain of home-grown talents."
Hawks' visual aesthetic eschews formalism, trick photography or narrative gimmicks. There are no flashbacks or ellipses in his films, and his pictures are usually framed as eye-level medium shots. The films themselves are precisely structured, so much so that Langlois compared Hawks to the great modernist architect Walter Gropius. Hawks strikes one as an Intuitive, unselfconscious filmmaker.
Hawks' definition of a good director was "someone who doesn't annoy you." When Hawks was awarded his lifetime achievement Academy Award, the citation referred to the director as "a giant of the American cinema whose pictures, taken as a whole, represent one of the most consistent, vivid, and varied bodies of work in world cinema." It is a fitting epitaph for one of the greatest directors in the history of American, and world cinema.
Born in Richmond, Virginia in 1967, Timothy began his career in New York, doing several plays at Papp's Public Theatre with Fisher Stevens and Keith Gordon, and also at the New York Theatre Ensemble with Daniel Stern and John Randolph. While in New York, Timothy was also a playwright and had a show "No Title (Yet)" mounted at the Stlla Adler Conservatory. After moving to Los Angeles in 1983, Timothy began acting in sitcoms and before long was writing them as well. While appearing in "The Tortellis" and "Brothers," Timothy was also writing episodes for both shows. He later wrote and acted on the sitcom "Married People" as well. Timothy has also written for kiddie series TV ("Salute Your Shorts"), cartoons series TV ("Bobby's World," "Richie Rich") and has penned several movie tie-in novels ("Born To Be Wild," "Running Free"). Timothy also has the distinction of winning the Governor's Screenwriting Competiton twice -- in 2005 and 2007. His 2005 winning entry, Nunley, was picked up by producer Bernard (Daredevil, Charlotte's Web) Williams, and is now in development.
Robert Mann, President and founder of Mannatee Films is the essence of an independent filmmaker, with a broad vision and a diverse range of artistic talents. His professional experience includes directing, producing, writing, and acting in more than twenty plays for screen and stage.
Robert began making moving pictures at the age of thirteen. It was at that time he received his first 8mm camera from a director friend of his mother's. He would learn his craft by shooting "anything and everything", often just people walking on the streets. He would also experiment with "single-frame" exposure, creating strange animation movies with the family pets. His family was always his favorite subject, but at times, even they would be exhausted by his relentless obsession with filming them. On many occasions his mother would be filmed chasing Robert and grabbing the camera from the boy's hands. After a couple of years, the young teen had shot over 100 home movies.
Robert moved from Florida, where he grew up, to Las Vegas and enrolled at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It was there he became a Theater Arts and film major. Robert auditioned for his first school play as a freshman, but didn't get cast in the production. As fate would have it, a classmate of his who was cast, couldn't attend the rehearsals, so Robert was called in to take over his role. It was the first time he acted in front of an audience since he was 9, when his mother would produce stage plays in the family's garage for the neighborhood kids. It was at the university of Nevada, Las Vegas that Robert met and studied with casting agent Eddie Foy III. Eddie cast only 12 students from the entire university to be involved in his "Limbo" Theater. Robert was one of them. Robert has often stated that he learned more about acting and "show biz" from Eddie Foy than any class he ever took.
After a couple of years in Las Vegas, Robert moved to San Diego, finishing his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego. There, Mr. Mann produced many more films, including one animated short called One Night In Bangcock. Upon graduation, Robert enrolled at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco where he continued to study professional acting. Robert then enrolled, and completed, the Program in the Art of Independent Film Making, Producing and Directing at the Hollywood Film Institute.
Mr. Mann has always had a special love for comedy. After relocating from San Francisco he and a friend created the groovy comedy team of Piper and Tupper in Los Angeles. Piper and Tupper became one of Mitzi Shore's favorite comedy teams at The Comedy Store. They became "Paid Regulars" within two months of their audition and gave hundreds of performances at her club nightly. Piper and Tupper also performed at The Improv, The Laugh Factory and other Southland comedy clubs. The comedy duo also made TV appearances on MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour, "E," The Family Channel, FOX's Comic Strip Live, Entertainment Tonight, and America's Funniest People. Today, Piper and Tupper continue performing in comedy clubs and universities. Many of their comedy routines can be seen on YouTube and Funny or Die.
