"He gave every scene a minute examination, both psychological and visual, and under his directions I was secure and full of anticipation." - Fancis Farmer on working with Howard Hawks
Come And Get It (1936) Movie Scene
Come And Get It - 1936 (Original Poster)
Released: November 6, 1936 Running time 99 minutes
Edna Ferber’s “Come and Get It” was published in 1934. With her focus on an immoral lumber baron who destroys wide areas of forest in her native Wisconsin during the late part of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century, the author considered her novel “a story of the rape of America.”
She was proud of the ecological theme and firmly stated that it was a major reason that she wrote the book.
When producer Samuel Goldwyn paid $40,000 for the film rights he thought he would be making an important message movie. If that was his intent, he should have known better than to hire Howard Hawks to direct the picture.
Hawks had no interest in making statements, he preferred making entertaining films.
Having worked with Hawks the previous year on “Barbary Coast,” Goldwyn might have thought he could reign in the director’s tendencies to alter a story to fit his own vision. After all, the producer had managed to wield a great deal of influence during their previous collaboration. Had he stayed healthy, Goldwyn’s plan might have worked.
In April of 1936, just as Hawks was beginning work on the picture, Goldwyn was hospitalized for gastro-intestinal problems which led to surgery.
Freed from the watchful eye of the ever intrusive Goldwyn, Howard Hawks set out to make the movie he wanted to make from the material. He liked the first half of the book and saw boisterous possibilities in the scenes of logging life and the tale of Barney Glasgow’s ambition. He knew he could work with the story of the great love Barney throws away to pursue his ambition. As for the second half of the book, he thought it was “pretty lousy.”
Sitting down with writer Jules Furthman, Hawks began altering the tale. The ecological tale was soon obscured by vivid scenes of logging which were almost romantic in their detail and a barroom brawl that is almost legendary in its detail and destructiveness. He changed the character of the first Lotta of the book into a vivacious saloon singer and gave the role of Ferber’s “strongest man in the North Woods” to wiry Walter Brennan.
Although many of these changes were lively and entertaining, they drifted far afield from the work and intent of Edna Ferber.
When Sam Goldwyn was released from his New York hospital to recover at his Beverly Hills home on July 4, 1936, Hawks began to worry. He knew he needed more time to justify his changes by creating a film package that the producer could not resist.
He gained a little time when Goldwyn became concerned about the amount of film William Wyler was shooting on “Dodsworth,”the other Goldwyn production in progress at that time. When the producer started asking to see what Hawks had filmed so far, Howard tried to buy more time by telling the producer’s wife that her husband should wait until he achieved fully recovery before viewing the footage.
This advice got alarm bells ringing in Goldwyn’s head and he immediately demanded to see the footage. What he saw confirmed his worst fears.
“I found that Hawks had filmed a completely different story from what you had written,” Goldwyn wrote to Edna Ferber, “After I saw what he filmed, I suffered a relapse for a full two weeks; it upset me so.”
Without any medical training, Hawks had correctly predicted this setback to Goldwyn’s wife. This insightful diagnosis, though, did nothing to help his cause with the upset producer.
After several attempts to get the story back on track, the director and the producer went separate ways. Hawks claims he quit, Goldwyn insists he fired Hawks; either way William Wyler was brought in to complete the filming and Jane Murfin was hired to rewrite portions of the script.
Goldwyn even went so far as to try to have Howard Hawks’ name removed from the credits. He was stymied when William Wyler insisted that he wanted no credit at all for this work. The final compromise was to list both men as director with Hawks getting top billing.
These days, students of film take great pleasure in watching “Come and Get It” to catch which scenes were shot by Hawks and which were shot by Wyler. It is a safe bet to say that almost the entire first half of the film was the work of Hawks and the more sincere and elegant scenes of the last half hour belong to Wyler. We’ll leave the rest of the identification to film students, film historians, and any readers who enjoy watching a flawed but entertaining film that combines the work of two talented directors and one troubled producer.
Director: Howard Hawks Richard Rosso (logging sequences) William Wyler (finished film)
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay: Jane Murfin and Jules Furthman Edna Ferber (novel)
Music: Alfred Newman
Cinematography: Rudolph Maté and Gregg Toland
Editor: Edward Curtiss Art Director: Richard Day
The Samuel Goldwyn Company (Studio) United Artists (Distributed)
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.