© 1940 Columbia Pictures Corporation

His Girl Friday (1940)

What can be said about His Girl Friday that has not already been said a thousand times over? The dialogue by Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur was at the time the best ever written for the screen, and that claim probably still holds true today. For the first time in Hollywood history, the writers dared to have more than one character speak a true people, and director Hawks dared to allow more than one actor to speaks at the same time, making the dialogue more realistic than anything that had proceeded it. Each and every line in this film is infused with so much wit and verbal acrobatics, that each line fits into the whole but can also stand on its own. The fact that lines from this film are still recycled in the likes of Kill Bill prove that this is a milestone in screen writing after 70 years.

Cary Grant is at his peak playing charismatic comedic roles here, but this is really Rosalind Russell’s film. Based Hecht and MacArthur’s play The Front Page, director Howard Hawks had his secretary read the then male part of Hildy Johnson in audition, and found he preferred the role as a fast-talking dame, and went after Carole Lambard and a bevy of other actresses before finally settling on Russell. Of course today it is impossible imagine this role played by anyone other than Russell, who is perfect in her role as a fast-talking newspaper writer and actually manages to upstage the always smooth Cary Grant in scene after scene.

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