His Girl Friday

★★★★★

Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell
Runtime: 92 mins

The 1940 hit His Girl Friday is considered by many to be the finest of director Howard Hawks’ comedies, and one of the best examples of the Screwball Comedy genre of the 40s and early 50s.

The movie sees Hawks teaming up again with Cary Grant, after their previous successes together in the classic Bringing Up Baby and the oft-forgotten (perhaps rightly) I Was A Male War Bride. Grant plays seasoned journalist Walter Burns trying to win back the heart of ace-reporter and ex-wife Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), back in town to inform him of her impending nuptials to an infinitely boring insurance salesman. Walter, of course, will not give up without a fight and tries to stop Hildy leaving behind the world of journalism by throwing her back amongst the sharks in the pressroom of the county courthouse. An escaped convict, a crooked mayor, an over-bearing mother-in-law and a gaggle of big-drinking reporters combine at break-neck speeds, leaving the viewer as exhausted as those on screen.

The plot remains engaging and the world of reporters and hacks is as intriguing today as it ever was. One problem, however, is the sheer pace of the delivery. It is said of Shakespeare that the speed at which the actors delivered their lines meant that the three hours we spend watching King Lear would have been something closer to two hours back in the day. It seems that in the initial excitement of sound cinema, audiences were also subjected to a considerably faster way of talking. For viewers used to the spaciousness of the films of, say, Sofia Coppola, the experience can be an unsettling one, and it is not at all difficult to lose the thread of on-screen conversation. However, the attention-span required by the film is very much rewarded by this funny, sharp and biting take on the world of 1940s journalism, and for those with an inclination towards classic Hollywood, this is a must-see.

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