In 1997 Mr. Mann founded the independent film company, Mannatee Films, writing and directing the company's first feature film Trapped. Robert personally delivered the script to Robert Blake to play the lead role. Unfortunately, Mr. Blake's schedule conflicted with the production schedule and he couldn't commit to the film. Robert had received a free 35mm camera package from Panavision and had to complete all filming within weeks or he would lose the package. It was an important lesson learned. Make sure you get your "star", even if it means losing your camera. He His next feature film, The Pumpkin Karver staring Minka Kelly, was released by First Look Studios. The low budget film was so difficult to produce, Robert ended up in the hospital for 9 days with diverticulitis. Many times the cast and crew huddled in 29 degree weather outdoors with little or no heat, waiting for Robert and the DP to set up the next shot. About 75% of the film was shot outdoors in the high desert of California in winter, where temperatures drop down below freezing.
In 2001 Robert participated in the 48-Hour Film Festival in Los Angeles, where he co-produced and was 2nd Unit Director for The Family Jewel. He also taught acting for a couple of years in Hollywood, although he almost went broke doing it. Many times actors couldn't pay for classes, so instead, they would bring Robert personal paintings or other creative gifts which he accepted. It was a wonderful experience he has often said, "giving back something you have learned and helping others. It's a great feeling."
After teaching acting classes in 2004, Robert directed his sister in his first Off-Broadway play in New York-Harold Pinter's Ashes to Ashes. A couple of years later Mr. Mann began principal photography of Shades of Love, staring Beverly Hills 90210, Brian Austin Green. Another low budget film, the cast rehearsed for months prior to principle photography. The long rehearsals paid off with wonderful performances from the entire cast. Unfortunately, the film was never completed. The producer ran out of funding one week into production.
In the summer of 2008, the "Award Winning" filmmaker directed and was executive producer of Piper and Tupper: Hands Free Born to be Wild, an independent comedy. An experimental project that Robert was going to shoot in a couple of days and place on YouTube, ended up being invited to half a dozen film festivals, winning the "Audience Choice Award" at the 2009 SoCal Film Festival. Since touring the 2009-10 film festival circuit promoting Piper and Tupper: Hands Free Born to be Wild", Mr. Mann has continued to write, act, direct and produce independent feature films.
A dedicated nature lover, Robert is an active member of Greenpeace, World Wildlife Federation, The National Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and others. One day he hopes to shoot his first documentary film about endangered wildlife animals, helping shed more awareness on how all of us can help save them from extinction.
Tim Miller founded Big Chief, Inc, in 1996 after an impressive two-decade career in network broadcast and cable television. In addition to Big Chief, Miller was founder and president of Tim Miller Entertainment (TMe), a premiere television on-air promotion and marketing company; Sideshow Post, a state-of-the-art post-production company; and Hocus Pocus Design, a broadcast television design and branding boutique. For a decade, Miller's companies were the top in their field in the areas of entertainment marketing, creative development and design, working with such clients as NBC, ABC, CBS, HBO, Showtime Networks, Discovery Networks, Scripps Networks, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, A&E, History Channel, CNN, HGTV, Hallmark Channel, BMG, RCA Records, Time Warner and Comcast. Miller and his associated companies were also instrumental in providing strategic, creative and marketing direction in the launch of such networks as CNBC, MSNBC, ESPN2, HGTV, Fine Living, the Discovery Digital Networks and TV One.
Prior to forming TMe and Big Chief, Miller was Creative Director, VP of Advertising and Promotion at NBC entertainment, East Coast; Creative Director, VP of On-Air Promotion, Design and Broadcast Advertising at HBO and Cinemax, and Creative Director at ABC flagship station, WABC-TV, New York. Miller oversaw all on-air promotion, advertising and design creative services for these network operations, including the planning, scheduling and program development for NBC News, NBC Sports, the Olympics, CNBC and MSNBC.
During his career he has produced and directed projects featuring such top entertainers and personalities as Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Rosie, O'Donnell, Bill Cosby, Ellen Degeneres, Tom Brokaw, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Garth Brooks. During his six-year stay at NBC Miller also produced and directed several primetime and syndicated news specials. His work has been honored with several national and New York-area Emmy Awards, as well as two Academy of Country Music video awards for directing Garth Brooks' "We Shall Be Free" and "The Change."
