06 Jul Review – His Girl Friday

FlixFling contributor, Jordana Lipsitz reviews His Girl Friday

His Girl Friday (1940) is one of those movies that make me wish I had been born in the 30s and been able to watch all those sort of screwball  comedies with fast-paced talking, beautiful (but not too skinny) actors, and just a touch of the ridiculous right when they came out. Then I remember the rampant sexism and racism of those times and I change my mind.  However, His Girl Friday has that ability to make you forget all the nasty bits for 92 minutes.

The film focuses on the relationship of ex-spouses Walter Burns (Cary Grant) and Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) with the cutthroat nature of the newspaper business in the background.  Johnson walks into Burns’, a newspaper editor’s, office and announces that she is done with the newspaper business and is getting married.  She is going to head off to Albany the next day with her fiancé Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy) and become a “real woman” who has babies and keeps house.  Burns spends the entire movie which spans one day trying to swindle Hildy into re-entering his world and staying for good.

Though His Girl Friday is ridiculous and zany, it does take a pretty serious look at the corrupt nature of the media and government.  The big story of the day is about the hanging of a mousey man named Earl Williams (John Qualen) who shot a police officer.  Though it is clear Earl was suffering from some form of temporary insanity when he shot the cop, the mayor is willing to let him die because an election is coming up and he wants to please the people.  Meanwhile, the newspapermen are willing to twist the story anyway that will sell more papers going as far as to ask to move up the hour of the execution for the 7 am paper.

Cary Grant’s character, Mr. Walter Burns, is that sort of handsome but mischievous man we love to see in movies. We don’t really know what’s next up his sleeve whether it is faking his employee’s pregnancy, kidnapping an old (annoying) lady, or giving Hildy counterfeit money.   Grant (as usual) does it flawlessly.  Though his actions were unfair, I couldn’t help but cheer him on.  And that’s only 35% because I’ve always wanted to mouthkiss Cary Grant.

I may never be able to go back in time and watch movies like His Girl Friday when they first came out, but at least I can enjoy them in their digitally re-mastered versions. This sort of silliness should be around for years to come. It’s a clean fun that you just don’t see in comedies anymore.