Thursday, November 10, 2011

"you're wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way"

Perhaps it says more about my personality than it should that I love His Girl Friday but wish there were more Grant/Russel verbal sparing. My favorite part has to be the reunion of Hildy and Walter at the beginning as they talk over, around, through, and, sometimes, *to* each other about their past, present, and future. Who wants to be married to Bruce McBoring Baldwin (who is played by Ralph Bellamy in case you missed that bit of meta-dialogue) when you can have Walter Burns? But, I like to debate everything--what my mother would call "arguing with a brick wall."

I also like this film because it sees no problem with the fact that it might take a woman to get the job done--and not in any exploitative way. As shady a con man as Burns is, he sees that no one is going to get that story like Hildy will and she doesn't have to show any leg to do it. The other male journalists respect her and are far from the "when are you quitting and having babies" train of thought that permeates so much discussion about "career women"; instead they take bets about how long she'll last without the job because it's part of her very biology and they seem to like having her as a colleague, even if she does work for the rival paper.

And, of course, at the film's core is a scathing commentary of journalism starting with the rather snarky opening text:
It all happened in the "Dark Ages" of the newspaper game--when to a reporter "getting that story" justified anything short of murder. Incidentally you will see in this picture no resemblance to the men and women of the press today.
Well, once upon a time--
Within the film we find snipes about politicians and the legal system in general. But the film doesn't let that snark get in the way of a fun plot and the snark never gives way to bitter commentary. And a second viewing (as this is mine) didn't blunt the film one bit.

And the oracle says something very useful! This film is an adapted play (that I knew) but in the original and all of the other adaptations, Hildy is a man. Otherwise, the book simply says,
Grant and Russell engage in dizzying verbal play of machine-gun speed in a plot that reaches farcical heights, with a great character ensemble of gum-chewing, smoke-wreathed, poker-playing hacks acting as their cynical chorus, Theatrical and stylish, His Girl Friday is unrivaled for comic timing and snappy repartee.
In a rare occurrence, I'm in complete agreement.

Tracy, what did you think of that first hat?!

1 comment:

  1. That hat was OFF THE CHAIN. Straight-up Alice in Wonderland stuff. Though it made me quite wish that we wore hats all the time still.

    Yay for the book for finally getting something right. It's true--the other reporters were totally the Greek chorus.