CAROLE LOMBARD - My Favorite Actress

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CMBA Comedy Classics Blogathon: His Girl Friday (1940)

I saw it for the first time when I was 12 years old and it immediately struck me as the best movie I had seen in my young life at the time. It would keep with me over the years and stay as my favorite movie, withstanding the new releases with all their hi tech fancy stuff like the Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones, and others. For me, there is nothing better than His Girl Friday and watching Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell play off each other.

Cary Grant is never better as newspaper editor Walter Burns, who is about to lose his ace reporter and ex-wife Hildy Johnson (a superb performance by Rosalind Russell) to marriage to an insurance man (Ralph Bellamy). Just so happens a major news story breaks as convicted murderer Earl Williams, who is about to be put to death, escapes from custody. Walter convinces Hildy to take this last job assignment and he will sign a nice big check for an insurance policy for the soon to be wed couple. During her investigation, Hildy manages to track down Williams and tries to keep him safe from the police and the mayor. A wonderful mix of comedy and some drama make this my all time favorite film. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell make a terrific dream team. The one liners fly fast and furious, expertly handled by the entire cast. Great direction by the legendary Howard Hawks.

You couldn't ask for a better screwball film. I have probably seen His Girl Friday like 40 some times and it is still fresh and funny the 40th time as it was the first time. One of the films that even if you own it, you will stop whatever you doing to watch it when it airs on TV. I know I do. Turn off my cell phone, don't want to be disturbed by anyone or anything. It's that great of a film.

A sampling of the fast paced dialogue that has amazed me for all these many years:

Walter Burns: Sorta wish you hadn't done that, Hildy.
Hildy Johnson: Done what?
Walter Burns: Divorced me. Makes a fella lose all faith in himself. Gives him a... almost gives him a feeling he wasn't wanted.
Hildy Johnson: Oh, now look, junior... that's what divorces are FOR!

Wilson, reporter: Any dope on how he escaped?
McCue, reporter: Maybe the sheriff let him out so Williams could vote for him.

Hildy Johnson: [speaking to Walter on the phone] Now, get this, you double-crossing chimpanzee: There ain't going to be any interview and there ain't going to be any story. And that certified check of yours is leaving with me in twenty minutes. I wouldn't cover the burning of Rome for you if they were just lighting it up. If I ever lay my two eyes on you again, I'm gonna walk right up to you and hammer on that monkeyed skull of yours 'til it rings like a Chinese gong!

Louis: What's the matter, Hildy?
Hildy Johnson: Don't give me that innocent stuff! What did you pull on Mr. Baldwin THIS time?
Louis: Who, me?
Hildy Johnson: Yes, you and that albino of yours!
Louis: You talkin' about Evangeline?
Hildy Johnson: None other
Louis: She ain't no albino.
Hildy Johnson: She'll do 'till one comes along!
Louis: She was born right here in this country!

So to wrap this blog up let me just say that His Girl Friday is THE movie for me. Cary Grant's other classic movie, Bringing Up Baby is a close second, but His Girl Friday holds that special place in my heart. To all classic movie lovers out there, if by some small chance you have never seen this movie, take time to watch it somewhere, somehow and I promise you will not regret it.

This post is part of the Comedy Classics Blogathon sponsored by the Classic Movie Blog Association. The event runs January 22-27. For a complete list of participants and to learn more,
click here: Classic Movie Blog Association


FlickChick said...

Couldn't agree more, Monty! Now, I love Cary grant - he is just perfection here (there and everywhere), but Roz Russell is amazing 9not to mention her clothes). She is the working gal I always wanted to be. Perfect choice, Monty and a perfect entry!

Caftan Woman said...

"His Girl Friday" is sheer perfection. It's laugh-out-loud funny and makes you think. Not many films can boast that combination, nor the great cast. It starts with the script and Hecht and MacArthur's "The Front Page" rings as true for people today as when it was first written.

My, you have excellent taste in movies!

KimWilson said...

Monty, I'm a big fan of His Girl Friday, but I have to admit there is something that I hate about it--that suit Hildy wears just drives me crazy! Nice pick for the blogathon.

whistlingypsy said...

Monty ~ I think it is fair to say this blogathon is about reminiscing over an old favorite and discovering a new gem. I can only echo the praise for Cary Grant, who still fascinates me for his blend of extraordinary good looks and his fearlessness in letting himself look like a fool. Rosalind Russell was pure comic intuition, and whether we’re talking about her role in “The Women” or “Auntie Mame,” she always brought something endearing to her eccentric characters. I also think is it interesting watching Grant in “Bringing Up Baby” and “His Girl Friday” how complimentary his characterizations are for two very different actresses; he just seemed to know instinctively how to work with both Kate and Roz to make the film hilarious.

Dawn said...

This is a very charming/funny film. Cary Grant is, of course better than ever, and I've never seen Rosalind Russel in a role that "suited" her more perfectly. ;) The supporting actors, down to the bit-players, are all perfect in this film.

Rick29 said...

Monty, I loved the dialogue exchanges you included! Cary Grant is near-perfect in almost all his comedies. However, Rosalind Russell is hit-or-miss for me. HIS GIRL FRIDAY is definitely a hit. In fact, I think it's probably Roz's best performance. You picked a true comedy gem.

Classicfilmboy said...

This film still influences, especially when you see rapid-fire line delivery. Roz and Cary mastered that with such ease. Great choice!

R. D. Finch said...

Monty, you picked one of the all-time classic screwball comedies for the Classic Comedy Blogathon. I've never encountered anyone who didn't find it hilarious. Just about every major comedy actress in Hollywood turned it down before it was offered to Russell. I can't think of another actress of the time (except maybe Carole Lombard, one of those who passed on it) who could have captured that "one of the boys" feeling of Hildy as well as Russell. And who but Cary Grant could have made such a cynical heel as Walter Burns so likable? By the way, I saw the original "The Front Page" a year or so ago and also found it hilarious.

DorianTB said...

Monty, as a fan of Howard Hawks, Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant, and screwball comedy, I must confess that HIS GIRL FRIDAY is another one of those films that I keep catching smack in the middle of the movie while channel-hopping! I keep meaning to keep track of the TV/TCM listings to watch the whole film from start to finish, but I haven't had a chance to do so yet. However, the great screen grabs and memorable lines you included in your engaging post have encouraged me to be on the lookout for HIS GIRL FRIDAY so I can finally see it in its entirety!


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