“Walter, you’re wonderful — in a loathsome sort of way.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Indeed, His Girl Friday covers a plethora of narrative bases: not only is it arguably the most famous “newspaper drama” in cinematic existence (it makes journalism look like the most exciting profession EVER), but it relates a satisfyingly humorous love triangle (poor Bellamy never stands a chance), as well as a deeply cynical tale of political corruption. Perhaps most notably, however, His Girl Friday showcases the very real conflict many women feel when faced with the prospect of career-versus-marriage. Hildy “thinks she wants a home, as all women are supposed to”, and assertively tells her fellow newsmen that she wants to “be a woman, not a news-getting machine… [to] have babies and take care of them, give ’em cod liver oil and watch their teeth grow” (!!!). Yet she’s clearly still addicted to the rush of the newsroom — and, in this particular social universe, she must make a choice. Peary astutely argues, however, that the “film is not so much about the traditional battle of the sexes as it is about sexual differentiation”; he notes that “when characters put their guards down, they take on characteristics of the opposite sex”, with “the tough-talking male reporters [becoming] as gossipy as a women’s bridge group”, and Hildy happily “exchanging insults with Walter”.
Adding to the success of this tautly scripted, directed, and edited film are standout performances by both Grant and Russell, who are at the top of their game, and perfectly matched for each other. Grant — who reminds me more than ever here of George Clooney — is “exceptional, particularly doing physical comedy”; it’s enjoyable to watch him in a “rare” role as “the aggressor in a relationship, rather than a befuddled suitor”. Meanwhile, Russell “is dynamic… [and] unabashed as [a] cunning, bawdy, aggressive, cigarette-smoking, unladylike female”. As Peary notes, “it’s a shame she wasn’t offered such parts more often”; interestingly, however, Russell was far from Hawks’ first choice for the role — he wanted Carole Lombard. Be sure to check out all of TCM’s online articles for more juicy behind-the-scenes trivia about this fabled film.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)