Friday, August 17, 2012


(January 1940, U.S.)

You've, no doubt, heard the cinematic expression, "roller coaster ride" to describe a film that's exciting; something to keep you on the edge of your seat. But consider the possibility that such an expression doesn't necessarily have to confine itself to action. If you can imagine a film where the dialogue is so quick and spontaneous that you can't help but be on the edge of your seat while you're following along, then you can possibly imagine what it's like to watch and listen to Howard Hawks' HIS GIRL FRIDAY, a totally screwball comedy adapted from the original play, "The Front Page".

When I consider today's media, I can only imagine a bunch of cut-throat parasites who'll do and say anything to get the latest dirt on somebody or something. Watching a film about crazy newspaper reporters during an era that dates back more than seventy years doesn't change the fact that even way back then the media was nothing but a bunch of cut-throat parasites that would do and say anything to get the latest dirt on somebody or something. On film, though, they were just a whole lot funnier doing it and a lot more fun to watch and listen to (if you can keep up).

So in this film, at a New York City paper called "The Morning Post", we have Walter Burns (played hilariously by Cary Grant), a hard-boiled editor who learns his ex-wife and former star reporter, Hildy Johnson (played by Rosalind Russell), is about to marry a very bland insurance man called Bruce Baldwin (played by Ralph Bellamy) and settle down to a pathetically quiet life as a wife and mother in Albany, New York (boring!). Walter is determined to sabotage their plans, enticing the reluctant Hildy to cover one last story which is the upcoming execution of convicted murderer Earl Williams (played by John Qualen). Throughout the film, Earl proclaims his innocence in that the fatal shooting of a police officer was simply a horrible accident. The paper and their two star reporters (Walter and Hildy) are not only determined to believe him but also determined to hide him away from not only the police, but the ambitious reporters and crooked politicians who want to use Earl's execution for their own persoanl gain. Meanwhile, the would-be-boring-as-Hell fiance is getting into all sorts of unintended trouble, courtesy of Walter's underhanded doings. Walter clearly still loves his ex-wife, so you almost can't blame the guy for being a real asshole (or known as a "stinker" back in those days). In the end, of course, as cliche would be expected to have it, Earl will be exonerated and Walter and Hildy are together again and will always be ambitious, enthusiastic newspaper reporters before being any version of a real husband and wife (whatever THAT is!).

By the way, back in 1988, I saw a film called SWITCHING CHANNELS (look it up) which I found to be hilarious and seemingly original. Little did I know, right? You see, unfortunately, even I don't know everything about films and haven't seen everything out there. As a result, I tend to be a bit naive about what is truly original and which film came before the other. Sometimes the remakes are just too damn much!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Walter Burns: "There's a guy waiting in a taxi in front of the criminal courts building. His name is Bruce Baldwin."
Evangeline: "What does he look like?"
Walter: "He looks like, uh, that fellow in the movies, you know, uh, Ralph Bellamy."

Get the joke??


  1. If you enjoyed "Switching Channels", you got some pleasure from a remake and it did not hurt you. I know how you feel about these things but remember that the world is full of people who would never encounter a good story sometimes if it were not remade. How long after you saw the Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds, Christopher Reeves version was it until you saw the 1940s classic? The straight version of the original play with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon was actually pretty good as well. Both Austin Pendelton and Henry Gibson were solid, milquetoast versons of Earl Williams.

  2. By absolute sheer coincidence, I happened to come across SWITCHING CHANNELS on television (already in progress) the day after I posted HIS GIRL FRIDAY. I watched most of it and found myself enjoying the performance of all three stars. Don't know why it performed so poorly in theaters back in the '80s. I wonder how that story would play in today's 21st Century media world of sensationalized news, YouTube, etc.?