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Her Guy Walter
theowinthrop8 March 2006
Charles McArthur and Ben Hecht met when both were reporters in Chicago during the 1920s. They created two of the funniest farces in American drama, TWENTIETH CENTURY (about theater people) and THE FRONT PAGE. The latter was based on their experiences as news reporters in those crazy days in Chicago, where the newspapers concentrated on sensationalism and the politics was thoroughly corrupt. The resulting play is hysterically funny and yet remains timely. For all the exaggeration of how Walter Burns and Hildy Johnson manipulate police, politicians, reporters, and civilians to get their scoop, the story remains relevant for several reasons. The political balance in a big Mayoralty election is precarious due to the Earl Williams case. Williams has shot a policeman who is African-American, a big local voting block, and they want him punished. The corrupt Mayor and his idiot jail warden are willing to execute him for the votes needed to stay in office, but the Governor (who is from the rival party) believes the killer is insane (or at least mentally deficient). So already (as you see) race, politics, and the validity of the death penalty get pulled in. Soon we also see examples of nepotism and corruption in the police, and City Hall, cynical politics based on a man's life, and questions about privacy and a free press. For a play from 1931 this one still has relevance.

There had been an earlier version of the play in the 1930s called THE FRONT PAGE, starring Adolphe Menjou as the conniving and devious Walter Burns, and Pat O'Brien as ace reporter Hildy Johnson. It is a good version, and both stars do well with their parts (and both have the verbal speed necessary for the dialog to flow over the ears of the audience). But when the film was remade in 1940, Howard Hawks decided to redraw Hildy Johnson into a female reporter (and previous wife) of Burns. His casting of Cary Grant was radically different too. Burns is a nasty, conniving s.o.b. who would kill for a good story. Menjou was somewhat dapper (he was usually dapper) in the role, but the hardness under the presentable shell was there. And by changing Hildy from a guy to a gal, and Walter's former wife, you had to make Walter look more interesting. So Walter is turned into Cary Grant. There was a search for Hildy, involving Jean Arthur and Irene Dunne as possibilities. Neither ended up playing him. Instead it went to Rosalind Russell.

It has to be admitted Russell had the vocal abilities to push the dialog at the proper clip. Possibly Jean Arthur could have done that just as well, but Arthur did not have the apparent physical strength behind the stylishness that Russell showed. She really does balance well (in this film) with Grant, given their characters.

Motivation changes a little. This Walter Burns still wants to get his scoops, but there are moments of fragility when he realizes he may forever lose Hildy to her fiancé Bruce (the ever helpless Ralph Bellamy). And they oddly work (Hawks manages to keep them under control). Also, as the story is now twelve years older than the original play, certain changes occur in Walter's political views. He does dislike the gang (led by Clarence Kolb and Gene Lockhart) running the city, and points out to Hildy that they have a chance to help give the city the sort of government New York City has under La Guardia. This does not end his joy at scooping the opposition, but it does suggest that Burns has more depth.

It is now generally believed that this is the best of the film versions of THE FRONT PAGE, and one of the funniest films ever made. The entire cast shines (look at the scene where Helen Mack confronts the reporters who have made her look like a tramp, and have told lies about John Qualen (Williams) - she is in a state when Russell takes her out of the press room, and the reporters are thoroughly ashamed of herself - and Russell comes back looking at Regis Toomey, Porter Hall, and the others, and says "Gentlemen of the Press!" with heavy cynical irony). And also note Billy Gilbert's immortal Joe Pettibone, the most hopeless monument of total befuddlement in movies. It is one of the few film comedies of that period that retains it's laughs one viewing following another.
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Slapstick comedy that moves faster than the speed of laughter...
TuckMN21 April 2000
This screen adaptation of the Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur play "The Front Page" was adapted for the talents of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell -- there is no such character as Hildy Johnson (Russell) in that play.

Director Howard Hawks wanted to show the whirlwind pace of the newsroom in the criminal courts system so he had his actors overlap their lines -- so much so that at times it seems as though everyone is talking at once; it even gets difficult to understand all that is going on.

He also had the cast move FAST so the film looks totally frenetic from scene to scene with no respite -- either from the laughs or from the action.

There are two really good "inside" jokes in the script: The first is where Walter Burns (Grant) is describing Hildy's fiancee and says that "he looks like that guy in the movies -- Bellamy," Well, it WAS Ralph Bellamy playing that part!

The other is when Burns says something about someone he once knew named "Archie Leach" which just happens to be Cary Grant's real name.

This is one of the true gems of Hollywood's most prolific era. It has incredible pacing, acting, photography and an authentic gritty feeling that would be associated with hard-boiled, "anything for a story" newspaper people.

