Hollywood JargonHollywood SlangHollywood Speak

Hawksian woman   Noun, e.g., Actresses who have played Hawksian women include Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Rosalind Russell and Angie Dickinson.

Definition:  A heroine who is independent, assertive and, relative to the mores preceding contraceptives, sexually aggressive.  Popularized by director Howard Hawks.

Angie DickinsonHistory: The term was coined in 1971 by film critic Naomi Wise to describe feminist traits of Hawks’ female characters. However, the term had currency before its feminist minting.  From the 1940s to the early 1960s, three types of female characters loomed large on the silver screen: the Doris Day no-sex-before-marriage good girl, the film noir femme fatale bad girl, and a hybrid of the two, women in Howard Hawkes movies. 

Here was a good girl who could behave as if there was a Pill before there was one. "If you want anything, just whistle,” Lauren Becall tells Humphrey Bogart in “To Have and Have Not” (1944).  “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”  In fact, the Hawksian woman is less likely to blush than her leading men, e.g., Angie Dickinson teasing John Wayne in “Rio Bravo” (1959) or Michele Carey making a bathing Robert Mitchum blush in "El Dorado" (1966).

She’s a babe whose gumption makes her one with the guys—good guys, that is, not bad à la the boys chummy with film noir's Jane Greer in “Out of the Past” (1947) or Maxine Cooper in “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955).  And like the guys, she merits a nickname, e.g., Lauren Bacall is “Slim” in “To Have or Have Not,” Rosalind Russell is “Hildy” in “His Girl Friday” (1940), Angie Dickinson is “Feathers” in “Rio Bravo,” Elsa Martinelli is “Dallas” in “Hatari!” (1962), Michele Carey is Joey in "El Dorado."

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