Today, Big Chief Entertainment (www.bigchiefent.com) is an Emmy Award-winning production and development company that actively develops and produces original network specials, series television and motion pictures. Miller, through Big Chief, is still actively involved in the launch and branding of new media outlets, as well as being a consultant to ABC News, involved in the production of primetime news series pilots for the network.
Under the direction of President Tim Miller, Big Chief premiered it's development slate in the late 1990s with a feature-length documentary, "Sideshow: Alive on the Inside", a co-production with the Discovery Networks, and one of TLC's highest ranking programs. Big Chief followed its cult hit "Sideshow" with a provocative series of "Extreme" documentaries that introduced audiences to extremes of life and lifestyle. "Mole People: Life in the World Below" had its world premiere on Discovery Channel and won the 2002 Telly Award, in addition to a Classic Telly for Outstanding Documentary Film. "Biker Girls: Born to Wild" premiered on TLC in 2002. "The New Sideshow" debuted on TLC and won the 2003 Telly Award for Outstanding Documentary.
Also from Big Chief is a one-hour reality series originally produced for USA Network called "Repo Men: Stealing for a Living." Hosted by Vincent Pastore ("The Sopranos"), "Repo Men" won a par of Telly's for Outstanding Entertainment Program, and recently completed its fourth season on TLC and the Discovery Times Network.
In spring, 2004, Big Chief launched its first daily strip for new network launch, TV One - the popular dating game show "Get The HookUp." Now beginning its third successful season, "Get The HookUp" is hosted by nationally syndicated radio personality Russ Parr.
In February 2007, TV One premiered Big Chief's inspirational primetime special "The Color Purple: The Color of Success." Produced and directed by Miller and narrated by actor Keith David, "The Color Purple" chronicles Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning story's winding road to Broadway from book, to screen, to stage - as told by the talented people and famous personalities who have embraced it along the way. Big Chief is presently working on another primetime special, "The Little Rock 50", chronicling the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School.
In addition to producing long-form television content, Big Chief has also been instrumental in the launching and branding of a variety of cable networks including HGTV, Fine Living, DIY, Travel Channel, Metro Channel, Discovery's Digital Networks, TV One, and a soon-to-be announced lifestyle network from Viacom. Big Chief also continues to provide promotion, marketing and advertising expertise to its mostly entertainment industry client base. Current and former clients include the major broadcast and cable networks including NBC, ABC, CBS, Good Morning America, CNN, VH1, Comedy Central, AMC, Showtime Networks, Discovery Channel, TLC, History Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Rainbow Media, plus television syndicators such as King World, Paramount Television, Buena Vista Television, Fox Television, Warner Brothers Television and Hearst Entertainment.
Miller and Big Chief were also involved in the design and launch of 'The History Channel's 'Save Our History' campaign, producing spots with actor Michael Keaton.
Big Chief Entertainment is located in New York's Times Square at 850 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10019; phone number 212-966-8414; email email@example.com; web site www.bigchiefent.com.
|Steven Jon Whritner
During his 30 years in the entertainment industry, award-winning television and film producer Steven Jon Whritner has served in senior executive level positions at several of the leading cable and broadcast networks. Whritner has also created, written and produced a large number of successful long and short form television programs and national commercials netting many of the industry's top honors. Presently, Whritner is President of Plymouth Rock Entertainment, Inc., a creative agency specializing in the development, production and marketing of a vast range of entertainment projects, including television programming, new media initiatives and theatrical motion pictures. Recent Plymouth Rock projects included the new syndicated daytime court show "Jury Duty" starring Bruce Cutler, for which Whritner served as an executive producer.
In addition to Plymouth Rock, Whritner is actively developing a slate of major motion pictures for Water's Edge Entertainment, Inc, where he serves as the company's production and development chief. Water's Edge is an independent production and development company headed by former Time Warner executive Nicholas J. Carlos that actively develops, finances, produces and distributes theatrical motion pictures and original, high-end television content. Whritner's strategic alliance with Water's Edge provides a creative outlet for many of Plymouth Rock's larger motion picture and television projects, in addition to providing financial means for developing wholly original projects under the Water's Edge umbrella.