It has long been one of my favorite films and deserves to be watched over and over again -- just for all the dialogue and great acting that may have gone by so fast you missed it the first time.
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Another version of "The Front Page" starring Grant and Russell
blanche-27 May 2006
Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell make great sparring partners in "His Girl Friday," a remake of "The Front Page." Grant plays the conniving newspaper publisher Walter Johnson, and Rosalind Russell is the reporter Hildy Johnson, a woman this time, and Johnson's ex-wife. She's trying to get remarried, move to Albany, and quit the newspaper business, but Walter can't bear it. He cons her into helping out with a controversial death row case and then makes sure her fiancée (Ralph Bellamy) suffers a series of mishaps - arrest for stealing a watch, arrest for "mashing," arrest for counterfeiting, and the theft of his wallet. This all happens while Hildy interviews Earl Williams, a man due to be hung the next day... and then hides him in a roll-top desk in the courthouse press room when he escapes during a psychiatric evaluation.

It's madcap, all right, and there are no two better people to carry it off than Grant and Russell, who make a great team. It's a hilarious story, with the most rapid-fire, non-stop dialog ever heard anywhere, often with several conversations going on at once. It's exhausting trying to keep up with it.

Strangely, without computers and cell phones, the story of journalists working on a story holds up because the emotions and activities are realistic and still go on. It's as Hildy describes - no set schedule, no normal meals, and long hours. Nothing much has changed.

This is a frenetic comedy, and while the impending hanging of Earl Williams is certainly serious, this plot is more of an excuse to observe the machinations of Hildy and Walter - it's a subplot, though it drives the main story.

"The Front Page" is a favorite of Hollywood's, remade many times - three versions under its original title, a TV series, two TV productions, plus the film "Switching Channels." And of course, "His Girl Friday," possibly the best of all of them.
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The Front Page remade
didi-523 March 2005
This gloriously funny romp by Howard Hawks is rightly remembered as one of the fastest-talking movies ever made. Originally done as 'The Front Page', the play by Hecht and McArthur takes on new life here as the character of Hildy Johnson metamorphoses in this version to be a sparky woman (played by Rosalind Russell), former wife of the harassed columnist Walter Burns (played with characteristic bewilderment and charm by Cary Grant). Hildy is about to marry again, to the nice but dull Bruce Baldwin (played by Ralph Bellamy as a character so boring he 'is like Ralph Bellamy' - how Hollywood liked its in-jokes).

With that fire-cracking script, a sizable amount of sparks between Grant and Russell, and good support from Bellamy and a cast which includes Gene Lockhart, Cliff Edwards, Clarence Kolb, and Regis Toomey, 'His Girl Friday' is one of those classic gems which never age and which remain hugely entertaining.
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Roz Russell Is on the Case
evanston_dad7 March 2006
Every good thing you've heard about this movie is true. It may very well be the fastest paced movie I've ever seen. Jerry Bruckheimer's most hyperbolic action movie ain't got nothing' on this one.

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell were a brilliant screen pair (indeed, it seems that no one was bad casting when paired with Cary Grant) as rival reporters in a furiously paced news office. Russell is the odd man, or should I say odd girl, out, due to her lack of a penis, but she proves herself more than capable of holding her own with the boys.

Russell charges across the screen and never loses momentum for a second. She's goofy, sexy and hysterical. The funniest moment in the film comes when she's chasing a man down the street (I won't go into details) and dive tackles him to the ground.

One of the first films from the 40s and a highlight of the decade.

Grade: A+
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That Unseen Power That Protects The Morning Post
bkoganbing14 February 2007
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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What a Man Will Do For Love.
nycritic21 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
If BRINGING UP BABY has rapid-fire dialogue and one crazy scene after the other, HIS GIRL Friday goes even faster and is 10 minutes shorter. A story not that un-similar to THE PHILADELPHIA STORY which deletes the scatterbrained socialites in favor for a gritty, urban setting, Cary Grant is fantastic in his role as Walter Burns as he tries to win back his wife Hildy Johnson (an equally brilliant Rosalind Russell in full comic mode) by literally throwing her back into what she -- deep down -- loves best: reporting and the breakneck lifestyle that comes with being in front of the news. These two are on camera often, and their dialogue together is like a frenzied waltz: trying to follow every exact word, gesture, and snarl is quite a task, boy, does it sizzle! What a shame that this wasn't up for any awards, as this could have easily won in acting categories. Completely ahead of its times, this is an interesting view on feminism thirty years before the term became public knowledge, and if one listens closely, a study in verbal sexual interplay. Which shows that making Hildy Johnson a woman was the best decision a director could ever do to enhance a story.

