The Thinking Machine 13

Between Two Plot Points

Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López reflect on the art of filmmaking in monthly video essays.

Howard Hawks is a director often praised for two, almost contradictory talents. On the one hand, he is singled out as someone who revelled in easy-going character interaction, showing how people just ‘hang out’ with each other, sharing a meal, a song or a joke. But on the other hand, as a classical Hollywood master, he also made sure that the plot was always moving forward, with no ‘dead spots’. How did he manage this balance? A superbly directed scene in Ball of Fire (1941), where a complex group interaction is poised between two plot points, provides some clues.