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
As if creating one comedic masterpiece with 1938's BRINGING UP BABY was not enough, director Howard Hawks returned to the same genre a scant two years later - and he somehow managed to rival even his own previous masterwork. Nominally a reworking Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's play THE FRONT PAGE, HIS GIRL Friday manages to surpass it's classic source material and emerge as one of the screen's finest comedies. The film is also perhaps the perfect example of Hawks' trademarked rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue, which has never been as fast nor as furious anywhere else before or since. This is certainly one of the fastest moving comedies ever filmed, and the whole cast never misses a beat.
Walter Burns, the conniving, self-serving newspaper editor, is a character that could have easily come off as a tyrannical jerk. As portrayed by the suave Cary Grant, however, the pompous, arrogant Burns actually becomes (gasp!) likable! It is a difficult balancing act that Grant must perform as teetering between the two extremes of the character, and he is arguably the only actor imaginable with the skill and charisma to pull such a tricky characterization off this successfully. And the one-and-only Rosalind Russell is every bit his match - full of verve and aplomb, Russell's Hildy is an independent career woman, brimming with intelligence and class, that impressively pre-dates the major feminist movement of the mid-sixties by a good 25 years.
The film's supporting cast is no less impressive, with every single role cast to perfection. This is particularly true of Ralph Bellamy, who (along with his Oscar-nominated performance in 1937's THE AWFUL TRUTH) proves once again that he is the ultimate straight man. The film contains some grim subject matter that may seem like unlikely fodder for a screwball comedy (murder, attempted suicide, and public execution are all touched upon), although the film somehow manages to deal with such topics respectfully and without sacrificing any laughs. In the end, HIS GIRL Friday is an absolutely unbeatable romantic comedy that remains wildly hilarious and comes as close to sheer perfection as any motion picture could ever hope to.
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