A remake of an earlier film (THE FRONT PAGE, 1931), itself a film version of a 1928 play, HIS GIRL Friday was remade again as THE FRONT PAGE in 1976 and yet again in 1988 as SWITCHING CHANNELS, with Kathleen Turner nicely holding up in her portrayal of the role that cemented Rosalind Russell as a skilled comedienne, this time set in media TV.
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As close to perfection as any film could hope for
robb_77220 April 2006
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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Loud, fast and annoying.
Boba_Fett11381 October 2008
I know this is considered a classic and all but I couldn't find myself liking it all that much. I don't know but lots of people talking loudly at the same time over each others lines is just not my idea of something funny.

On top of that the movie doesn't really feature any good likable main characters. Despite the fact that I like Cary Grant and he was always able to play a likable scoundrel, his character in this movie just didn't worked out to me. He was more a very selfish character than a funny one really and more annoying than amusing. Same goes for Rosalind Russell, who basically plays the same sort of character as Grant. They really deserved each other.

The movie entirely goes for its screwball comedy elements but it forgets basically everything else. It forgets it has a story with also some romantic as well as dramatic elements in it. Because of this none of the romance and more serious intended moments within the movie just didn't ever worked out.

To be honest, I quite liked the movie in the beginning and in general I'm also fond of these type of movies, especially when they star Cary Grant but about halve way through the movie totally started to loose track and the movie became an huge fast going mess. It's pace becomes incredibly high and lots of character constantly show up and are going away again just as fast as they came. The movie at that point basically becomes more of an annoying one to watch and it doesn't get any more better when it heads toward its ending.

It's not like I hated watching this movie and it certainly does has its moments but for a movie that is considered a true genre classic, it's definitely a disappointing one.


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Extra Extra
jotix10010 April 2005
"His Gal Friday" is Howard Hawks' tribute to the brilliant play in which this film is based. Charles McGraw and Ben Hecht, two of the best writers of the era, paid tribute to the journalists that wrote for the American newspapers of the thirties. This movie has some of the fastest dialogs in memory.

The incredible combination of Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, and Ralph Bellamy in the main roles is what made this movie a favorite. Mr. Grant as Walter Burns, the unscrupulous newspaper editor, is the perfect foil for Rosalind Russell's, Hildy Johnson, a role that is played by a male in the original play and in the other film versions.

The best moment of the film is the moment when Cary Grant speaking so fast, that some what he says goes over the viewer's heads, refers as to Ralph Bellamy by name as not having a chance and cites in the same breadth his real name Archibald Leach.

It's hard to imagine anyone but Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell playing Walter and Hildy. Ralph Bellamy is perfect as Hildy's fiancé, Bruce Baldwin. Gene Lockhart is perfect as the sheriff Pinky Hartwell. The ensemble of actors that play the reporters following the possible execution of Earl Williams, are perfect.

An excellent comedy thanks to the genius of Howard Hawks.
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What a gem!
banjoboy31 August 2003
I just finished watching the DVD of this first-class, semi-Screwball comedy in Columbia Classics beautiful transfer, and it absolutely made my day! What a movie! What a screenplay! The dialogue is better - more modern - in fact, than a in lot of contemporary movies. It's incredibly funny, too, and my teenage sons kept laughing right along with me at the smart come-backs. Cary Grant is, of course, as good (if not better) than ever, and I've never seen Rosalind Russel in a role that suited her more perfectly. And that's just for starters: The timing of the thing is still awe- inspiring after sixty-odd years; the supporting actors, down to the bit-players, are all memorable, convincing and hilarious; the camera work (this IS the forties, though) is inventive and the editing superb. I can safely confess now that I hadn't ever seen it before, but that's no reason for you to make the same mistake: Go buy/rent it NOW! Hats off to the great Howard Hawks, his cast and crew for pulling this comedy masterpiece off. And thank you, thank you, thank you Columbia Pictures, for

making it possible for me to watch it in such pristine condition! (I've got the 2002 edition, and from what I've heard you should beware of earlier DVD issues).
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Ace in the Hole
tieman6427 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"'His Girl Friday' represents one of the major paradoxes of American narrative cinema — Hollywood's ability to incorporate images of social change into films that ultimately deny and frustrate the possibility of such change." - Tom Powers

Before Wilder's "Ace in the Hole" and Mackendrick's "Sweet Smell of Success" there was "His Girl Friday", Howard Hawks' motor-mouthed screwball comedy and light-hearted satire of both journalism and Chicago politics.

The film is based on a 1928 play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, but it was Hawks who came up with the idea of making the lead a woman. "Write em as a guy and cast em as a broad," was Hawks' motto, a technique which resulted in a filmography filled with strong, masculine, bawdy women. This time around our heroine is Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), a star reporter who has recently divorced Walter Burns (Cary Grant), editor at the Morning Post.

Like most screwballs, "His Girl Friday" finds Walter and Hildy engaged in a battle of wits. They can't stand each another, but Walter nevertheless spends the entire film scheming to repair his relationship with Hildy. When the film's couple aren't cracking wise, Hawks engages in an altogether different affair, excoriating conniving journalists, newspaper editors and the political/media machinery of Chicago.

