"Metro didn’t have a picture for Joan Crawford, so a week before we started they announced to me that she was in the picture. We had to change it considerably from what we had started with." - Howard Hawks on Only Angels Have Wings
Today We Live (1933) Movie Trailer
Today We Live - 1933 (Original Poster)
The seed for “Today We Live” was planted by Robert Lovett in New York City late in 1931. Drinking with writer William Faulkner, the former Royal Naval Air Service officer praised the bravery and alcoholic intake of the men he’d known in Dunkirk during World War I.
Lovett told Faulkner that these courageous fellows operated the Coastal Motor Boats which challenged the German fleet with light and virtually defenseless torpedo boats.
The following day, the writer began working on a short story based on the characters Lovett had described to him. His work was published in the March 5, 1932 edition of the Saturday Evening Post with the title “Turn About.”
Director Howard Hawks, already a Faulkner fan, read that story and asked MGM to buy the rights for a future movie.
Faulkner arrived in Hollywood in May of 1932. Although nothing came out of the four story proposals he wrote for MGM, they did take a four-month option on one of his novels and, per Hawks’ suggestion, purchased the rights to “Turn About” for $3000.
Released: April 14, 1933 Running time 113 minutes
This event gave Howard Hawks and William Faulkner the opportunity to meet for the first time. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship but, according to Hawks, it got off to a rocky start.
Right after the author sat down in his office, Hawks introduced himself. Faulkner looked up at him and said, “I’ve seen your name on a check.”
“I remember that very well,” Hawks later recalled, “because I wanted to kill him. And he didn’t say anything else. He just sat there, and the more he sat there, the madder I got and the more I talked.”
As the director went on about how he wanted Faulkner to write a screen adaptation of “Turn About” and how he wanted him to follow the original story as closely as possible, the writer just sat there quietly. As Howard Hawks completed his instructions, he finally heard a few words from the reserved southerner in the chair. The words he heard shocked him.
Faulkner got up and said, “I’ll go.”
In desperation Hawks sprung from his chair. “Well, wait a minute,” he said, “What are you going to do? When I am I going to see you again?”
When his quiet guest told him that he’d be back in touch in four of five days, Howard thought it was going to take that long for the writer to think things over. He was amazed to discover that Faulkner intended to write the script in that time.
Mentally frazzled from their first encounter, Hawks invited his new friend out for a drink. It turned out to be quite a bender.“
By the time we’d killed a couple of quarts of whiskey,” Hawks remembered, “I took a real drunk man home and he got up the next morning and started to work, and in five or six days he had a script.”
And what a script it was!
When the excited director showed the script to Irving Thalberg, the MGM boy wonder responded, “Shoot it as it is. I feel as if I’d make tracks all over it if I touched it.”
Unfortunately, other MGM executives were not nearly as reticent about tinkering with this wonderful piece of work. They soon turned the all-male picture into a movie featuring Joan Crawford. At Crawford’s request, Faulkner reluctantly gave her character the same clipped speech patterns used by the military men. Further tinkering moved the story further and further away from the original tale until it became a muddled mess with Crawford appearing in designer outfits that are now rather humorous to witness.
In its final form, “Today We Live” turned out to be a film with many sentimental segments and very few pronouns. Some borrowed footage from the Howard Hughes air epic, “Hell’s Angels” and the two torpedo boat attacks provide just about the only saving graces in what could have been a worthy companion to “The Dawn Patrol.” Fortunately, Hawks and Faulkner would go on to collaborate on films that would overshadow “Today We Live” by a wide margin and partially erase some of the frustration both men experienced in creating it.
Director: Howard Hawks Richard Rosson (Co-director)
Producer: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: William Faulkner (screenplay and story "Turn About"), Edith Fitzgerald and Dwight Taylor
Music: William Axt, David Snell and Herbert Stothart
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh Editor: Edward Curtiss
Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. (MGM)
By following the life and art of Howard Hawks one can capture the true essence of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as if slipping on special lenses that suddenly pull away the grain and glare to reveal an unforgettable time of Movie Magic.