A young man in love with a girl from a rich family finds his unorthodox plan to go on holiday for the early years of his life 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
Concerned that the final draft still wasn't funny enough, Howard Hawks called in Morrie Ryskind to polish the dialogue, as he had for the director's Ceiling Zero (1936). Ryskind would not receive a credit on the finished film. Ryskind gave the film another ending, in which Burns and Hildy are married in the newsroom then immediately start fighting, leading one of the guests to comment "I think it's going to turn out all right this time." Unfortunately, Ryskind revealed this ending to other writers at the studio, and before the film could go into production another picture was shot with the same ending. See more »
When Walter & Hildy are handcuffed together & the Mayor walks in, Hildy's right arm is by her side in the long shot but in the closeup her hands are together. See more »
Fast Dialogue only savior for unsympathetic characters
When I learned about Howard Hawkes screwball comedy "His Girl Friday," one of the biggest attractions, I was told, was the fast-paced/overlapping dialogue. During this time in Hollywood, dialogue would only be spoken by one person at a time. "His Girl Friday" was one of the first films to have characters speaking at the same time, often over one another; this would create an environment that was more realistic, especially in a place such as a newspaper room. Well, if that's what Hawkes was going for, he certainly achieved it.
The best thing about the film IS the dialogue. Characters speak at a break-neck speed, throwing witticisms left and right as if they were candy. Many times, while one is laughing at one joke, they would miss another right after it. That is how quickly the jokes are thrown out in the film. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell are great at spilling lines out seemingly without any problem. It's a real testament to how professional these two were (along with the rest of the cast) with the amount of verbal meat they had to chew; I can't think of an actor today that could possibly pull of the kind of dialogue that was given in this film.
The problem that I had with the film was that the dialogue was the ONLY great thing about it. Unfortunately, the characters and situations presented in the film had little sympathy and lack of any kind of real depth. The situation with the falsely accused murderer was handled poorly given the context of his predicament; instead of really caring about this person and really trying to help him become cleared of charges, the Grant and Rosalind characters instead used him for their own purposes in getting "the big scoop." Now, of course one can argue that that WAS the reason they treated him the way they did, my issue is that such a serious subject was handled in a supposed "comedic" fashion; as if it was OK that this falsely accused person can be treated in such a horrible way, simply because it handled comedically. The last-second deus ex machina that sealed this person's fate supports the idea that his story wasn't really handled with any kind of importance.
The thing the really hurt the film was the love triangle between the Grant and Rosalind characters, and the Rosalind's character's fiancé. We are told in the beginning of the film that Grant and Rosalind are divorcees, and Rosalind is set to marry her fiancé the very next day in Albany. Of course, in a film like this, we are supposed to root for the Grant and Rosalind characters to get together at the end. the problem is, the Grant character is such a manipulative creep that at the end of the film I found myself actually rooting for the fiancé to the win the girl. Three times in the movie, the Grant character manipulates the situation, causing the fiancé to be thrown in jail, and preventing the would-be married couple from leaving the city. This in turn gives the Grant character enough time to convince Rosalind that she will always be "a newspaperman." The Rosalind character isn't much better either. Throughout the beginning of the film, she keeps explaining to others that she is through with the newspaper business, that she wants to settle down, raise a family, and not have to deal with the daily grind of hunting down a story. Well, does settling down and having a family sound like a bad thing to you? I didn't think so. Every time she tries to leave, she gets bogged down and distracted by the story (many times through the very fault of the Grant character). It gets so bad, that when the fiancé comes to her, begging her to leave with him, she brushes him off like a fly, barely acknowledging him. Even worse, when the fiancé's mother comes into play, the Rosalind character actually ALLOWS Grant to have her kidnapped and taken away! "His Girl Friday" would've worked if the filmmakers had cared enough about the characters than they did about the dialogue. The actor playing the fiancé did a thankless job; without much to work with, he actually created a character we cared about more so than the two leads. Sure he was a little simple, but that's a lot more than can be said about the other two. At the end of the film, I thought to myself "these two characters were divorced before the film started. Based on all the manipulative actions these two had throughout the story, is there any evidence that they'll stay together once the movie is over?" Maybe they deserve each other, because they certainly don't deserve anyone else.
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