At the heart of this criss-crossing satire is a character called Earl Williams, scheduled to be publicly executed for the shooting (and killing) of a black police officer. Every subset of the city, the film goes on to show, wants Williams executed for different reasons, the Mayor chasing African American votes, and the news desks itching for good ink. Their detachment is chilling; death reduced to filling column spaces. No better is Hildy's desire to twist Williams' story into a weapon to be used against the Mayor's local policies. Make Williams a scapegoat and damn the Mayor, she thinks.

By the film's end, Williams has became a pawn in an ugly chess game in which everyone is wrong. Meanwhile, the news desks, politicians and police are all busy over-pyschoanalysing Williams. Each group hires "experts" to offer "expert opinions" on Williams' motivations. These "experts" are geared not toward finding the truth, but creating rationalizations, and therefore ammunition, for already held opinions, plans or policies.

Hawks' films have always been amoral, dark and cynical, but "His Girl Friday" is particularly bleak. It's a film filled with sharks, leaches and back-stabbers, though a century of cynical films about newspaper men have rendered its satire impotent (even the cutting edge "The Wire", in its final season, can't get away from these clichés). Likewise, modern viewers may find Hawks' once novel screwball antics somewhat dulled by a diet of TV sitcoms. Aesthetically the film is typical of Hawks, packed with rapid-fire banter, overlapping dialogue, virtually no dead air and snappy, fluid camera work. Hawks captures the energy and buzz of newsrooms. His film spits like a machine gun.

Incidentally, upon release "Friday" was praised for "promoting" social change. Namely that of marriages being based on equality rather than exploitation, the notion that women might be economically independent, intelligent and self sufficient, and that new possibilities lay ahead in the roles of the sexes. In reality, however, the film boils down to rigid, old, gender roles. Men operate in a sphere of violence and corruption, a stance Hildy must herself adopt - her price of admission into their all-male world - in order to escape the world of female entrapment and domesticity. This domesticity, Hildy then decides, is not worth the effort leaving. In other words: play the game, be a ruthless man, or shut up and stay at home.

8/10 – Worth one viewing.
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Hilarious Rapid-Fire Comedy & Satire
Snow Leopard13 September 2001
A very, very funny movie, this rapid-fire farce combines a terrific cast, a great script, and a plot that lends itself wonderfully both to comedy and satire. There are more funny lines and good gags than you can count, even when you've already seen it a few times.

Cary Grant is excellent at this kind of manic comedy, and Rosalind Russell gives what had to be one of her very best performances, as a worthy foil for Grant's domineering character. Ralph Bellamy is also ideal as the naive insurance salesman, and they are backed up by a cast filled with fine comic character actors. Some of the supporting cast do a terrific job of getting laughs with very limited screen time. They all get great material to work with, too. The dialogue is just amazing, with funny, creative lines coming constantly - sometimes literally on top of each other. The setting and the plot create hilarious situations and some great opportunities to satirize politicians and the news media. If anything, the satire is even funnier and more appropriate as regards today's institutions than it was in 1940.

"His Girl Friday" is absolutely hilarious, a classic comedy that you can watch and enjoy over and over.
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Classic 'screwball' comedy
jamesrupert201424 July 2020
Ace reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) decides to give up the newspaper game for a 'normal' life with fiancé Bruce Baldwin (Bellamy), a steady, if bland, insurance salesman from Albany, much to the chagrin of her boss and ex-husband, the conniving, abrasive editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant). Her matrimonial plans are quickly derailed by the escape of an alleged murderer who may have been set up by a corrupt mayor to court votes. An early example of gender swapping, the film is a romantic comedy adapted from Ben Hecht's play 'The Front Page' in which Hildy is a man. The film is famous for its rapid-fire dialogue and ad-libbing (including 'meta humour' such as Grant referring to Bellamy's character as looking like the actor Bellamy or referring to an 'Archie Leach', which was Grant's real name). The film was directed by Howard Hawks who deftly switches from character to character as Johnson and Burns bicker or while the rest of the reporters in the courthouse press room shout into their telephones as they compete for scoops. Led by the great comedy combination Grant and Russell, the entire cast is cast is excellent. Bellamy plays a similar 'sincere' counterpoint to a blustering Grant that he did in 1937's 'The Awful Truth' (and again is accompanied by his mother) and John Qualen, the character actor best known for faux Scandinavian roles, is Earl Williams, the 'killer' nebbish who Hildy is intent on saving from the gallows. The film is a product of its times, with references to a war in Europe, New York Mayor La Guardia, President Roosevelt, and the threat of 'Reds', (Hildy's proposed defense, an attempt to get William's declared insane, is that the shooting was an example of the Socialist tenant 'production for use'), but remains funny and relevant today (although the 'reporter as a hero' days are over, corrupt politicians are perennially fuel for satire). The comedy is quite black at times (especially Burns' response to the possible death of Bellamy's mother, whom he had abducted by his gangster side-kick 'Diamond Louie' (a funny Abner Biberman) to hide the secret of William's location) and the film has a bit of a nihilist feel at times (especially towards truth, love, and politics). Funny stuff!
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Fun, Terrible People
davidmvining15 June 2021
I don't really like how this is categorized as a screwball comedy. There are certainly screwball elements, but it gets too somber for too long. The characters also are simply too composed and professional. The only thing that really lends itself to the screwball comedy aspect is the sheer speed that the characters speak. Hawks had become well known for his fast dialogue that he directed, most evident in his drama Ceiling Zero, but His Girl Friday takes this up to an almost ridiculous level. Add in the embrace of overlapping dialogue, and you've got one of the fastest talking movies ever made. I watched the first twenty minutes or so with my seven year old son just before his bedtime, and he asked, "How do they talk so fast?" "Practice," was my response.

