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Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man

Friday, January 13, 2012
7:00 p.m. The Crowd Roars
Howard Hawks (U.S., 1932)

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In the breathtakingly fast field of Howard Hawks movies, this car racing melodrama might hold the land speed record. James Cagney sets the pace as Joe Greer, a champion driver whose kid brother Eddie (Eric Linden) thinks he’s the world’s one right guy; “he ought to get around more,” Joe’s gal Lee (Ann Dvorak) astutely observes. And get around Eddie does, first around a dirt track, then to Ascot and Indianapolis, while Joe finds himself headed downhill. There are the requisite romantic entanglements (including Eddie’s with a typically sweet-tart Joan Blondell), but the film’s emotional engine is on the speedway, in action. Hawks himself had taken a few turns around the track as a teenager, and despite some unlikely curves in the plot, The Crowd Roars vividly conveys both the dangers that pro drivers face and the thrills that keep them racing all the way to the hospital.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Kubec Glasmon, John Bright, Seton I. Miller, Niven Busch, from a story by Hawks. Photographed by Sid Hickox, John Stumar. With James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, Eric Linden. (70 mins, B&W, 35mm, Preserved by the Library of Congress, permission Warner Bros.)