HIS GIRL FRIDAY—-madcap classic, venerated by critics and film students, notable as the flick wherein director Howard Hawks perfected his innovative overlapping dialogue, a slick trick that made the flow faster and less theatrical.
A 1940 remake of 1931’s The Front Page (later remade again with that title in 1974, and a fourth time in 1988 as Switching Channels), this light-speed, razor-edged comedy concerns a news-gal about to flee the frantic, merciless world of reporting to marry a simple, small-town fella. Her editor (who is also her ex-hubby) finagles her into working on a last-minute human interest story and the movie melds around all the conniving, cheating and hoodwinking that he and their cronies concoct.
For many viewers of today, it’s just too much, too fast; the pace and volume of all the yakking are occasionally enough to rattle your teeth. The actors sometimes speak at a rate that reaches 240 words a minute. Roll with the frantic, however, and movie lovers with a sense of period and some grasp of styles will find much to revel in. For the aspiring smart-ass, this script provides a ton of ammo–it’s a wise-cracker’s paradise.
If the headlong rush to be snappy isn’t as fresh as it once was, nothing can be taken from the cast: they’re all hot. This is Cary Grant at his ripest, every move and inflection nearly film folklore—the only thing missing is ‘Judy,Judy,Judy’ (which he never said). Rosalind Russell more than rivals his energy, evoking the brash and sassy Big City Dame concept nigh on to perfection. She should have been nominated for Best Actress, and the astute Danny Peary, in his great book “Alternate Oscars” makes a strong case that she should have won (Ginger Rogers took it for Kitty Foyle). Her characterization has also been noted as a flag-waver for feminism, as the positive and uncompromising ‘Hildy’ can out-think, out-write and out-talk any of the men in the room, all while smoking a cigarette with elan and looking sharp as a tack. *
Ralph Bellamy as the naive fiancee, Abner Biberman as a hood, Billy Gilbert as a befuddled messenger and John Qualen as the victim-of-the-decade are all just great, ditto the batch of sturdies who play various reporters and officials.
Script by Charles Lederer (and the uncredited Morrie Ryskind), off the play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Zooms by at 92 minutes, with Gene Lockhart, Porter Hall, Ernest Treux, Cliff Edwards, Clarence Kolb, Roscoe Karns and Regis Toomey. It made around $5,000,000.
- *Russell got the role after it was turned down by Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Irene Dunne, Margaret Sullavan and Jean Arthur. For Grant it was three homers out of four ups for the year, the failure of period drama The Howards Of Virginia forgotten in the comic wake of this, My Favorite Wife and The Philadelphia Story. Those gems joined the ranks of a sensational year for comedy, with The Shop Around The Corner, The Great McGinty, The Bank Dick, The Ghost Breakers, My Little Chickadee, Road To Singapore,One Night In The Tropics and The Great Dictator.