So Cary Grant is cool. I remember seeing him in movies like North by Northwest, An Affair to remember, etc. And of course he’s like considered one of the classic leading men in Hollywood i.e. good looks, interesting accent, and such a likeable guy. Which is why his performance in His Girl Friday is so different from what people probably perceive a Cary Grant-role to be. In this particular film he’s more smarmy and grimy. Grant’s Walter Burns runs his newspaper with no scruples whatsoever.Walter will do absolutely anything in this movie to get the story; even if it means creating one!
His Girl Friday is about three people: A woman (Rosalind Russell) trying to leave the taxing, often cruel life of a newspaper writer so that she can settle down and start a family. The man marrying her is an honest but dopey guy hoping to put his best foot forward in this new commitment, although he’ll have to spend the first year of his marriage living with his mother. And the third person, is Walter Burns (Grant). Burns is crazy. He is literally willing to do whatever it takes to keep Rosalind Russell’s Hildy from leaving. Not to mention the two of them use to be married. The core dynamic of this picture makes this whole thing tick, as Russell and Grant wrestle over whether or not Hildy actually wants to quit the newspaper business.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the film is the depiction of the media as a pack of venomous, ravenous, and vicious wolves. The men (all men except Hildy) gang up on hot tips and hints and pound the living details out of them until they have a story provocative enough to sell as a front page headline. Seeing them on their phones; mouth running like water taps as they bully people into “coughing up the goods”. That metaphor implies making a profit off of someone else’s misery, which is exactly what the reporters (Walter and Hildy included) do.
The story the reporters are falling all over themselves over is murder case. Although the accused’s sanity went under medical evaluation, he was deemed sane when he committed the crime….or was he? The level of corruption in this city, in this story is so high I don’t even think Batman could restore the order. The case takes small twists and turns, people who seemingly have nothing to do with anything become integral parts of the story, and the dark, comedic timing of everyone involved is so flawless I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The best part is that the movie doesn’t have a ton of different scenes and backdrops. Many of the action is spoken, and the scenes with multiple conversations and multiple people arguing and fighting is often shot in one take. In a word: Masterful. And that is exactly what Howard Hawke’s work was and still is today. The man is so skilled and has such an eye for what he wants, how he wants it, and why; that His Girl Friday (while a crazy ride) feels like a very free-flowing one. It all felt real and organic. No one sounded robotic, which is what I thought would happen if one spoke this quickly for this long. The actors still manahed to inject the right amount of sass, and sarcasm; wit and shame into their lines that the movie never sags on a performance. EVERYONE WAS GREAT!
Take it from me, His Girl Friday is a must see! If not for Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell’s performances; then for the great supporting cast of character actors. If not the supporting cast, then to witness the tremendous skill and control Howard Hawkes exercises over this blistering, scorching thriller of a dark comedy. You can check it out on Amazon PRIME Instant watch like me or try to find it at your library. Netflix, Youtube, and Hulu may also have copies of the film. And by the way, this is a Classic, so try to appreciate it like one.