Wednesday, April 17, 2013

His Girl Friday (1940)

Hold on, folks.

His Girl Friday is a frantic, funny film from Hollywood's Golden Age.

This 1940 release from director Howard Hawks (bringing up baby ) is the second screen version of The Front Page. It's quite the ride for the 92-minute running time. Two, or three, multiple conversations are the norm here. The timing between actors is spot on. Watch for some great scene compositions from Hawks. His actors are placed perfectly in the foreground and background. What a fantastic film to look at - and watch. No wonder it was added to the National Film Registry in 1993.


Reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) returns to Chicago's Morning Post newspaper to bid farewell to editor, and her ex-husband, Walter Burns (Cary Grant). She's met a new better half, Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), who can offer her the good income, and consideration, Burns was too busy to direct her way during their marriage. Talk about a rewrite. Bruce sells insurance. The happy couple plan to marry the next day in Albany, N.Y. They'll spend the first year living with his mother (Alma Kruger). Johnson vows to dedicate the rest of her days to bringing up her children and distance herself from life as a reporter. "I'm through," she vows. "I'm going to live like a human being."

Burns refuses to be scooped in his personal life. He wants his wife back. But he doesn't have much time. Johnson and Baldwin plan to leave town in two hours to head to Albany. Burns has just the hook. A meek bookkeper, Earl Williams (John Qualen), is to be executed the next day for shooting a police officer. Killing him, rather than finding him mentally insane, will get votes for the mayor (Clarence Kolb) and Sheriff Hartwell (Gene Lockhart).


Johnson is suspicious of Burns' supposed interest in Baldwin. But she also knows what a good story the Williams' case is. Johnson agrees to interview the accused killer while Burns keeps trying to muck up her planned marriage with Baldwin. When Williams escapes from jail, the action kicks up a notch as The Morning Post strives to get the exclusive story what happened to the accused killer after his jailbreak.

His Girl Friday is filled with solid laughs, plus occasional realistic glimpses of a reporter's life. A good reporter always wants to get the story first. Some people interviewed by reporters will be upset about how they are portrayed when the newspaper hits the streets. Drastic actions could result.

This is a great film. Watch it.

RATING: 10/10

FUN FACTS: Rosalind Russell was nominated for four Oscars between 1942 and 1958.

Ralph Bellamy's last credit was Pretty Woman in 1990. He died the next year at age 87.

John Qualaen, a native of British Columbia, Canada, also appeared in Casablanca and The Grapes of Wrath. Wow.

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