Friday, 22 March 2013

His Girl Friday


HIS GIRL FRIDAY (BLACK AND WHITE, 1940)

Director
Howard Hawks

Cast
Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart, Cliff Edwards, Porter Hall, Helen Mack and John Qualen

Ages
10 and up

Plot
‘Hildy’ Hildegard Johnson (Russell) was once married to Chicago newspaper editor Walter Burns (Grant), who was her boss. One day, however, she tells Walter she is retiring from the newspaper business to marry a good-hearted insurance man Bruce Baldwin (Bellamy). Burns, however, wants Hildegard to report on murderer Earl Williams (Qualen) first. Hildegard is reluctant, and Burns tries all means to get Bruce into lots of trouble, winning Hildegard’s heart in the process.

Still of (from left): Ralph Bellamy, Cary Grant, and Rosalind Russell
Why it’s good
It is probably the most speedy screwball comedy of all time. The script was completely made to overlap each other’s rapid-fire dialogue, especially with those cronies in the background set against the dramatic case of John Qualen, the murderer.

John Qualen isn't really important, and solely communicates with Rosalind Russell’s Hildegard and Sheriff Peter B. Hartwell (played by Gene Lockhart from "Miracle on 34th Street"), and the B stands for ‘Brains’ or was it ‘Bull’?            

The answer is both, since the cronies call him the latter and Johnson the former as she says,"Peter B. Hartwell. B for Brains.”

The sheriff also isn't that important, even though the election is. It was based on a play by Ben Hecht, and it was adapted once before, but was a flop. So the light bulbs to make a good picture were a) use a new technique with rapid and overlapping dialogue and b) change the gender of one of the characters (which was Rosalind Russell’s).

So, in short, it is the battle of the sexes.  Watch this movie for its rapid-fire dialogue.  It will blow you away, being twice the speed of our normal speech.

Parent’s guide
Cary Grant takes off his shirt in one scene for a medical check-up. Earl Williams’ girlfriend jumps off a building to her near death. Rosalind Russell jumps onto Gene Lockhart’s back and he falls onto the ground. 

Trivia
Five actresses, including Ginger Rogers, were asked to play Hildegard Johnson. Ginger Rogers declined, but when Cary Grant was cast as Walter Burns, she came to regret her decision.

If you like this…: 
"The Front Page" (1974) with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau follows the play more closely without changing the gender. Directed by Billy Wilder, who also wrote the screenplay.                            

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