Adapted from The Front Page co-written by Hawks' former writing partner, Ben Hecht (as well as Charles MacArthur), the screenplay written by Charles Lederer, His Girl Friday tells the story of a two newspapermen and the pending story of the execution of a white man accused of shooting a black police officer. The one major change to Hawks' adaptation is that Hildy Johnson went from a male to a female. Played by Jack Lemmon in Billy Wilder's adaption from 1974, Hildy is played by Rosalind Russell here (never once wearing the dress in the poster above because she's a newspaperman, not a socialite). She's on her way out of the newspaper business, marrying a nice man, Ralph Bellamy's Bruce Baldwin, despite the protestations of her former managing editor and husband, Cary Grant's Walter Burns. He turned her from a young no-nothing into an ace reporter, and he's indignant that she's leaving the business and him. In an amusing reversal from Bringing Up Baby, it's Grant who has a plan from the beginning to win over his female costar.

This story about Earl Williams, the man under threat of execution by the state, is just too good of a story to let by. He was let go from his job of fourteen years as a bookkeeper, spent a quiet evening with a girl he met that day, and then ended up shooting a black police officer. There are questions about his mental state, but Earl Williams' well-being is as important to Walter Burns as Leo's health was to Chuck Tatum in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole. He's a story, and Burns is willing to get the exclusive on Williams' mental state and the end of his fight with the state no matter what it takes. He wants to be able to put up a headline that says that his newspaper, The Morning Post, saved Earl Williams' life, not because it will save a life but because it's just the goal of playing the newspaper game.

And the newspaper game is addictive. Like the manager of a casino, Walter knows that all he has to do is get Hildy back into the game once and she'll be his again. It's not quite that simple, though. Hildy says she wants the normal life being married to an insurance salesman will entail, and she keeps trying to run to him. Walter gets her involved a little bit, she goes as far as the current high of activity will take her, and then she returns to earth, looking for her bag and her way out.

The screwball elements are around the plotting of Walter keeping Hildy around. The promise to buy a large life insurance policy with a certified check, the hood he hires to plant a stolen watch on Bruce, and giving Bruce counterfeit money are all designed to keep Bruce from getting on the train out of town to Albany and, by extension, Hildy. As Bruce deals with all the setbacks that keeps him from the train, Walter distracts Hildy with the next step in finding the story. First is an interview with Earl Williams, where Hildy gains a personal perspective of the man that she wants to highlight in her writeup of the talk. After she tears up the paper to spite Walter for his continued torture of Bruce, she's ready to get out again.

Everything turns around when Williams escapes from his last psychological examination (through the complete and comical ineptitude of the sheriff) and drops into the press room where Hildy has stayed behind as the rest of the newspapermen have gone out to investigate the jailbreak elsewhere. It's another jolt of excitement for her, and she quickly hides him in the desk with the help of the girl Earl had spent the night with, Mollie.

This is where the movie turns somber as Earl Williams' plight comes to the fore for a solid chunk of time. There are still slapstick/screwball elements especially around Williams being inside the desk as things play out around him, but the overall tone is much more tense and serious than one might expect. A man's life being on the line really comes into focus, and I think it's important for how the movie's final moments play out.

The governor of the state had sent a reprieve, and for political reasons the mayor had hidden that. The resolution revolves around Walter and Hildy figuring that out and using it to their advantage to take down a mayor and proclaim The Morning Post heroic. Removing oneself from the delirious fun of the fast moving dialogue and action, the opening text crawl that implies that everything we're about to see is representative of untoward behavior on the part of the press. It's about men (and a woman) who will do anything, say anything, and undermine anything in order to get a story before their competitors. This is the comedic version of Ace in the Hole.

