His Girl Friday

Critics Consensus

Anchored by stellar performances from Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday is a classic screwball romantic comedy.

98%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 48

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 24,202
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Movie Info

The second screen version of the Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur play The Front Page, His Girl Friday changed hard-driving newspaper reporter Hildy Johnson from a man to a woman, transforming the story into a scintillating battle of the sexes. Rosalind Russell plays Hildy, about to foresake journalism for marriage to cloddish Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). Cary Grant plays Walter Burns, Hildy's editor and ex-husband, who feigns happiness about her impending marriage as a ploy to win her back. The ace up Walter's sleeve is a late-breaking news story concerning the impending execution of anarchist Earl Williams (John Qualen), a blatant example of political chicanery that Hildy can't pass up. The story gets hotter when Williams escapes and is hidden from the cops by Hildy and Walter--right in the prison pressroom. His Girl Friday may well be the fastest comedy of the 1930s, with kaleidoscope action, instantaneous plot twists, and overlapping dialogue. And if you listen closely, you'll hear a couple of "in" jokes, one concerning Cary Grant's real name (Archie Leach), and another poking fun at Ralph Bellamy's patented "poor sap" screen image. Subsequent versions of The Front Page included Billy Wilder's 1974 adaptation, which restored Hildy Johnson's manhood in the form of Jack Lemmon, and 1988's Switching Channels, which cast Burt Reynolds in the Walter Burns role and Kathleen Turner as the Hildy Johnson counterpart. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Cary Grant
as Walter Burns
Rosalind Russell
as Hildy Johnson
Gene Lockhart
as Sheriff Hartwell
Helen Mack
as Mollie Malloy
Ralph Bellamy
as Bruce Baldwin
Ernest Truex
as Roy Bensinger
Cliff Edwards
as Endicott
Regis Toomey
as Sanders
Abner Biberman
as Diamond Louie
John Qualen
as Earl Williams
Alma Kruger
as Mrs. Baldwin
Billy Gilbert
as Joe Pettibone
Pat West
as Warden Cooley
Edwin Maxwell
as Dr. Egelhoffer
Earl Dwire
as Mr. Davis
Wade Boteler
as Jail Guard
Marion Martin
as Evangeline
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News & Interviews for His Girl Friday

Critic Reviews for His Girl Friday

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (5)

  • The movie bears reviewing because there's always something new in the confetti of one-liners, while its depiction of the Fourth Estate remains relevant.

    Dec 15, 2009 | Full Review…
  • Cary Grant's performance is truly virtuoso -- stunning technique applied to the most challenging material.

    Apr 2, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Casting is excellent, with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in the top roles.

    Apr 2, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Perhaps the funniest, certainly the fastest talkie comedy ever made.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It takes you by the scruff of the neck in the first reel and it shakes you madly, bellowing hoarsely the. while, for the remaining six or seven. Before it's over you don't know whether you have been laughing or having your ears boxed.

    May 20, 2003 | Full Review…
  • A line is never allowed to reverberate but is quickly attached to another, funnier line in a very underrated comedy that champions the sardonic and quick-witted over the plodding, sober citizens.

