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His Girl Friday (1940) Poster

Trivia

During the 1930s, Howard Hawks was hosting a dinner party when the topic of dialogue was brought up. He pulled out a copy of "The Front Page" to demonstrate the snappy exchanges between characters, taking the role of Burns. A female guest took the role of Hildy. While reading, Hawks realized the dialogue sounded much better with a female reading, and quickly secured the rights for the film from Howard Hughes. Ben Hecht (the author of "The Front Page") approved the gender change and the screenplay was put into production.
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One of the first, if not the first, films to have characters talk over the lines of other characters, for a more realistic sound. Prior to this, movie characters completed their lines before the next lines were started.
Rosalind Russell thought, while shooting, that she didn't have as many good lines as Cary Grant had, so she hired an advertisement writer through her brother-in-law and had him write more clever lines for the dialog. Since Howard Hawks allowed for spontaneity and ad-libbing, he, and many of the cast and crew didn't notice it, but Grant knew she was up to something, leading him to greet her every morning: "What have you got today?"
Right after Williams is found in the desk, the Mayor tells Walter that he's "Whistling in the dark. Well that isn't going to help you this time. You're through." Walter says "Listen the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat." Archie Leach was Cary Grant's birth name.
The famous in-joke about Ralph Bellamy's character ("He looks like that actor...Ralph Bellamy!") was almost left on the cutting room floor: Harry Cohn, the studio head, saw the dailies and responded in fury at the impertinence, but he let Howard Hawks leave it in, and it has always been one of the biggest laughs in the film.
Katharine Hepburn turned down the role of Hildy Johnson.
The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.
(at around 35 mins) In the news room the reporters are playing poker and one of them calls out to the reporter McCue, played by Roscoe Karns, who's sitting by a window that looks on a staircase. "Hey Mac (no response)... Hey Stairway Sam, would you mind turning on some lights." If you back up the DVD a minute or two you'll see why he's "Stairway Sam". In the background of these newsroom scenes McCue (or "Stairway Sam") is trying to look up the womens' dresses as they go up the stair case (at 27:30, 35:20 and 39:00). Even during one of the few serious moments in the film just after Molly Molloy confronts the newsmen with their lies Stairway Sam can't help himself. Not to mention he's flirting with and chatting up every woman who walks by. This was probably something that got by the Hayes office censors of the time.
In the play the film was based on ("The Front Page"), the part of Hildy was played by a man. When director Howard Hawks was planning to make the film, he was going to cast a man. While auditioning actors, a secretary would read the lines belonging to Hildy. Hawks loved the words coming from a woman so much, they decided to rewrite the part for a woman.
Ginger Rogers wrote that she was offered the role of Hildy Johnson. She read the script, but this was before Cary Grant was cast, and she turned it down. After learning that Grant was cast, she regretted it.
The play that this movie was based on ("The Front Page") had a famous last line: "The son-of-a-bitch stole my watch!" While the line and the plot points leading up to it didn't fit into "His Girl Friday", they did pay homage to it by having the first crime that Burns framed Baldwin for be the theft of a watch.
Rosalind Russell was insecure during the first days of filming, knowing that she had been far down on the list of choices for the female lead. Making matters worse was the fact that Howard Hawks just watched her initial scenes with Cary Grant without making any comment. Finally, she expressed her frustration to Grant, who counselled, "If he didn't like it, he'd tell you." When she asked Hawks how he felt about her work, he said, "You just keep pushin' him around the way you're doing." That was enough to put her at ease.
To maintain the fast pace, Howard Hawks encouraged his cast to add dialogue and funny bits of business and step on each others lines whenever possible.
Jean Arthur was the first choice to play Hildy. Among the other actresses who also turned down the role were Carole Lombard, Ginger Rogers, Claudette Colbert and Irene Dunne.
Jean Arthur, the first choice by studio head Harry Cohn, turned down the role of Hildy Johnson because she and Howard Hawks had been cool to each other during the filming of Only Angels Have Wings (1939) the year before.
To capture the film's fast-paced dialogue clearly, Howard Hawks decided to use multiple microphones rather than one overhead boom mike. Since the microphones couldn't be turned on simultaneously, a sound technician had to switch from mike to mike on cue. Some scenes required as many as 35 switches.
One of Quentin Tarantino's favorite films.
