His Girl Friday Reviews
I'm guilty of criticizing ridiculously speedy dialogue on shows like Gilmore Girls, but I kind of like it here. The layers are astounding, several conversations happening at once; a multidimensional experience, too bad this wasn't shot 3D. How the actors handle it must've involved a great deal of practice. How it looked on paper is confounding - after searching for the screenplay, I was disappointed not to find at least two column, if not three column dialogue -- I'm suspicious of it's legitimacy. It's by far one of the fastest-paced, jampacked wit, chaotic circumstantial movies I've ever seen, and yet Howard Hawks manages to smooth it over and deliver it clean.
His Girl Friday opens with a message telling the viewer that what they are about to see "does not resemble the men and women of the press today." One can sense the sarcasm behind that message, and as a 1940 film, it is still relevant today as a representation of the "inhumane" nature of the press. The film associate the press business with masculinity, as in the beginning Walter tells Hildy, "you're a newspaperman" and she tells him, "that's why I'm quitting I want to go someplace where I can be a woman." She also says, "I'm going to have babies and take care of them." Creating clear boundaries between the characteristics associated with being a man and being a woman, boundaries between binary opposites. However, the film tends to reverse the roles of man and woman in opposite to the ideologies it creates, as Walter says that Sweeny, one of the newspapermen, "picks the day to have a baby," and Hildy having a more masculine character than her fiancé, Bruce. By the end of the film, Hildy starts crying and Walter tells her, "You never cried before," as Hildy is too manly to cry, implying that crying is a characteristic of women.
Moreover, mise-en-scène in the film emphasizes the boundaries created by the dialogue in the film. Doors are stressed in several aspects; the opening shot of the film is tracking shot of Hildy as she walks before Bruce and stops him when they reach a door that separates the newspaper, where she works, and the rest of the world. Later, when she goes inside to see Walter, her ex-husband and the editor, she tells him that her new fiancé opens doors for her and treat her like a woman not an "errand boy." Hildy being a "newspaperman," was never treated like a woman in the newspaper business. As Hildy and Walter walk towards toward her fiancé, Hildy opens the door for Walter, he walks in front of her and he lets the door shut behind him instead of holding it for her, which again shows the reverse of roles in the film. The door in the beginning creates a boundary between being in the newspaper business and not being in the newspaper business, between being human and being a "chimpanzee." There is another door in the movie that separates the two worlds, which is the pressroom door. In the pressroom, Mollie comes in as the newspapermen are playing poker and they completely ignore her. A lamp hangs above the table creating attention to where their attention and cards are. In a later scene, Mollie jumps off the window of the pressroom and the newspapermen gather around the window looking down at Mollie as the streetlights illuminate the spot where she lays. They were giving her complete attention because, as she lies down, she represents a possible story. The jail bars create another boundary, for they create a separation between Hildy Johnson and Earl Williams. Earl tells Hildy, "I couldn't plead insanity... 'cause I'm just as sane as anybody else." The bars here separate the sane from the insane. Also, Burce gets arrested three times during the movie, and each time he insists that he is not guilty, implying that these bars separate the guilty from the non-guilty.
The press business is of manipulative nature that makes the newspapermen associated with barbarity. "They ain't human," says Mollie and Hildy replied, "I know. They are newspapermen." Newspapermen manipulate the words of a story to present it as how they want it rather than how it is. Walter tells Bruce, "My wife that is your wife Hildy," the manipulative reminder that Hildy was his wife first, and tells him that he wants to provide for her to make Bruce feel like he is not needed. Hildy wants to quit the manipulating business of the press, but she bribes the guard into letting her into the cell of Earl Williams. In the jail with Earl, the newspapermen characteristics of Hildy become apparent when she manipulates the words out of him. She tells him, "You didn't mean to kill that policemen" and he replies, "Of course not," but Hildy was merely stating what she wants him to think. She is confining his thoughts, the same way his body is confined inside the cell. She gives Earl the cigarette she is smoking, and he only realizes that he does not smoke after exchanging a few words with her. She asks a question and then stops him when he answers with something other than what she wants him to think and say. Earl mentions that he hears some guys talking about "production for use." Hildy then asks what he thought about with a gun in his hands and he did not know, so she says could it have been "production for use?" It is what he just said after all. She presses Earl into agreeing with how she is leading his thoughts. She first says, "What's a gun for, Earl... Maybe that's why you used it." He replies, "Maybe" but then he fully believes that this is the truth. "I've never had a gun before in my hand and that's what a gun for... Yes that is what I thought of 'production for use." She is seen manipulating him nearing the end of the movie when she is trapped in the pressroom with Earl holding a gun and she says, "You don't want to shoot me, Earl. I'm your friend, remember?" using her the power of her words to manipulate the actions of Earl.
Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday creates confinements for the viewer thoughts by continuously separating the ideologies it is presenting. At the same time, it shows how words can manipulate the thought process of people, and as a film, it manipulates the thought process of the viewers. A woman is playing the role of a man, but is dressed like a woman. She wants to be treated like a woman, but she cannot leave behind the world of masculinity and manipulation.
Legendary comedy about Grant trying anything (repeat: ANYTHING) to keep is ex-wife from remarrying. Sensational story makes for one of the fastest, funniest comedies ever made. Available on Netflix-however, the quality of the video on Netflix is terrible. See it on Amazon Video in much better quality, if you're willing to auction off a couple bucks (though it's free if you have Amazon Prime).
The two big stars of this are Cary Grant (Walter) and Rosalind Russell (Hildy) and they bring with them an expert class of acting that really makes this comedy come alive. The film even suffers slightly when we don't have say Grant in the picture for a little while, for me he is the stand out and some of the lines he is given are delivered with incredible style. The whole cast are pretty good to be fair too, Ralph Bellamy as Bruce is good and plays ever so well when the film see's Walter basically mocking the man without his knowing. The character of Earl Williams is very strangely funny, just his voice works to get most of the jokes out well and another character too Mr Pettibone adds to the speedy plot that never stops for breath.
Howard Hawks brings the film in nice style to the screen and really brings the most out the actors at his disposal. It is Hawks who gets the film really going fast and also he that sets up this busy style film where everyone seems to rush in and out of a room in a split second. The adaption of the play "The Front Page" comes out funny on the big screen I mean this movie is never laugh out loud funny not really but it is the true intelligence of all involved that makes it really good. I think if anything stops it from being perfect then it is the fact that the middle and end can feel a little flimsy but all in all never breaks up, the actual end scene is very very fast and ends the movie is a way you probably won't be expecting.
So His Girl Friday is just a real classic and one I couldn't recommend more to people, I know some will think they will not like it but I watched this twice in two days not because I loved it so much but because after the first viewing I knew I had missed many gags and knew it was better than I thought it was. Some could say this movie is also one of the very best in the careers of Grant and Russell, both give stunning performances so much so that after viewing this film and researching it I expected them to have taken some awards home for this but no. So anyway a screwball comedy that really makes you laugh but it is also really interesting as well, the kind of movie that if watched right, you won't take your eyes off it for a second.
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