    Jun 14, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for His Girl Friday

  • May 07, 2018
    Pros - Rosalind Russell turns in a great performance and portrays a strong newspaper reporter, better than the male reporters. She's also someone who has taken control of her life, seeing through the manipulations of her ex-husband and ex-boss, Cary Grant. Her lines like "you're wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way" are fantastic. - There are some very cute moments between Grant and Russell as he needles her about her new fiancée (Ralph Bellamy), and of course immediately begins to try undermining them. The scenes early on grab you, with fast, sharp dialog, Russell throwing her purse at Grant in his office, and the two playing cat and mouse with their eyes and gestures at lunch with Bellamy. I loved these parts. Cons - There is not enough of the relationship/banter/love triangle. The film is at its best early on, but when it begins focusing on the convicted killer, the plot line that gives Russell the lure to return to reporting, it bogs down and loses my interest. - Fans of zany, frenetic, screwball movies will like this film, but at some point everyone just seems to be shouting at one another, and there just isn't enough balance in it for me. - It's somewhat incidental, but I wasn't a fan of the premise that the white killer was convicted and unfairly sentenced because he had killed a black policeman, as if this and not the reverse was (and is) the problem in America, and the heaviness of the satire on the free press.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 10, 2015
    It's always interesting to watch classic films that have a very different tone and feel to anything that comes out in today's world. His Girl Friday is very much a screwball comedy, and that genre in itself is a product of its time. It still holds up 70 some odd years later, but films just aren't made this way anymore. It's a fast talking and dialogue driven film about a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his ex-wife and former reporter from marrying an insurance man. Cary Grant plays Walter Burns, the editor of the Morning Post., while Rosalind Russell plays his ex-wife and reporter Hildegard 'Hildy' Johnson. It's based on a play, but Howard Hawks, the director, made one bold but brilliant move by switching the sex of the Hildy character. I'm not sure how the play was written, but the dynamic between Hildy and Walter creates not only immensely funny moments, but also a relationship you root for in a film. Normally, it's not easy to root for a character who wishes to break up a soon- to-be marriage, but Grant brought a great sense vulnerability that proved to make it easier to feel for his character. It doesn't hurt that Cary Grant is one of the most charismatic actors of all time. What I found most impressive wasn't the acting or the notably funny script, it was the direction of Howard Hawks. I had seen a few of his films in the past including The Big Sleep and one of my favorite films of all time, Bringing up Baby, but it was his direction here that caught my attention the most. It's very difficult to keep an audience's attention without any real action or a ton of physical comedy like his other films, but Hawks uses these dialogue driven scenes in a way that doesn't feel overwhelming, instead, it proved to be very entertaining. I understand that the invention multi- track recording wasn't developed yet, so he told the sound mixing crew to turn the overhead microphones on and off throughout the film to create the final product. It's that dedication and attention to detail that makes Hawks one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time. As I said before, this film is a product of its time in the way it's made. If you look at the editing for films that come out today, it's smoother and the cuts aren't usually very noticeable. In His Girl Friday, you can tell that the technology wasn't available for them to make each cut appear as seamless as they should be. It doesn't necessarily dampen the film's greatness, it's just a way of telling when it was made. In comparison to other comedies close to its release, such as The Philadelphia Story, another one of Grant's remarriage films, I think His Girl Friday has a much lighter tone. The sub-genre of screwball comedies known as the 'comedy of remarriage' has turned out some great entries like Holiday and Bringing up Baby. The ladder being far more like a Chaplin comedy than this film was in its humor. But His Girl Friday proves to be lighter, wittier, and probably aesthetically more important for its significance historically. The narrative focuses a lot on getting a 'scoop' as most of its main characters are writers of some sort. While newspapers are nowhere near as popular as they were during that time, I think the days of getting 'scoops' have returned. Whether it's breaking the latest in a political race, what the Kardashians have been up to, or dropping the latest scoop on the next superhero movie, the media is still obsessed with being first at something, except now it's on social media. So in a way, that's an argument against that His Girl Friday is a product of its time and more so proof that this film is important and should be taught today. The film is brilliant with its comedic timing. Whether it's the delayed reactions between each of the fast talking characters, or the insane and hectic phone conversations the writers are having throughout the picture, His Girl Friday has plenty of entertainment. You can definitely tell that it's based off of a play through the line delivery and its far-fetched plot, but everything works. It did a lot for films at the time as well. Hawks' big change from the play was the decision to make Hildy a woman. Not many films did something like that, if at all. Even today, you see far too little female roles on screen and His Girl Friday was one of the few films to change the story and add a female because it makes the plot far better. It's that type of progressive work that makes His Girl Friday a very important film then and now. +Grant is perfect +Witty +Phone conversations 8.5/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Jul 26, 2015
    Fast talking screwball antics and cynicism abound so it's right up my alley . . . Russell's great and I'll always be impressed by how Grant can make the biggest cads still seem charming as hell.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 08, 2015
    I guess the term "screwball" couldn't be more well illustrated than by this laugh-out-loud comedy whose characters shoot their overlapping lines in an insanely frenetic rhythm, with Grant and Russell simply hilarious and displaying an enormous chemistry together.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer

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