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May 13th, 2020

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His Girl Friday

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

My favorite movie ever is His Girl Friday.

Russel owns the part so well it is interesting that no one thought she could handle the role:

Russell had been, as she put it, “Everyone’s fifteenth choice” for the role of Hildy in the film. Before her being cast, Howard Hawks had asked Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur, Margaret Sullavan, and Ginger Rogers if they would like to play the brash, fast-talking reporter in his film. All of them refused. Russell found out about this while riding on a train to New York, when she read an article in The New York Times stating that she had been cast in the film and listing all the actresses who had turned the part down.

For the scenes where Russel has to act upper-class I can imagine that Katharine Hepburn would have handled the role, but for the scenes where Russel is crying over the woes of the working class characters ruined by the Great Depression, Russel brings a common touch that I think Hepburn would have gotten wrong.

There is a rumor that this movie has more words per minute than any other movie ever. Partly that’s because so much of the humor comes from the characters talking over each other. The chatter is lightning fast and some jokes I didn’t get till later when I put on subtitles and read the jokes:

Ruth (woman columnist writer at the newspaper): Hildy, you’re back?

Hildy: Hello, Ruth. How’s “Advice For The Lovelorn?”

Ruth: I suppose it’s okay. My cat has had kittens.

Hildy: It’s your own fault.

I think I saw the movie 5 times before I got this joke? The scene goes by way too fast to get the joke is about the columnist living alone with her cats because she can’t find love. The dialogue is so fast it’s easy to miss the minor exchanges like this.

Then there are the moments they break the 4th wall, which is common in today’s humor and was maybe common in certain cartoons back then, like Bugs Bunny, but I don’t think of this happening in the movies very often back then. For instance, at one point Cary Grant needs Ralph Bellamy’s character to get arrested, so he asks a hooker/hustler, who he has clearly used for many jobs, to go over and get Ralph Bellamy’s character in trouble. The hooker/hustler says “Sure, no problem. What does he look like?” and Cary Grant goes “What does he look like? Uh, well, like that guy in the movies, Ralph Bellamy.”

But all of that is minor and maybe distracting. The heart of the movie is the anti-romance between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. They were once married and now they are divorced, but Cary Grant is still in love with her and wants to win her back. But she’s getting married to Ralph Bellamy, so she’s stopped by to say, basically, “stop blowing up my phone” but instead of 20 texts a day, she complains about 20 telegrams a day:

Cary Grant comes back with some humor that strikes me as deeply ironic in a way that still feels modern:

So, of course, the romantic tension of the movie is the question of whether Cary Grant’s character can win back his ex-wife.

I love this movie. If there was ever a movie hero that I wish I could be similar to it’s Cary Grant’s fast-thinking, fast-talking villain/hero.

Director: Howard Hawks

Writers: Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht

Stars: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy Source




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RECENT COMMENTS

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1 COMMENT

May 13, 2020
5:03 pm

By Just+An+Observer

Closest match to the intensity of this is the movie “Twentieth Century” with John Barrymore and Carole Lombard.

Manic intensity, but not the depth that HGF has.

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