When I sat down on my couch and had to scroll past the newest episode of Grey’s Anatomy and hit play on His Girl Friday – I won’t lie – my expectations were low. Released in 1940, with a title like His Girl Friday gave me the impression I was about to watch one-hour-thirty-one minutes of some man chasing a one-dimensional woman and the two fall in love after knowing each other all of thirty minutes. Thankfully, it was little like I had imagined. His Girl Friday (1940) is a screwball comedy that came out a year after the great depression ended, featuring a strong female lead but no significant editing innovation.
The film opens with Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) telling her ex-husband and ex-boss, Walter Burns (Cary Grant) she is getting remarried to Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy) (IMDb). Once it’s been made clear Walter has not moved on after Hildy divorced him, he goes through elaborate attempts to woo her back. Hildy is constantly citing the reason she left her job (and husband) was the settle down and have a family. Through a murderer running through the streets and Walter’s newspaper business, Hildy realizes she loves her career and her ex-husband.
His Girl Friday portrays a woman who was going to conform to society’s norms and move to a house in the country, have kids, and give up her career but doesn’t. This may not seem phenomenal now, but considering women had only gotten the right to vote twenty years prior, this was something seldom seen before. What really drew me in was the fact Hildy seemed more eager to return to journalism than her ex-husband. Even in a time where it would have been normal to write one-dimensional women in films, they didn’t. The writers took the time to develop a character who had her own dislikes and passions who was treated no less by her colleagues for being a woman. The banter Walter and Hildy often shared kept the film fast-paced, even in dialogue-heavy scenes. The film kept you rooting for Walter and Hildy to get back together, while unsure they ever would. Walter was constantly scheming to have his ex-wife’s fiance thrown in jail (which he did, several times) and dealt with corrupt government officials. He was manipulative and had selfish motives and I personally disliked him but it would be hard to deny his character was well written and funny. The film was shot in black and white, a mock of many of the serious gangster films of the time. However, His Girl Friday was much closer to a screwball comedy.
In short, if you have an extra hour and a half and an internet connection His Girl Friday is on youtube (and worth watching). I highly recommend this film because it’s funny, light hearted, and many of its references to the politics of the 1940’s are still surprisingly accurate in today’s political climate.
Article by Isabel Cameron
“His Girl Friday.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Oct. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/His_Girl_Friday.
“His Girl Friday (1940).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt0032599/.
“His Girl Friday: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Helen Mack, Gene Lockhart, Howard Hawks: Movies & TV.” Amazon.com: His Girl Friday: Cary Grant, Rosalind
Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Helen Mack, Gene Lockhart, Howard Hawks: Movies & TV, www.amazon.com/His-Girl-Friday-Cary-Grant/dp/B000KIX8VK.
ViewsterTV. “His Girl Friday – Full Movie With Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Aug. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kpXX501COc.