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William "Bill" Hawks

William "Bill" Hawks

Although the lesser-known of the Hawks brothers — Howard Hawks having been for years one of Hollywood's top directors, Bill Hawks was never one to recognize sibling superiority on the croquet lawns of Beverly Hills and Palm Springs. Despite his white hair and horn rimmed glasses, there were few croqueteers as competitive in the game, one which often took over, to the hidden pleasure of his opponents, the dismay of his partners.

Nevertheless, Bill Hawks was certainly in the top five players in the once famed, now defunct Samuel Goldwyn group. On his game, he was a deadly shot, unsparing in self-criticism, if unsuccessful and always intense from the first shot.

Among the great rivalries of croquet were the singles challenges between Hawks and the imperturbable George Sanders, held on Sanders' lawn, alongside which rose a bush-covered mini-mountain! Matches were held there in Vilas Canyon, beside a red clapboard farm house which Sanders had rented. Promptly at one, Sanders' Filipino butler would carry out a table, set it up adjacent to the lawn, and we'd repair to a lunch of fish, salad and cold white wine.

One Sunday, in singles, Hawks had achieved an enormous 9-0 lead and was chortling as he shot for the middle wicket going home. (We played the nine-wicket, 2 stake game then.) As fate, or so Hawks would say, had it, he hung in the wicket dead on. With the same motion, as he concluded his faulty stroke, Hawks hurled his specially-make Jaques mallet up into the thick mesquite, high on the hillside. As Sanders made no effort to conceal his smile of triumph, Hawks disappeared into the bush. We waited for what seemed at least an eternity. Finally, one bush parted, and the chagrined and by now shameful face of Hawks appeared. In an almost childlike tone he announced, "I can't find it!" Our hysterical laughter rocked Vilas Canyon and once again Sanders had triumphed over Hawks and his temper.

Bill Hawks was not only a superb croquet player but was successful as a producer (Ronald Coleman in Champagne for Caesar), theatrical agent and real estate authority. He died some years before his brother.

He deserves his niche in Croquet's Hall of Fame.

William "Bill" Hawks was inducted into the United States Croquet Hall of Fame in 1981.

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