Friday, March 4, 2011

His Girl Friday

His Girl Friday is a screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks, starring Cary Grant, and relying heavily on super-rapid witty dialogue to get by, all aspects it shares with Bringing Up Baby. I didn't like it quite as much as that movie, mostly because the romantic aspect feels tacked on (which it was, the original story was about two men) and less natural, with almost all of the focus on the wacky journalism caper that drives the plot. Rosalind Russell's Hildy Johnson wants to quit the newspaper life and live quietly with her new husband in Albany, but her editor and ex-husband Walter Burns, played by Grant, wants to keep her on the payroll and in his personal life. So he concocts a number of schemes to keep her in the city and reporting on the impending execution of a convicted felon, making him look like kind of a dick, but before long she can't help herself and becomes involved in the story anyway.

What follows is a series of madcap hijinks as the two leads and the surrounding supporting cast try to undermine and out-scoop each other as they try to get to the bottom of the story and get what they want out of the situation. Hawks juggles a lot of elements pretty deftly, keeping the action frantic without things ever getting too confusing, and somehow turning what could have been a pretty dark story about crime and corruption into something that was a heck of a lot of fun. Cary Grant is great as he usually is, though I thought Russell was the real standout, usually at the center of the action and nailing every mile-a-minute monologue that gets thrown at her. The filmwork and editing feel pretty old fashioned, but the story and action keep the movie feeling pretty timeless otherwise. Damn if Hawks didn't know how to make movies.

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