Newspaper screwball comedy His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, remains one of the funniest comedy films of all time.
The Morning Post editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) learns early on that ex-wife and reporter, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), is set to marry Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). He’s not happy about their eventual move to Albany, N.Y. Naturally, Walter does everything he can to prevent this from happening. Thus, the comedy hijinks ensue.
Reluctantly, Hildy covers one last case for the paper. In this case, it’s the execution of convicted murderer Earl Williams (John Qualen). There may be more here than meets the eye. Anyway, it takes a while to convince Hildy but Walter is finally able to accomplish the job. While Hildy secures an interview with Earl, Walter does everything he can to sabotage Bruce. At some point, you can’t help but wonder if maybe Walter happens to still have feelings for his ex-wife. Nobody would go through all of this if there weren’t any feelings there. Regardless, Hildy is insistent on getting on that train to marry Bruce in Albany.
Both Sheriff Hartwell (Gene Lockhart) and the mayor (Clarence Kolb) reek of corruption. It doesn’t matter when Joe Pettibone (Billy Gilbert) stops by with a reprieve for the execution. These two will do anything to secure votes to the point in which they’re perfectly willing to look the other way. As luck has it, Pettibone stops by the press room at the very moment neither one would prefer him to be there. A happy ending for Walter and Hildy, indeed! Aside from the whole part where it’s clearly not going to work out with Bruce much to Hildy’s dismay.
One of the things that I love about Hildy Johnson is that she’s a strong female character. In spite of this, there are some signs of her weakness. One instance comes at the end of the film when she’s sobbing because she thought Walter would just let her go without as much of a fight. It turns out that Walter had his own means to an end by sabotaging Bruce as much as possible.
His Girl Friday is certainly in the mix when we talk about the greatest comedies of all-time. It’s really a classic for the ages–aided by the fast-talking repartee of stars Grant and Russell. I’m not too fond of remakes for the sake of remaking a film. The first film to be adapted from the 1928 stage play would come out in 1931. This film would be released some nine years later. The big difference here is that Holdy is a woman, not a man. I’m not complaining because as screwball comedies go, this film and Bringing Up Baby are among the very definition of the genre. They certainly don’t make films like they used to!
His Girl Friday is screwball comedy but most of the focus is in the newspaper world. The romance angle seems to be less than what we see in contemporary romantic comedies.
His Girl Friday is a film that has everything going for it–which certainly explains why it holds up so well.
DIRECTOR: Howard Hawks
SCREENWRITER: Charles Lederer
CAST: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart