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His Girl Friday

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Critics' Reviews

AMG Review
Bruce Eder
It's doubtful that one could find a movie as fast-paced as Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday, and next-to-impossible to find a film of the period more laced with sexual electricity. Decades after its release, the comedy-thriller adapted from Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's play The Front Page holds up as a masterpiece of pacing and performance, and even manages a few healthy swipes at some of officialdom's sacred cows. At the time, His Girl Friday was also a piece of groundbreaking cinema for the rules it broke: Hawks' version added an element of sexual tension that was about the only thing missing from the original play and the 1931 film version, in which main characters Walter Burns and Hildy Johnson are men engaged in a symbiotic/exploitative professional relationship. Hawks transmuted Hildy Johnson into the persona of Rosalind Russell, who was entering her prime as an archetype of the ambitious, energetic woman. Coupled with Cary Grant's cheerful nonchalance as the manipulative editor Walter Burns, the material -- which was fairly scintillating on its own terms -- took on a fierce sexual edge that made the resulting film a 92-minute exercise in eroticism masquerading as a comic thriller. Russell may never have had a better role than Hildy Johnson; she became a screen symbol for the intelligent, aggressive female reporter, decades before Candice Bergen's star turn as television's Murphy Brown. Amid all of the jockeying for superiority, and the sparring between Grant and Russell -- which, in many ways, anticipates the jousting between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Hawks' own The Big Sleep, made four years later -- His Girl Friday found room to enhance some of the issues from the original play, including cynicism about government, the justice system and freedom of the press. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
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