mon 17/06/2024

DVD: His Girl Friday | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: His Girl Friday

DVD: His Girl Friday

Screwball comedy with an intelligent slant remains daisy-fresh

The sexes battle it out in fine style in 'His Girl Friday': Cary Grant as Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson

His Girl Friday is funny. Very, very funny. It is also crammed with cutting verbiage as sharply delivered as the moves of a complex pas de deux. Yet another no-frills appearance of the 1940 film on home video is not a surprise as – despite being a Hollywood product – it fell out of copyright and has been just-about endlessly reissued. Nonetheless, anyone looking to enjoy a laugh riot with an intelligent slant should seek it out.

Despite being over 60 years old, this screwball comedy still feels daisy-fresh.

The plot of this dazzlingly fast-moving film is as wafer-thin as that of a farce or a vaudeville caper. Cary Grant’s Walter Burns is a newspaper editor trying to keep on the sweet side of his ex-wife Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) so she keeps delivering stories. Learning of her plan to marry square-peg, bland-out Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy) and take on the sedate life of a mother, Burns does all he can to divert her from this ambition while assorted oddball characters and absurd set pieces help him on his way. The slender scenario drew from a play where Russell’s character was originally male.

With such a banal foundation, His Girl Friday succeeded due to its terrifically assured direction and the interaction between its characters. The third of a series of three-in-row Howard Hawks directed as vehicles for Cary Grant, it followed Bringing up Baby (1938) and Only Angels Have Wings (1939). Kathrine Hepburn, Grant’s foil in Bringing up Baby, turned down the role of the speed-talking Johnson while Russell was keen to take it on as it would help her stop being typecast as a sophisticate. The on-screen chemistry between her and Grant is obvious, and both are magnetic. Not only was the film a commercial success, but Grant set Russell up with her future husband during the filming.

Presumably, she did not take any of Johnson’s choice descriptions of Burns into real-life matrimony. To her, in the film, he was a “big bubble-headed baboon” and a “double-crossing chimpanzee”, but “wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way”. And the latter is what His Girl Friday is. But without the loathsome.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for His Girl Friday



Anyone looking to enjoy a laugh riot with an intelligent slant should seek 'His Girl Friday' out


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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