The dialogue is really rapid fire to the point that it's sometimes hard to hear. However, there's never a question about the overall point of conversation. The rapid fire nature of the delivery can make some of the witticisms difficult to discern, but never who wants what and why. This helps turn what probably should have been an hour and forty-five minute film into just over an hour and a half, making the movie feel like its constantly veering ahead, paced really, really quickly, and it's all done without many editing tricks. The movie is largely filmed in long shots that track the actors speaking quickly back and forth, only going into tightly edited moments at particular instances of intense action that use cross-cutting dialogue. This is an approach that I think more modern filmmakers could and should take. It's easier to appreciate the actors the longer we see them, and they get more time to play off of each other directly.

And Grant and Russell play off each other wonderfully well. Encouraged to improvise, the two bounce witty dialogue back and forth in ways that make it obvious how they are both completely toxic for each other, especially Walter for Hildy, but also how they are a perfect match at the same time. It's a relationship that could never last, but they'll keep coming back to each other because they're addicted to the same thing, the newspaper business. They get the same highs and lows from chasing a great story, and any promise for a nice honeymoon at Niagara Falls is always doomed to failure because there will always be a strike to investigate.

This movie is fast and entertaining from beginning to end, but it has a surprising amount of pathos to it centered on Earl Williams. That our main characters are completely unconcerned with him as anything other than a story gives them a nasty veneer that the fast nature of the movie largely glosses over, creating a subtext that adds an interesting layer to the action. On the surface, it's a fast, entertaining bit of newspaper business, but just underneath it's more savage. That, I think, is what really helps this version rise to greatness.
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his girl friday
mossgrymk27 December 2020
Hadn't seen it in awhile and I'd forgotten how dark and misanthropic it is. The mid section, without Cary Grant, and featuring various corrupted Chicago institutions like the press, the penal system, and ward politics, is profoundly cynical. That the viewer tends to think of it more as a screwball rather than a black comedy is due of course to Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur and Charles Lederer's brilliant dialogue, some of the greatest rapid fire wisecrack stuff in Hollywood history, right up there with Sturges and Wilder who also hid their dislike of humanity behind fast patter. Give it an A. PS...Grant is great but it's Roz who carries this film (i.e. She's in far more scenes than he). Best thing she's ever done, in my humble.
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Puerile, Insulting & Dislikeable...
Xstal4 November 2020
Hildy Johnson, a strong, intelligent and ambitious woman who suffers some kind of psychological torment that affects her ability to recognise the walking talking diarrhea that is Walter Burns. Pantomime dialogue, faux slapstick performances, about as funny as a septic colostomy. Out of touch, irrelevant, insulting and out of date.
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Witty dialog, unsympathetic characters, no replay value
mg!29 April 2009
Somewhere between Charlie Chaplin and Richard Pryor, I watched this film in its entirety as part of my college class in study of comedic films. (Not quite a dream class since the essays were difficult) When asked by my professor, I said out loud "I didn't like it." I cared more about the fiancée then all others characters combined. He was treated like dirt and I did not find humor in it. The film does glorify the two main characters and their rude personalities. And that's the point of the film. Their dialog is very witty, though (of course) scripted. In compliment of the film, it did keep my attention. However, I wouldn't want to see it again and with all honesty have more sympathy for characters of The Three Stooges.

Yes, this film is worthy to study use of comedy in film making, especially the history of.
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Not So Quiet on the Western Front... Page...
ElMaruecan8219 August 2018
If Howard Hawks's screwball classic "His Girl Friday" isn't a perfect film, it had at least a perfect role for Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell... and that's the stuff durable greatness is made of.

Indeed, Grant was the epitome of wisecracking charm and his Walter Burns happened to be an obnoxious fellow delivering so many wisecracks that by the time the receiver found the proper repartee, someone was already being verbally crucified.

Rosalind Russell wasn't a star... yet... until she portrayed Burns' ace reporter and ex-wife Hildy Johnson, reliable and relatable 'girl Friday'. These two backgrounds explain why she plays in the same rhetorical league, she's a match to him... even when there's no matching anymore.

But maybe because she's taller than many actresses, she can get above Grant's shoulder high enough not to be totally swollen off by his charismatic despicability. She talks the talks but can walk the walk even if he's gallant enough to hold her the door... but why would a woman calling herself a newspaperman expect gallantry?

At a time where gender talk wasn't such a sensitive subject and this is where the film got tricky, Hildy is engaged to insurance agent Bruce Baldwyn and is determined to become his devoted housewife, to have children and live a peaceful life in Albany, of all the towns... so she expects some gentlemanly behavior from her editor and former husband... might as well expect Hitler to sign a Peace Treaty.

The titular 'Girl Friday' can't wait for her existential 'week-end', torn between her job and her future. The way the film makes these two situations irreconcilable can seem far-fetched but given the way Hildy handles her job, it's hard to imagine the combo. The lady must make up her mind. Meanwhile, Burns gets an opportunity that instantly tilts in his mind "thanks God, it's Friday!".

