His Girl Friday (1940)

30c9f-his_girl_friday_posterStarring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell with direction by Howard Hawks, this film’s rapid and overlapping dialogue helps make it a witty comedy romance. Walter Burns (Grant) is a newspaper editor who was formally married to Hildy Johnson (Russell). However, now they are no longer together and she is on the verge of marrying another man (Ralph Bellamy). Grant still loves her and tries all the tricks he knows in order to get her back. Soon the two of them are deeply involved in a story having to do with a man who is soon to be hung. As they work to get the scoop, the two of them slowly begin to realize they still love each other despite their differences. Finally, Russell rejects a normal life with her new fiancee and she and Grant unite once again. A directing legend, Hawks has another success with the screwball comedy. Grant and Russell play well off each other and they have a good supporting cast behind them.

This film is a sensory overload with words whizzing by so fast that you hardly have time to catch them. But what you do pick up is great and the overlapping, rapid fire dialogue is delivered so effectively by the entire cast, including Grant and Russell. Russell takes on the persona of the independent career woman prevalent in the late 30s and early 40s. As such she knows how to trade blows with the boys in the newsroom and she delivers a spirited performance to counter Grant’s constant conniving and tricks in his sly attempt to win her back. Aside from the main stars, the film has a brilliant set of stock characters and the dialogue is such that it seems like it would be a joy to read the script. There is the self-referential humor to Ralph Bellamy, then to a Mock Turtle as well as Archie Leach. The first is Grant’s role in Alice in Wonderland and the second is his real name. The film even has time to deal a few jabs to Hitler, Communists, and most especially the newspaper industry. All in all His Girl Friday is a comedic whirlwind but it is a pretty good piece of mayhem.

4.5/5 Stars

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