His Girl Friday, 1940.
Directed by Howard Hawks.
Starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, John Qualen, Helen Mack, and Alma Kruger.
A hard-boiled newspaper editor attempts to rekindle his ex-wife’s – and ex-star reporter’s – love for both himself and the world of newspaper journalism.
His Girl Friday marks something of a turning point in the movies. Howard Hawks’s adaptation of a play (Hold the Front Page) exploring the dynamic world of newspaper journalism took the genius idea of changing the gender of the originally male ace-reporter character and transforming him into Rosalind Russell’s vivacious Hildy Johnson. Her portrayal of a smart and determined journalist trading razor-sharp quips and put-downs with her charismatic ex-boss and ex-husband Walter Burns (Cary Grant) is a truly wonderful creation, bringing a whole new dimension to fast-talking character driven screwball comedy.
Hoping to draw Johnson back into the non-stop life of the newsroom, Burns offers her the chance of a dramatic scoop of a much-talked about execution. At the same time, he also attempts to create doubts in her mind about her upcoming marriage to the reliable but dour insurance man Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). Johnson, displaying an insider’s knowledge of exactly how Burns’s mind works, gives as good as she gets, with a blistering display of rapid-fire argument and counter-argument. The mixture of the dramatic tension and drive of the newsroom is brilliantly balanced with honest , wry and often scathing give and take verbal exchanges, providing an absolute dramatic comedy standout in classic Hollywood.
The new Blu-ray release from Criterion lovingly restores the movie to its full glory, with a massive selection of extras to further highlight the timelessness and overriding appeal of His Girl Friday.
- New high-definition digital restoration of His Girl Friday, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New 4K digital restoration of The Front Page, made from a recently discovered print of director Lewis Milestone’s preferred version, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- New interview with film scholar David Bordwell about His Girl Friday
- Archival interviews with His Girl Friday director Howard Hawks
- Featurettes from 1999 and 2006 about Hawks, actor Rosalind Russell, and the making of His Girl Friday
- Radio adaptation of His Girl Friday from 1940
- New piece about the restoration of The Front Page
- New piece about playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht
- Radio adaptations of the play The Front Page from 1937 and 1946
- His Girl Friday trailers
- Plus: An insert featuring essays on His Girl Friday and The Front Page by film critics Farran Smith Nehme and Michael Sragow
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.