His Girl Friday 6/10
His Girl Friday (NR) 1940
Reviewer’s Tilt (5)
Special DVD Features worth a look-None
In 1928, Ben Hecht's three-hour play The Front Page had critics abuzz. The story involved a news editor trying to get prevent his ace reporter from getting married and moving away. In 1931, Producer Howard Hughes turned the story into a very well-received movie. Nine years later, Director Howard Hawks teamed up with one of the screenwriters from the original movie, Charles Lederer, to remake the picture with the ace reporter as the ex-wife of the editor. This spin breathed new depth and dimension into the story, paving the way for sexual innuendos and wry humor.
His Girl Friday became an instant classic, solidifying the “screwball” comedy as an American icon. The film begins with Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) playing the hard-nosed reporter recently divorced from her suave, self-centered, but impossibly charming editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant). Hildy has left the newspaper and is all set to embark on her new life as a housewife in Albany with her responsible fiancé (Ralph Bellamy). When corrupt officials set out to win an election by hanging a pardoned anarchist, Walter sees an opportunity to regain his ace reporter. Walter feigns the absence of his main reporter and asks Hildy for her help, just one more time.
The draw is just too much. Hildy agrees, and Walter unleashes all of his devilish guile to reclaim his ex. Rich with satire, the film weaves wit, charm, and slapstick humor throughout the story. His Girl Friday is the paradigm of frenetic pacing, life and death scenarios and Curlyesque yucks associated with the “screwball comedy.” Unfortunately, the first third of the film sets the bar impossibly high for the finale. The early scenes with Russell and Grant in Burns’ office and later in the restaurant are pure poetry. Not only are Russell and Grant incredible actors, deploying impeccable comedic timing, they share a true chemistry. The comedy moves effortlessly across overlapping dialogue and not-so-subtle mugging. The later scenes do involve witty dialogue and great acting, but never recapture the energy of the opening. Had the movie been able to maintain its initial momentum, this film would be a hands down champion, rivaling any comedy, from any era. As it stands, however, His Girls Friday is simply an enjoyable film, flecked with glimpses of greatness.
Format: B&W, Fullscreen, Closed captioned.
Sound: (Dolby Digital Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital Mono)
Extras: production notes, audio commentary, featurette, cast/crew bios, vintage ads, trailer(s)