18. Howard Hawks (1896 – 1977)
In a time when the studios called the shots, Howard Hawks proved that you could still be successful even if you didn’t play by the rules. As a novice director, he signed on with Fox Films to direct, but learned that the seemingly mandatory studio contract was one reason many directors and actors were being pigeonholed into certain genres, expiring early in Hollywood. Hawks refused to be put into such a position, and made sure his first contract was the only one he ever signed.
As a result, he proved to be one of the industry’s most versatile directors, genre-jumping throughout his career, almost always to great success. Though he is often associated with the screwball comedy—with films like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday—Hawks was just as at home with film noir (The Big Sleep), westerns (Red River), gangster films (Scarface), war movies (Sergeant York) and literary adaptations (To Have and Have Not).