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Whatta Gal


Pauline Kael on His Girl Friday:

In 1928 Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote The Front Page, the greatest newspaper comedy of them all; Howard Hawks directed this version of it — a spastic explosion of dialogue, adapted by Charles Lederer, and starring Cary Grant as the domineering editor Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson, the unscrupulous crime reporter with printer’s ink in her veins. (In the play Hildy Johnson is a man.) Overlapping dialogue carries the movie along at breakneck speed; word gags take the place of the sight gags of silent comedy, as this race of brittle, cynical, childish people rush around on corrupt errands. Russell is at her comedy peak here — she wears a striped suit, uses her long-legged body for ungainly, unladylike effects, and rasps out her lines. And, as Walter Burns, Grant raises mugging to a joyful art. Burns’ callousness and unscrupulousness are expressed in some of the best farce lines ever written in this country, and Grant hits those lines with a smack. He uses the same stiff-neck cocked-head stance that he did in Gunga Din: it’s his position for all-out, unstuble farce. He snorts and whoops. His Burns is a strong-arm performance, defiantly self-centered and funny. The reporters — a fine crew — are Ernest Truex, Cliff Edwards, Porter Hall, Roscoe Karns, Frank Jenks, Regis Toomey; also with Gene Lockhart as the sheriff, Billy Gilbert as the messenger, John Qualen, Helen Mack, and Ralph Bellamy as chief stooge — a respectable businessman — and Alma Kruger as his mother.

And here, direct from the good peoples at Hulu, is the complete movie:

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1 wsporter   ~  Nov 27, 2009 12:13 pm

This is IMHO the great American film comedy of the 20th century: subtle and subversive at times, outrageous and not so subtle at other points, an ingenious twist on the stage play, Cary Grant and Roz just nailing it, Ralph Bellamy at his hopeless best, a cast of unbelievable character actors right out of the Vaudeville talent sheet. I love this movie. Howard Hawks had some unbelievable chops. Was there anything that guy couldn't pull together during the golden age?

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Nov 27, 2009 12:13 pm

A fantastic film. The wicked, rapid-fire dialogue is the real star (though I'm a big Cary Grant fan, so his presence doesn't hurt). Think of the gags-per-minute ratio of the best Simpsons episode and you'll have some idea. The actors don't catch their breath until the movie ends.

3 wsporter   ~  Nov 27, 2009 12:36 pm

I agree Cliff, that rapid fire delivery-over talking dialogue style is quintessential Hawks ("Bringing up Baby") and does lift the film to a select place in the Hollywood filmography. I'm convinced that's what Billy Wilder had in mind when he put "Double Indemnity" together.

4 matt b   ~  Nov 27, 2009 1:16 pm

The 30s and 40s were such a great era for American screen comedy. In addition to the great work of Hawks (his Twentieth Century is another of the great screen comedies), you had McCarey, Sturges, LaCava...and of course, the incomparable Ernst Lubistch...as well as the first rumblings of Wilder and Brackett. And the stars: Grant, Cooper, Niven, Hepburn, Dunne, Rogers, Barrymore, Powell...and my personal favorite, Carole Lombard.

His Girl Friday is essential viewing.

5 wsporter   ~  Nov 27, 2009 1:34 pm

William Demarest's pratt falls in "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" are still a thing of beauty. I think I just figured out my "it's the day after Thanksgiving I'm headed to the woods tomorrow" evening double feature. Thanks all!

6 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Nov 27, 2009 1:42 pm

[5] Finally saw that in the past year. Brilliant film.

[4] Oh man, I have some of that stuff on DVD, but your comment makes me want to run out and buy the rest of it. Wonderful films.

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