Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Funnies - His Girl Friday (1940) - starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell

Hiya Kiddies! It's Friday, and that means it's time for a comedy. And has Professor Damian got a corker for you today! In 1940, director Howard Hawks set out, with screenwriter Charles Lederer to adapt for the big screen a play called The Front Page which had been written by  Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The play involved Newspaper editor Walter Burns's efforts to keep his star reporter Hildy Johnson from leaving the paper in order to get married and get a "repectable" job. During casting for the movie, however, Hawks reportedly had his secretary read Hildy's lines and decided he liked the sound of the words coming from a woman. The script was quickly re-written so that "Huldy" became short for Hildegard, (and became Burns's ex-wife) and the previously female fiancee became Bruce Baldwin.

As one watches the movie, it quickly becomes apparent that there are still sparks between Burns (played by Cary Grant) and Johnson (the lovely Rosalind Russell). It also becomes apparent that despite her continued protestations, Johnson is still drawn to the reporting life. Once escaped convict Earl Williams almost drops into her lap and then convinces her of his innocence, she is almost literally helpless to do anything but follow up on the story, even as her fiancee Bruce comes to realise that he has lost her.

The film maintains an incredibly quick pace throughout its 92 minute running time, containing plenty of verbal jabs between the two main characters along with Hawks' trademark fast-cut dialog which often sees characters stepping on each others' lines and repartee that shoots briskly along. Hawks himself said about the dialogue "I had noticed that when people talk, they talk over one another, especially people who talk fast or who are arguing or describing something. So we wrote the dialogue in a way that made the beginnings and ends of sentences unnecessary; they were there for overlapping." Quite a bit of the dialog was ad-libbed, and there are also plenty of inside jokes, such as Burns's remark that "the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat" (Archie Leach is, of course, Grant's birth name.)

Grant is in top comedic form in this flick, perhaps his funniest outing until 1944's Arsenic and Old Lace, and Russell proves well able to hold her own against his manic whirlwind, despite her disappointment with not having been Hawks' first choice for the role and her feeling that Grant had most of the truly good lines. They are ably supported by a fine cast that includes Ralph Bellamy as Hildy's fiancee Bruce and Alma Kruger as his mother. There can really be no argument, though, that Grant and Russell are driving this particular train and the rest are just there as passengers.

Ok, feels like it's about trailer time, and thanks to, we have a nice almost three minute preview of the movie. Enjoy!

And now, as usual, here's the skinny:
Title: His Girl Friday
Release Date: 1940
Running Time: 92 min.
Black and White
Stars: Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell
Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Howard Hawks
Production Company: Columbia Pictures

The film is available to watch or download for free here
It can also be purchased on DVD from amazon. Just click here: His Girl Friday
It's also available both as a DVD rental or to "Watch now" from Netflix: His Girl Friday

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting! 

-Professor Damian


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