His Girl Friday,’ a classic masterpiece

In this new weekly feature The Pulse would like to recommend a film that you might have never had the opportunity to see, but can go rent for the nice college friendly price of $1.00.

For the inaugural edition of our movie review section I decided to visit an era long since forgotten — a screwball comedy. There is no better example of this than Howard Hawk’s masterpiece, “His Girl Friday” based on a similarly acclaimed play, “The Front Page.”

“His Girl Friday” is a masterpiece not only because of the brilliant performances by Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, but also because of the sheer speed of the production. In Hawk’s Chicago of the 1920’s, people do not have time to breathe between words or even sentences. The quicker you finish what you are saying the quicker you will find out what you need to know.

In this Chicago the only important thing to a journalist is getting The story, that is a story with a capital T. No matter if you have to lie, cheat, scheme and bribe your way into a scoop that ends always justify the means.

We are introduced to two journalists at the top of their game, Walter Burns (Grant) and Hildy Johnson (Russell). Onetime lovers and full-time schemers Grant and Russell embrace Hawk’s rapid-fire pace from the beginning, spitting barbs and insults back and forth in the most loving way possible.

Burns and Hildy are always three steps ahead of everyone around them and they know it.

Grant and Russell play perfectly off of each other creating sexual tension and chemistry on the screen that is often imitated but never duplicated. It is here you have to praise the performance of Russell. She stands toe to toe with Grant who can expertly play dastardly men that the audience should hate but always love. Her Hildy is tough, smart, and always able to neutralize anything Walter can send her way.

The story centers on a huge story for the papers about a nebbish man who shoots a police officer and is sentenced to be hanged the next day. Hildy breaks the news of her engagement to an insurance salesman and her desire to leave her life of being a “newspaper man” and become a domesticated woman.

Sensing a big story and the threat of losing his greatest love and, perhaps more importantly, greatest reporter Walter cons her into taking the story and stalling her departure by a few hours. He later causes further delays by getting her fiancé, a hilariously clueless Ralph Bellamy, thrown into jail on three different occasions.

Although we are surrounded by shady journalists, crooked cops and a mayor trying to leverage this hanging into a reelection campaign the story isn’t the point of the movie. The movie lives on its style and pace. The film is so quick and so fast you have to be careful or you will miss some of the many great lines of dialogue.

The movie shows off the best aspects of comedies before everything in the world became ironic. The movie is fast, quick witted, unabashedly assure of itself and most importantly, hilarious. Sure Grant and Russell play two conniving con artists who we should hate, but the movie is, as Hildy says of Walter, “wonderful in a loathsome sort of way.”

Bet You Didn’t Know:

Behind the scenes of “His Girl Friday.”

– This film was the first to predominately feature characters speaking their dialogue over each other.

– In the play, “The Front Page,” from which the film is based, the Hildy character is a man but Howard Hawks liked the way it sounded when a woman read the part in a meeting and changed the character.

– Cary Grant’s character refers to someone named Archie Leach. Archie Leach is Cary Grant’s real name.

– Cary Grant’s character refers to the Ralph Bellamy character as a man who, “looks like that actor, Ralph Bellamy.”