Movie of the Week: His Girl Friday (1940)

Howards Hawks directs Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy in this screwball comedy where a newspaper editor connives to win back his ex wife and star reporter on the eve of her second marriage.

The fastest talking movie ever made. The patter is witty and unmerciful. You’d probably need to watch it three times in a row to catch all the gags. The costumes are stunning (check out Russell’s chevron patterned travelling suit!) and Hawks throws a lot of balls, red herrings and salt in the air. Now, not all of it lands, or is given a chance to hit its mark… that script is purposefully too busy, on the right side of chaotic. This is probably the least romantic romantic comedy to be considered a classic. Russell and Grant have to get together as Grant is a savvier, sexier, suavest star than Ralph Bellamy. Not because he is kinder, more loving or even a better match. Blunt Hollywood politics, his Walter will continue to be a terrible husband but he has the better tan and zingers so he wins the girl. That lovey dovey stuff is muted though precisely as it is secondary. Russell’s immaculate Hildy Johnson is the best at what she does, simple as. The most natural reporter to all the men around her. She can coach a condemned man into a better defence during one brief interview, smell out the truth in another journo’s hack job, rat-a-tat those words out like she was typing Pulitzer prose with her lips. Cary Grant doesn’t seduce her. Her job does, her purpose does, her superiority does. Grant’s trickster ex is just the Cupid who makes her fall back in love with it again. In His Girl Friday, the true victory is a lady lead wins back her career… the headlining man on her arm at the finish is a bonus prize. Progressive for a 1940s movie, progressive even for now.


My Top Ten Romantic Comedies

1. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
2. Say Anything… (1989)

3. The Quiet Man (1952)
4. Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
5. It Happened One Night (1935)
6. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
7. Jules Et Jim (1962)
8. Groundhog Day (1992)
9. The Apartment (1960)

10. Amelie (2001)

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