His Girl Friday

“You’ve got an old fashioned idea divorce is something that lasts forever, ’til death do us part.’ Why divorce doesn’t mean anything nowadays, Hildy, just a few words mumbled over you by a judge.”–Walter Burns

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Invariably, reviews about His Girl Friday will get around to mentioning the rapid fire dialogue courtesy of Howard Hawks, and after watching the film, it’s easy to see why.  It’s impressive.  More like an athletic performance than a thespian one.  One wonders how many takes it must have taken to get some of them down.  The Thing, another Hawks job, and Altered States are the only films I can think of that even come close, but neither of those is quite as frenetic as this one, which is a bit odd considering those are both horror/sci-fi films, and this is a comedy.  Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell are both clearly at the top of their game, and the film is worth watching for their Paganini-esque performances alone.  It also happens to be pretty funny too.

It’s not a perfect film though.  Unfortunately, there just isn’t much chemistry between Grant and Russell.  Oh, they’re two peas in a pod alright, we get that by the end of the film, but the lack of any real spark between them erodes the sense of satisfaction that might have accompanied the ending.  Likewise, the depiction of the world of newspaper men puts a bit of a damper on the romantic warm fuzzies as well.  It’s Machiavellian. Again, got it, but couldn’t they have eased up on that just a tad?  It would have been vastly easier to empathize with the characters if they had.
Note: I knew this film was practically universally admired, and it is–98% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I was a bit buoyed though by Steven D. Greydanus’ review.  We are simpatico.  Hurrah for the 2%!

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