Prior to forming Plymouth Rock in 2006, Whritner served as Executive Vice President, Production and Development for Emmy Award-winning Big Chief Entertainment, Inc., where he oversaw all original content development and production. Programs under Whritner's direct supervision included a provocative series of documentary films that introduced audiences to extremes of life and lifestyle. "Mole People: Life in the World Below" had its world premiere on Discovery Channel and won the 2002 Telly Award for Outstanding Documentary Film, in addition to a Classic Telly Award. "Biker Girls: Born to be Wild" premiered on TLC in 2002. "The New Sideshow" debuted on TLC and won the 2003 Telly Award for Outstanding Documentary.
In 2001, Whritner co-created and executive produced the reality series pilot "Repo Men: Stealing for a Living" for USA Network. Hosted by Vincent Pastore ("The Sopranos"), "Repo Men" was picked up as a series by TLC, completing three hit seasons and winning a pair of Telly's for Outstanding Entertainment Program. Then, in 2004 Whritner created his first daily strip for TV One - the popular dating game show "Get the HookUp" hosted by nationally syndicated radio personality Russ Parr. "HookUp" enjoyed three consecutive hit seasons on the network.
In addition to producing long form television content, Big Chief was also instrumental in the launching and branding of a variety of cable networks including HGTV, Fine Living, DiY, Travel Channel, Metro Channel and TV One. As Big Chief's senior executive producer, Whritner oversaw high-end marketing campaigns for major broadcast and cable network clients including ABC, CBS, NBC, HBO, MTV Networks, Showtime Networks, Discovery Communications, History Channel, Court TV, HGTV and Rainbow Media, plus television studios such as King World, Paramount Television, Buena Vista Television, Fox Television, Warner Brothers Television and Proctor & Gamble Productions. Most recently, Whritner was the executive producer for ABC's new on-air campaign for "Good Morning America."
Prior to Big Chief, Whritner was one of television's leading marketing and promotion executives. He served as Vice President of Creative Services and On-Air Promotion at Food Network where he spearheaded the network's complete corporate re-design and on- and off-air looks, while packaging and promoting hit shows such as "Emeril Live." Before Food, he was instrumental in the launching of United Paramount Network (UPN), serving as Creative Director and the executive in charge of on-air promotion for UPN's flagship station, UPN 9 in New York. Prior to his tenure at UPN, Whritner served as Senior Producer at A&E Networks.
Whritner is also credited for creating and producing the syndicated interstitial series "Hollywood After Dark," in addition to producing "Today in Music History," which was distributed internationally and is widely considered to be the most successful syndicated interstitial series in TV history.
Whritner attended Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) from 1978-1980 and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Film and Television from New York University in 1982. Immediately following NYU, Whritner was tapped for the legendary CBS Executive Programming Internship at CBS, Inc., after which he landed his first paid job in the entertainment industry helping to make the Statue of Liberty disappear for the prime time CBS special "The Magic of David Copperfield." Since then and throughout his career Whritner's work has been recognized with many of the industry's top awards including nine Telly Awards, eight PROMAX Gold Medallion and Silver Awards, a New York Festivals World Medal, multiple honors from CTAM, BDA, PMAA, Mobius, International Monitor Awards, plus a New York Emmy Award and the prestigious World Class Award, PROMAX's highest honor.
Whritner lives in Northern Bergen County, New Jersey with his wife, Karen, an Emmy-winning sports producer, and his college-bound son, Jake.
|Jay Happy Mcdonald
Happy was born in the wilds of North Mississippi during the turbulent sixties. As organized activities were scarce, he grew up reading voraciously; including encyclopedias a through z. His mother did manage to find a ballet teacher when Happy was 7, so he studied ballet with two sisters and discovered an instant forum for for his performing bug.
Childhood passes into adulthood, and after attending Ole Miss and Mississippi State, Happy became a bassist in various local bands. He went from being a rock and roller to a cattle farmer, but the music bug never quite let go, and the acting bug struck during this time. Re-enacting Civil War history had become a passion, and Happy became a Civil War character in several movies.
Happy is now a contracted singer/songwriter affiliated with The Kitty Wells Entertainment Corporation and is in the process of releasing his first album titled "Happy GoatHammer" by his band, HappyGoat.