A young man falls in love with a girl from a rich family. His unorthodox plan to go on holiday for the early years of his life is met with skepticism by everyone except for his fiancée's eccentric sister and long suffering brother.
Having been away for four months, Hildy Johnson walks into the offices of the New York City based The Morning Post, where she is a star reporter, to tell her boss, editor Walter Burns, that she is quitting. The reason for her absence was among other things to get a Reno divorce, from, of all people, Walter, who admits he was a bad husband. Hildy divorced Walter largely because she wanted more of a home life, whereas Walter saw her more as a driven hard-boiled reporter than subservient homemaker. Hildy has also come to tell Walter that she is taking the afternoon train to Albany, where she will be getting married tomorrow to staid straight-laced insurance agent, Bruce Baldwin, with whose mother they will live, at least for the first year. Walter doesn't want to lose Hildy, either as a reporter or a wife, and if he does, doesn't believe Bruce is worthy of her. Walter does whatever he can at least to delay Hildy and Bruce's trip, long enough to persuade Hildy to stay for good. His plan ... Written by
Whoever had the bright idea to turn the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur play, The Front Page into a boy and girl comedy ought to get a Nobel Prize for comedy if such an award had been available at the time.
Of course it helps when one of your two main characters has an ambiguous first name like Hildy. Short for Hildreth when Pat O'Brien plays it, Rosalind Russell is all female in this one. Russell bites off a huge chunk of Katherine Hepburn career woman territory here and she digests it well.
She's the best reporter on the staff of the Morning Post and her editor Cary Grant doesn't want to lose her no way. At one time he even married her, but that didn't take. They're divorced now and Russell is fed up and decides she wants a home and children and security and Ralph Bellamy is going to give her all of that. Plus a home with his mother Alma Kruger for a year in Albany.
As her friendly rival reporter Regis Toomey says, there ain't no way that Russell could ever leave the newspaper game. She proves it when she goes to work on that one last assignment to cover an execution at the state penitentiary.
Even though Howard Hawks did add a romance into The Front Page he did not sacrifice one iota of the biting satire from Hecht and MacArthur. If you watch the either The Front Page or His Girl Friday or even the remake from the eighties Broadcast News you will swear the world is made up of boobs and nitwits and the only smart people around are journalists. Too often however that's proved to be the case.
Poor meek John Qualen who was listening to some radicals speaking and got caught up in the moment and accidentally shot a black police officer. Back then ethnic politics were played to the hilt and a law and order mayor, Clarence Kolb, wants to see Qualen executed. His brother-in-law, sheriff Gene Lockhart means to see the sentence is done.
Cary Grant's paper is against capital punishment at least for this poor schnook. Of course when Qualen escapes all kinds of complication arise and Russell's on the job to report them.
As he was in The Awful Truth, Ralph Bellamy is there to be the slightly befuddled doofus who loses the girl to fast talking Cary. Bellamy's performance is a brilliant piece of work itself. He's so funny because he plays the part absolutely straight and the humor falls around him.
Howard Hawks assembles a really grand cast of memorable character actors. My favorite however, brief though his scenes are is Billy Gilbert who is a messenger from the governor who is delivering a sentence commutation. The poor man gets waylaid and involved in all kinds of intrigue that is all going on over his head. You have to see him to believe how funny he is and he does it without a sneeze.
His Girl Friday successfully combines screwball romantic comedy with biting satire and no seams show it all in the stitching. It's a blueprint on how to do successful cinema comedy.
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