His Girl Friday

Movie Information

In Brief:  If you’ve never seen His Girl Friday (1940), this is definitely one of the greats from the “golden age” of movies — and it’s a film that still holds the record for the fastest dialogue in the history of movies. That crackling, witty banter is delivered by people who know exactly how to do it, especially Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, who were never better than they are here. And, if you’re familiar with either performer in their prime, you’ll know what a statement that is. The film is Howard Hawks’ “switcheroo” version of the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur play The Front Page. Hawks’ inspiration (supposedly born of reading the first draft of the screenplay aloud with his girlfriend) was to change the character of ace reporter Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) from a man to a woman. (It wasn’t much of a stretch because the relationship between the two leads was always a kind of romance.) That, in turn, led to making her boss, managing editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant), her ex-husband. This greatly upped the stakes of Walter’s desire to keep his best reporter from getting married and quitting. Charles Lederer’s screenplay seamlessly adds a backstory (about 25 minutes of original material) good enough to match the original play, setting up the central action and establish the couple’s comedically volatile romance. The results are comedy gold.
Genre: Screwball Comedy
Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart, Ernest Truex, John Qualen
Rated: NR

The Asheville Film Society will screen His Girl Friday Tuesday, June 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Grail Moviehouse, hosted by Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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2 thoughts on “His Girl Friday

  1. jery tillotson

    i always thought this must have been a nightmare to dub in a foreign language. if this did happen–instead of sub-titles–imagine how the dialogue would sound in Japanese, Italian Russian, etc. Also, I’ve read that much of the dialogue was improvised on the spot.

    • Ken Hanke

      It may have been fine-tuned on the spot, but the last 2/3s stays pretty close to the play — minus the swearing.

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