211 - His Girl Friday (1940)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
Now that I've finally got around to re-watching His Girl Friday, I can finally say that I'm back to where I was in September when I originally watched it, promptly forgot to review it and ended up getting distracted by something shiny.

Actually, when I first watched His Girl Friday I didn't really think much of it. I couldn't get my head around the story because of the speedy dialogue, and for that reason I'm glad I got a second viewing. So, firing up the DVD on Sunday night I watched with wonderment at how much I actually understood this time around.

Walter (Cary Grant) is a big shot editor in charge of the The Morning Post, and when he learns that his star reporter and ex-wife, Hildy (Rosalind Russell), is leaving to get married, he pulls out every trick in the book to keep her around. When a story about a condemned man that the Post has been following develops, Walter puts Hildy straight to work.

In truth, His Girl Friday is relentless. It is not a film where you can switch off and admire the butterflies outside the window because it demands your attention from beginning to end. It never stops to laugh at its own jokes like many modern comedies - it expects you to be on the boil and listening carefully to the catchy dialogue awaiting each tidbit of screwball humour. If you can keep your concentration against the barrage, then you will find yourself spluttering with laughter.

Walter wondered whether to tell Hildy that
stripes should only go in one direction
Grant has a clever comic timing. It looks as though he is just simply reading a script in such a way that he brushes over many of his lines, never really allowing himself to smile. Some might say that this is terrible acting, but he knows that his character is - underneath the sly, cunning exterior - a desperate man who will do anything to keep the love of his life and keep his star reporter working there too. One wonders if Hildy was only ever Walter's wife to keep her at the paper.

While Grant may be the star of the show, I can't help but think that his role would be nothing without Rosalind Russell. As Grant is granted a seemingly infinite licence to read the lines how he pleases, it is often Russell's sharp response that receives the laughs of those that missed the joke the first time around.

As the story reaches its crescendo of farce, which sees Walter measuring both the height of a window and a desk using just his arms while Hildy desperately attempts to prevent her future mother in law from being incarcerated (yes, it really is that potty), it fortunately never tips into being unbelievably ridiculous. This is thanks in the most part to some clever directing from Howard Hawks who gives the film just enough slack, before reining it back in for the final act.

All in all, His Girl Friday is basically anything you could ask for from a screwball comedy. Dastardly hilarious, devilishly devious and down right funny.


  1. I wonder how much I missed watching this film for the first time today. The cast is fantastic, from the leads to the supporting players. His Girl Friday is a very funny movie. I agree about Rosalind Russell. She's a strong force in this film.


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