Monday Night Movie: His Girl Friday
This weekend, I watched and enjoyed His Girl Friday. I thought it would be fun to share it with you all. You’ll find the trailer, the full movie, and some comentary below. I will warn you that the trailer has a few light spoilers (but they are spoilers from the play, which is 90 years old, and with which it is assumed audiences would already be familiar when watching this film.)
His Girl Friday is a 1940 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, from an adaptation by Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur of the play The Front Page by Hecht and MacArthur. This was the second time the play had been adapted for the screen, the first occasion being the 1931 film also called The Front Page. The major change in this version, introduced by Hawks, is that the role of Hildy Johnson is a woman.
The film stars Cary Grant as Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson and features Ralph Bellamy as Bruce Baldwin.
The film was #19 on American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Laughs and has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Due to a failure to renew the copyright registration, the film entered the public domain in the United States in 1968, but it remains copyrighted in France. The 1928 play it is based on remains under copyright in the United States until 2024.
I liked this movie. I loved Rosalind Russell’s fast talking, street smart Hildy. I was surprised by Carry Grant’s slimeball of a Newspaper owner. The movie was fast paced, fun, and demonstrated the power that journalists once wielded.
The movie was also, it must be said, more than a little sexist. Hildy is portrayed both as a tough talking, wise cracking, street smart, best in the business reporter and as an object of desire and a macguffin to drive the plot forward.
In the original play, and the earlier version of this film, Hildy was a man and the marriage subplot wasn’t there. I can’t imagine this version being as enjoyable or believable, and I appreciate Rosalind Russell’s inclusion in the film, even while I object to some of the ways that Cary Grant’s character interacts with her.
Here’s the full movie:
The original film (The Front Page) is also available from Archive.org. I haven’t seen it yet, but I imagine it will suffer in comparison to His Girl Friday.