Our film this week, reviewed by our buddy Kristin Synowka down in sunny St. Pete, is a classic in the truest sense of the word. It’s perhaps the first remake of a previous newspaper movie — an adaptation of “The Front Page.” And the script was written by Ben Hecht, a legend in screenwriting and script-fixing (he made the changes to “Gone With the Wind” that won it an Oscar) who got his start as a reporter at the Chicago Daily News.
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“His Girl Friday”
As reviewed by Kristin Synowka, Sports Designer, St. Petersburg Times
Director: Howard Hawks. Stars: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart.
Find it here: Amazon’s got the latest DVD release of this classic right here, but you can also find stripped down versions of it in random crazy places like Wal-Mart or Walgreen’s for $1 in crappy cardboard sleeves.
Awards Circuit: None to speak of, though the National Film Preservation Board did put it on the National Film Registry in 1993. (Wanna help the Library of Congress select films for the Registry? Head over here and take part!)
What Leonard Maltin says: “Terrific character actors add sparkle to must-see film …” (****) (From Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide)
Plot synopsis: Former star reporter Hildegard “Hildy” Johnson meets with ex-husband Walter Burns, a quick-witted editor for the The Morning Post of Chicago. Johnson informs Burns that she is leaving town to marry Bruce Baldwin and settle down as a homemaker in Albany, but when convicted murderer Earl Williams escapes from jail on the night before his execution, Burns lures Johnson to cover one last story.
Reality Check: The paper is portrayed as a competitive metro daily, and the assignment of the big story and the communication between Johnson and her editors are realistic. The extreme measures that Johnson employs to “get the story” are a bit drastic.
Geek Factor: The way Johnson interacts with her editor and source and protects her scoop from the other beat writers are prevalent in the business today. Johnson sacrifices a planned trip with her would-be fiancé to complete reporting and file her story, realistically representing the concessions real-life journalists make for the job.
Historic Factoid: This movie is one of the first, if not the first, films to have characters talk over the lines of other characters, for a more realistic sound. Prior to this, characters completed their lines before the next lines were started.
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!
Kristin’s review: The dialogue in this film is fast-paced, and the passion — for journalism and
between Johnson (Rosalind Russell) and Burns (Cary Grant) — is evident in every scene. They constantly trade sarcastic insults and inside jokes. I loved seeing how Johnson played the role of the darling of the newsroom and earned the respect of her co-workers and journalists from other papers. She uses instincts and tries to outsmart Burns, who makes repeated attempts to prevent her from leaving town with Baldwin. Burns tries to show Johnson that she’s not ready to leave newspapers and that’s she’s too good of a reporter to give it up. Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy) realizes Johnson’s heart is still in journalism and with Burns and he leaves town without her.
Grant’s charm and willingness to do whatever it takes to keep Johnson are endearing. Russell effortlessly communicates her character’s tough, polished and determined temperament. Johnson is not easily duped or swayed, and Burns is relentless, creative and conniving in his efforts to win Johnson back to both his newspaper and his home. Grant comes across as a man who loves his job but realizes his mistake in letting the love of his life get away. Russell’s representation of a strong woman is admirable — she’s intelligent, fearless and unflappable.
The actual breaking news story is secondary but crucial, as it shows Johnson’s skill in interacting with people, thinking fast and piecing things together. Johnson’s independence is prevalent, as she is a strong-minded female in an era when women were just beginning to balance careers with marriage and families.