A Movie Classic Starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell
“His Girl Friday” is a classic movie filmed in the 1940, that at heart is really an examination of the relationship between professionals who at one time were married — but still remain a boss-and-employee pair — we find both Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell giving virtuoso performances. Directed by Howard Hawks, “His Girl Friday,” is the story of Hildy Johnson (played to fierce effect by Russell) and Walter Burns, whose hysterical determination to prevent the remarriage of his former wife and long-time ace reporter, is depicted masterfully in an Oscar-worthy performance by the normally ultra-cool and ultra-suave Cary Grant.
His Girl Friday is one of a number of movies that can trace their roots back to The Front Page, a 1928 stage by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Most went on to become movie classics in their own right (and some didn’t, of course) because of the basic comedic themes running throughout the basic plot.
In His Girl Friday, the comedy centers around the efforts undertaken by hard-driving newspaper editor Walter Burns to prevent his best reporter (and ex-wife, coincidentally) from getting remarried. Burns, at first, isn’t so much against the idea of Rosalind Russell’s Hildy Johnson remarrying because he believes he still harbors any romantic feelings himself for her; instead, he’s just selfish. Selfish because he wants to ensure Hildy’s continued presence at his paper, considering she’s the best reporter around, and her writing sells lots of newspapers. In announcing her engagement, she tells Burns of her plans to leave the paper to move to Albany with her soon-to-be husband. Cary Grant’s Walter character uses every gag in the book to keep her from leaving, including tricking her into taking one, final assignment; getting a jailhouse interview with a quaking little nerd of a prisoner who’d been convicted of killing a cop and is soon to be executed for his deed. Great performances abound, including the ensemble cast assembled to play various fellow reporters, and also the hapless prisoner himself (John Qualen). As far as classic movies go, this is one of the best.
The rapid fire speech patterns and clipped tones used by the actors evoke perfectly how we think people back in those days talked to one another, and the camera work, which ably spread the focus among the primary and secondary members of the cast to great effect, is top-notch. One can’t help but laugh endlessly at the zany, breakneck speed with which Grant and Russell play off each other, and the ending is as satisfying as it is expected. Critics widely hail His Girl Friday as one of the best dialogue-driven comedies of all time, and it’s well-worth the price of a purchase or rental.