Plot: Hildy (Rosalind Russell) is the star reporter for The Morning Post and while she has been gone for a while, her return is to be a brief one, as she plans to inform her boss that she is leaving her position. She is soon to be married and is leaving the newspaper game, whether her boss likes it or not. Of course, her boss is Walter (Cary Grant) and he doesn’t want to see her leave, especially to wed another man, as Hildy is his own ex-wife and still has his heart. So while she is adamant about her exit from the paper and his wife, Walter has no intentions of letting her go, at least not without a fight. So he uses a big story to reel her back for a little while and formulates his next move, which involves doing whatever he needs to keep her around. Meanwhile, Hildy’s new beau finds himself in the middle of this struggles between exes, all while an execution and even a prison break unfolds around them all.
Entertainment Value: This is one of the smartest, funniest, and enduring films of all time, a rapid fire comedy with incredible leads, remarkable dialogue, and excellent direction from Howard Hawks. This is one I could watch over and again, as it is so sharp and almost intoxicating with the dialogue, delivered at a blistering rate and with such a chaotic presence. The banter between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell is the stuff of legends, impeccable chemistry and flawless timing, even as they gleefully step all over each other’s lines. As good as the dialogue is, there’s also a good narrative here and while it has shades of a romantic comedy, it also presents a screwball thread about a looming execution with deep political involvement. The real heart of the movie is Walter’s chase to ensure he doesn’t lose Hildy, but the movie makes sure the two have to navigate a wealth of obstacles, not the least of which is each other. The pace is quick and much like the dialogue, the narrative and the laughs rarely slow here. This is some of the most skilled comedic cinema around.
The material is fantastic, but you need leads that can pull of these colorful, rapid fire roles and His Girl Friday has two legends at the top of the bill. Cary Grant blends his usual charm and presence with a more heelish slant, causing all kinds of trouble, but it is impossible to not like him. As good as he is here, Rosalind Russell steals the show and brings such charisma and commanding presence to her role, easily one of my favorite comedic performances ever. She handles the demands of the materials well, firing off her relentless, attitude driven dialogue and not just keeping pace with an icon like Grant, but lapping him at times. The two have masterful chemistry and timing here, able to talk over each other, but never lose the cadence or importance of the material. This is simply one of the best tandems you’ll see and the banter is legendary, making you marvel at how expertly the back and forth is pulled off. The cast also includes a game Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart, Clarence Kolb, Helen Mack, and countless others, an impressive support cast is present as well. I simply cannot recommend His Girl Friday enough, a true classic and anyone with even a casual interest in film needs to have this one in their collection.