His Girl Friday (1940)

His Girl Friday (1940), produced and directed by Howard Hawks.

Ace reporter Hildy Johnson strives to get away for her marriage and honeymoon, but her crafty publisher (and ex-husband) plots to keep her single and at work on a death row story.

This is a condensed remake of The Front Page (1931) and entirely derivative of it, but adds the genius element of turning it into a screwball comedy with Hildy now a woman.

It is a good vehicle for Hawks' usual rapid-fire witty patter and rich collection of characters where -- as always -- we don't know their backgrounds but are convinced they have them.

Great cast, with rascally Cary Grant pulling the same stunts on aw-shucks-nice-guy Ralph Bellamy as he did in The Awful Truth (1937), but it is really a Rosalind Russell showcase. Her frantic entanglement with the telephones (each requiring two hands in the those days), and her quiet, serious time with the condemned man: all very fine. She's tougher than her beau, which is always good for a laugh.

A nice touch: her dawning realization that she is where she belongs, that she doesn't want to leave the newspaper or her ex-husband.

Some bits from the earlier film and play fly by quickly:

Turning down the role of Hildy: Jean Arthur, Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Ginger Rogers, Claudette Colbert and Irene Dunne. I'm not sure why: the play and earlier film were well-regarded and Hawks a successful director.

The film is in the public domain and the poor DVDs could use an upgrade. The whites on my Alpha Video copy are often blown out.

Later: available on Blu-ray from Criterion, a vast improvement over my old DVD:


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