The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday (1940) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday (1940)

The greatest screwball comedy this side of Preston Sturges

There’s some confusion as to whether it was at an audition, where a secretary read the role of male reporter Hildy Johnson, or a dinner party, where a female guest stepped in, that director Howard Hawks got the idea a woman should play the role. Miffed by only finally getting what Jean Arthur and Carole Lombard rejected first, but then taking the part anyway, Rosalind Russell brought no small attitude to the picture, and no one else could better have kept up with the careening velocity of the dialog by writers Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht, and Charles MacArthur except Russell’s counterpart Cary Grant as her editor, who exhibits such panache that it might be mistaken for comic genius, assuming such a thing can be mistaken for a mistake. 

If one is wary of calling this Hawks’s best movie, it’s only because Hawks was the Noah of filmmaking, loading up the ark of his canon with one or two masterpieces from every genre. Certainly His Girl Friday is as quintessentially Hawksian as any picture he made, not only for its smart talk but because the woman gives as good as she gets and then some. It’s also the greatest screwball comedy this side of Preston Sturges, because no one is played as a dummy or nincompoop possibly excepting, of course, sweet Ralph Bellamy as the insurance salesman and mama’s boy who has wandered so ditheringly and delightfully into the deep end with the piranha, looking (as Grant notes) just like "that fellow in the movies, Ralph Bellamy."

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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