As usual with screwball comedies, the timing is crucial and when a top reporter is missing and an execution is polarizing opinions because of proclaimed insanity and suspicion of political motivations, someone must cover the news and Hildy happened to be in the right place at the right moment.

For Walter, Hildy's presence is to be exploited even if it means using every bit of his malevolent creativity against the gentle but rather bland Bruce... who looks exactly like Ralph Bellamy, according to Burns (or was it Grant having fun with the script?). Given the mistreatment poor Bruce undergoes, "His Girl Friday" is a tale of Machiavellian ingenuity at the services of one profession: journalism. Basically, the ends justify the means if it means covering the hottest topic of the day (pre-war days but they didn't know).

So Burns uses every trick of his sleeve to prevent Bruce from taking the train and forces Hildy to be on the front... and for the front, fully aware that her professional conscience will finally get the best of her. And there is something in Russell's performance, the way she resists the call of her profession while being fiercely attached to her fiancée that calls for admiration.

Whether she handles the other journalists who pose like vulture-like creatures, indifferent to the pleas of Williams' friend and hungry for any scandal or tip to it, she knows how to adapt her manners, to talk different languages, but that would be too easy with screwball comedy. We noticed from the start that the pace of the dialogue is as quick as if the box office depended on it, yet Hawks gratifies us with scenes where journalists and Burns are all together, sometimes, Bruce and Walter talk to Hildy and on the phone and the rhythm is so fast it sounds like harmonious cacophony.

The film was known for having a dialogue that could be contained in a twice longer film but Hawks insisted on having something natural that could flow simply and easily because people did talk like this in real life. And only for the rapid fire delivery of Russell, I'm glad they didn't take someone else, I can't imagine Katharine Hepburn in that role, Russell had the street smarts, the modern touch, the look, the sexiness... she got the scandal but the only thing she didn't get was an Oscar nomination, and that was a scandal too.

I didn't like the film at first because I have a problem with the schematic aspect of screwball comedies, the two men in love with the same woman and one of them has no chance because the other is Grant, that's why I didn't like "The Philadelphia Story"... but here, Grant is so unlikable you've got to wonder how come he had to get Russell at the end except to show that these two were equally unlikable thus meant to be together, which in that case makes the film modern in its daring anti-family bias.

And the ending doesn't imply that Hildy made the right personal choices, maybe journalists have a way with every non-personal matters but are totally ignorant of the things of life. I recently saw "Sweet Smell of Success" and I guess it's a common trope of Hollywood to depict journalism as a business dealing with cops, politicians, uses of bribes or blackmails and many methods that can only give it a cynical flavor.

Grant could embody these traits without being totally detestable, maybe it's because we try to see them from the eyes of Hildy and we accept that he's not such a bad guy after all. Ironically, when Hildy becomes the newspaper man, she lets the woman takes the upper hand and encourage Burns to show a more comprehensive and gentle side. But Hawks was a smart director, if he was smart enough to know that he could remake "The Front Page" with a gender swap, he could handle his characters as well.

After all, they might be unlikable but they have a likable way to be unlikable, and that's also the stuff durable greatness is made on.
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screwball comedy>>>
ryanvaine12 March 2020
Everybody loves a classic screwball comedy, and His Girl Friday, is one of the best. This film follows the basic structure of a screwball comedy, the girl and boy start off by disliking each other and going through many obstacles; which, eventually lead to them falling for each other. But, don't be fooled, even though this film follows the basic outline of a screwball comedy, this film goes above and beyond and original material and techniques. This film uses Overlapping Dialogue, which adds to the already fast-paced plot and script. Overlapping Dialogue was rare and this film used it in the best, organized way. His Girl Friday does not skip a beat, and has the audience on their toes anticipating what is going to happen next-not to mention keeping the audience laughing the whole time. You would think being so fast-paced would make this film feel messy and too much, but it gives the opposite effect, it keeps the audience engaged and wanting more. The character development is outstanding. Howard Hawks(director) could have not picked a better cast. The chemistry between the two main characters, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, made them the perfect screen pair; everyone was routing for them. Also, Russell's character wasn't the average 1940's women, she was independent, playful, sexual, and one of the "boys." This type of women was not the social norm, and seeing a powerful female lead excited people as well(mostly other women). The plot was original and quirky, the script was well-written and full of humor, and the music matched the energy of the film. Also, Hawks incorporated realistic sound effects throughout the film, which helped increase the quality of this film even more. Visually, the black and white photography was high quality and the camera work used a variety of angles and movement, with short scenes that had smooth transitions. On top of all the excellent effort, the movie had underlying messages through its humor and story line. Even though this film is upbeat and funny, many controversial issues are incorporated and joked about. These issues include: race, corruption, abuse of power(police, city hall), nepotism, politics, dealth penalty, and questions around privacy and freedom of speech. It's hard to believe all these serious issues are apart of the movies story and humor, but is it, and I think Hawks did that for a reason. These underlying messages are intense, he jokes about them, but he shines light on how these issues are apart of every day life and affect many peoples lives.