Many critics in 1940 felt that Cary Grant was badly miscast as Walter Burns, and that Clark Gable would have been much better in the part.
One scene required Cary Grant to push Rosalind Russell onto a couch. Howard Hawks asked the actor to try shoving her harder. When Grant protested that he didn't want to kill her, Hawks said, "Try killin' 'er."
With all of the improvisation during shooting, cameraman Joseph Walker had a hard time keeping up. He had a particular problem shooting Rosalind Russell in a flattering manner, since he never knew exactly where she was going to be. The actress had sagging jowls that required careful lighting. Finally, he got her makeup man to paint a dark shadow along her jaw line, which camouflaged the problem effectively.
Walter Burns yells at the escaped killer, Earl Williams, hiding in the roll-top desk, "Get back in there, you Mock Turtle!" Of course, this is the character Cary Grant played 7 years earlier in Alice in Wonderland (1933).
Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006.
The restaurant scene was written directly for the movie and took twice the time to shoot than expected: four days. The difficulty resided in the editing, since the characters had to eat, and the background actors kept walking around.
Rosalind Russell planned some of her "ad-libs." Concerned about the film's potential, she hired a writer from her brother's advertising firm to create some witty one-liners for her. She paid the man $200 a week on her own and never told Hawks about it. Grant caught on, however, and would ask her each morning, "What have you got today?"
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The film finished shooting seven days behind schedule. The delays were caused by the complexity of shooting the rapid-fire dialogue, which had to be carefully timed with business and movement. The restaurant scene in which Burns takes Hildy and Bruce to lunch took four days to shoot. The original schedule had only allotted two days for the scene.
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During filming, Rosalind Russell noticed that Howard Hawks treated her like an also-ran, so she confronted him: "You don't want me, do you? Well, you're stuck with me, so you might as well make the most of it."
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Rosalind Russell resented the fact that she wasn't the first choice to play Hildy for director Howard Hawks. She showed up to the audition with her hair wet from swimming.
Rosalind Russell was borrowed from MGM for this film.
Voted #10 in Total Film's 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time list (November 2005).
"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on Sunday, March 30th, 1941, with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant reprising their character roles in the film.
Most of the original dialogue and all of the characters' names from the play are the same, with the exception of Hildy's fiancé, Bruce Baldwin.
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Joan Crawford was considered for the role of Hildy Johnson.
This motion picture was released nationally on Cary Grant's 36th birthday.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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The Broadway production of "The Front Page" (source material for the film) opened at the Times Square Theater on Wednesday, August 14th, 1929 and ran for 276 performances.
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The calendar in the press room is from November 1938 which was approximately a year before the movie was made. It shows special days on the 8th, 11th and 24th which correspond to Election Day, Veterans' Day and Thanksgiving.
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It is estimated that the normal rate of verbal dialogue in most films is around 90 words a minute. In His Girl Friday (1940), the delivery has been clocked at 240 words a minute.
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The film entered the public domain in 1968.
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Howard Hawks got the idea to overlap the dialogue from Frank Capra's American Madness (1932).
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Howard Hawks originally wanted Carole Lombard to play the part of Hildy Johnson but, as she had just left studio contract and gone freelance, she proved to be too expensive.
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Jean Arthur was suspended by Columbia when she refused to take on the part of Hildy Johnson.
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Filmed under the working title of "The Bigger They Are".
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Walter and Hildy hiding escaped killer Earl Williams in a desk in the city room was based on a real incident. Emile Gauvreau, the editor of the old New York City paper "The New York Evening Graphic", hid an escaped killer in the city room of the newspaper, interviewed him, wrote the story and waited until the paper was on the street before turning him over to the police.

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