His Girl Friday (1940)

Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Charles Lederer

Will Most Likely Contain Spoilers

A change of gears for this marathon, His Girl Friday is not only a much older film than the others thus far, but it is more conventional. Toy Story 2 and My Neighbor Totoro were animated, and Amelie was fantastical. This film on the other hand is about two newspaper “men” and their relationship with the story, and with each other. Now I know what screwball comedy means, and I think I like it. The proceedings, while touching on serious and sometimes very plot driven, was a little ridiculous. The acting, the dialogue; there were laughs to be sure.

The story begins with a 15 minute scene where we learn that a newspaper editor’s ex-wife is going to remarry and will no longer be working for the Post. From there Walter Burns (Cary Grant), the newspaper editor, tries to win back Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) in only the way a newspaper man could. He uses the story of Earl Williams, a man who shot a police officer, as a backdrop and a reason for keeping Hildy in town to cover it for one more story before she goes off to Albany with her new husband Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). When the story falls right into Hildy’s lap, she remember how much she loves being a reporter and how much she loves Walter. It is a romantic comedy of the strangest proportions.

There are multiple scenes here that are set up so well and I found it mostly to the credit of Cary Grant. In the first scene I was taken back by his delivery, finding it to be oddly hammy, but then it just hit me, it was perfect. That was his character and the style the film was going for and it ended up be hilarious. For instance, the scene where Walter meets Bruce for the first time. He mistakes an elderly man for Bruce, clearly intentional, and ignores the real Bruce. Then, when trying to find a way of keeping Hildy in town, he calls his office to see how they could stop the train. The person on the other line jokingly says that they could dynamite it and without missing a beat Grant fires back a hopeful, “Could we?” before realizing they could not. And probably my favorite thing in the whole film, when describing Bruce to a woman to be used to frame him, Walter Burns says that he looks like the movie star Ralph Bellamy! Ralph Bellamy plays Bruce Baldwin!

Cary Grant was clearly the best thing about the film and I found myself waiting for him to get back on screen when he was not, but Rosalind Russell was good too. She had a good sense of humor and played well off of Grant as they had pretty good chemistry. Bellamy played the helpless fiance very well too. Overall I had a lot of fun with this film. I was never blown away, though I did love Cary Grant a lot, but definitely worthy of this marathon and a good addition to the list of films that make me happy. Now it all leads up to this. One more film to go. The ever so beloved Singin’ in the Rain!

***1/2 – Great

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