His Girl Friday

  • Title:  His Girl Friday
  • Director:  Howard Hawks
  • Date:  1940
  • Studio:  Columbia Pictures
  • Genre:  Comedy, Romance
  • Cast:  Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
  • Format:  Standard, Black and White
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“There’s nobody else on The Paper who can write!”  — Walter Burns

“All they’ve been doing is lying, all they’ve been doing is writing lies, Why don’t they listen to me?”  — Molly

“There are 365 days in a year one can get married, How many times – you got a murderer locked up in a desk?”  — Walter

His Girl Friday” is based on the play, “The Front Page“, but whereas in the original play the reporter was a man – in this version, he’s a she, — and therein lies the fun.  Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) goes to her old stomping grounds, the Morning Post, to officially resign and tell her ex-husband, Walter, that she’s going to get married again, to an insurance salesman named Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy).  Walter, still in love with Hildy, but even more, in need of her talent as a writer, does everything he can to stop this, including get poor Bruce thrown in jail three times.

Meanwhile, a convicted murderer is going to be hanged the next day.  Walter and his paper have maintained the man’s innocence, and tried to get a reprieve for him.  Walter manages to get Hildy to go and interview the condemned man.  Hildy does, and when she’s out of the room one of the other hardened “newspapermen” read her story and remark on the quality of the writing.  But Hildy, angered at yet another of Walter’s jokes on Bruce, rips up the story.  She swears, yet again, to quit.  Then Earl Williams, the convicted man, escapes.  Hildy, like all the other reporters, starts covering the story, and really gets caught up in it when first Williams, then his girlfriend, Molly, show up in the press room.  Hildy calls Walter over to the courthouse, and they are trying to decide what to do.  The sheriff, police, and mayor show up.  Williams is found in the roll-top desk, Hildy and Walter are arrested.  Then a process-server arrives from the governor — for the second time that night he tries to deliver the governor’s reprieve for the convicted man.  Hildy and Walter are freed.  Walter convinces Hildy to marry him.  Hildy also realizes that she is:  “a newspaperman”;  as the story has fired her blood, and the dream of marriage to a dull insurance salesman and a boring life in Albany is just that – a pipe dream, not her at all.

His Girl Friday” is a great film — it’s funny, and the main plot of a manhunt for a escaped felon is still relevant today.  The film is known for it’s incredibly fast, overlapping dialog, which it does have, and it definitely adds to the warp drive feel of the film.  Grant and Russell have great chemistry together, and the audience knows from their first scene together that Hildy belongs with Walter – not plain vanilla Bruce. But the film is also interesting in that it’s very much a woman’s liberation film.  Hildy, a woman, is successfully making her way in a career that is still, seventy years later, traditionally held by men, thus the use of the term “newspaperman” throughout the film rather than reporter or journalist, though those terms pop-up as well.  And though Hildy talks about giving up her career for marriage, family, children, etc — in the end she chooses something very novel for the 1940s – to have both, her career, and her marriage.  Because Walter would expect her to work right alongside him, just as she had done before, and Hildy’s realized that what she really wants is to have both.

It should be noted that the popular 1980s romantic detective series, Moonlighting and Remington Steele, were referencing “His Girl Friday” in particular, with their use of fast paced, over-lapping dialog, and both a strong man and a strong woman in a adversarial romantic comedy.  That is, Hildy, wasn’t exactly going to sit around and wait for “her prince” to come to her — or even to go out searching for a man, but she was capable of  being happy with both a man who loved her and a career.

Recommendation:  See it!  You simply must!
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Raiders of  the Lost Ark (Indiana Jones)