Overall, out of all the movies I've had to watch for my History of America Cinema class, I enjoyed screwball comedy and His Girl Friday the most. I usually don't like old films, but this movie was hilarious and incorporated love and social issues. I think it is important for famous people to shine light on social issues because they have a large fan base and audience who watches their content and they can make people aware of these problems through entertainment. Sadly, famous people talking about these issues can make people care about these issues when they normally wouldn't care, but since their favorite famous does, they do. Celebrities can do a lot with their platform, so I really like when they give these underlying messages, while still giving the public amazing films, music, television shows, radio shows, books, magazines, etc.
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Has its moments but mostly dull, even irritating
grantss15 April 2017
Walter Burns (Cary Grant) is the editor of The Morning Post. Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) is his star reporter...and his ex-wife. Now she informs that tomorrow she is getting married and that she is quitting the newspaper industry. Burns still carries a torch for her, and would also like her to stay at his newspaper, so he pulls out all the stops in order to prevent her wedding from occurring and to get her back. To complicate matters, Burns is fighting to get the sentence overturned of a man condemned to death, with the sentence due to be carried out tomorrow. It's a race against time on many fronts.

A farce, and not a good one. Largely involves people, and Cary Grant especially, talking/shouting quickly at each other. Gets even worse later in the movie when several people do it simultaneously. Very irritating.

There are one or two good jokes along the way but for the most part the movie is cheap slapstick stuff, and relies on us thinking that talking fast=funny.

Not anywhere near as good as it is made out to be.
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A masterpiece!
hayleygorman-4303321 February 2018
I did not expect this movie to be the way that it was, but I was blown away! A beautiful, hilarious mix of comedy, drama and heart. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell were masters of their craft, with a palpable chemistry between their characters due to their proficiency in acting. The side characters were wonderful as well, enhancing the story without taking focus away from the main players or the plot. The cinematography was excellent, they managed to do so much within the newspaper room, where a majority of the movie takes place but it manages to never make the audience feel like they're stuck there. I didn't expect the drama but I think it very much enhanced the film, adding stakes to what was already a seat-gripping story. This truly elevated the screwball comedy genre and both Cary and Rosalind's career to new heights, delivering a sucker-punch of a performance that leaves you breathless.
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Fast Dialogue only savior for unsympathetic characters
flipboy9237 September 2008
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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about as perfect a film as you can find
planktonrules18 March 2006
This and ARSENIC AND OLD LACE are my two favorite Cary Grant movies. Both are nearly perfect and, for once, I have NO CRITICISMS WHATSOEVER about either film.

Well, HIS GIRL Friday is a remake of the fine film THE FRONT PAGE. However, bucking a general trend, this film is definitely better than the original, as it is jam packed full of energy and snappy dialog. Just listening to the dialog between Grant and Russell is something to behold! I really think if they slowed down the film to normal speed, it would last about 30 minutes longer! But, despite its blistering speed, it works great. Watch and laugh--it just doesn't get much better than this.

By the way, there are several wonderful inside jokes in the film. The first, and the funniest, is when Cary is describing his ex-wife's boyfriend to someone. He's at a loss for how to describe him and finally says that the guy "looks like that actor,...Ralph Bellamy"--and the guy playing the boyfriend IS Bellamy!! Then later, Cary is talking about a guy he knew named "Arichie Leach". Archie Leech is Cary Grant's REAL name! Cute touches like this, combined with the lightning-fast pacing, wonderfully overlapping dialog and general kookiness make this a MUST-SEE. Amazingly enough, Grant's comedies BRINGING UP BABY and ARSENIC AND OLD LACE are even better--if it's possible!!! See them all--you deserve it!!

By the way, IF you can find a decent copy of THE FRONT PAGE (1931), it is well worth seeing and almost as good as HIS GIRL Friday. However, be forewarned that many DVD and videotapes are public domain copies that are unwatchable due to serious volume and print problems.
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ninowalsh7 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
With a 92 minute running time, this film has more than enough dialogue for a 3+ hour film. It's certainly emphasized here that screwball comedies focused on the conflict for women in deciding between love/marriage and professional careers. This film doesn't work for me on many different levels. While I can certainly appreciate extended dialogue, this film is overkill. The dialogue is absolutely blistering. It has many plot swings that are equally as painful, but the biggest reason I simply didn't enjoy this movie was because I just don't care whether or not Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell wind up together, largely because neither character is particularly likable.
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