Modern women often talk about the idea of having it all. Having a happy family and a loving husband and a successful career. The jury is still out on that, if that is even possible. In 1940, director Howard Hawkes tackled the subject with Ben Hecht’s screwball comedy, His Girl Friday. This is one of my favorite Rosalind Russell movies.
Rosalind Russell starred as Hildy Johnson, the quick-witted ace newspaper reporter who always gets her story and her man. Cary Grant is Walter Burns, the unscrupulous newspaper editor who will stop at nothing to keep his best reporter.
Based on Hecht’s The Front Page, His Girl Friday follows Hildy Johnson on the day she plans to marry a respectable insurance salesman and settle down to a nice comfortable family life. But the biggest story to hit Chicago, manipulation by her ex-husband, Walter Burns and her own ambition delay the wedding.
“I’m no suburban housewife, I’m a newspaper man” – Hildy Johnson
With the murderer Earl Williams behind bars, the top story in Chicago is up for grabs for every reporter in town. Walter Burns will do anything to get the scoop for his paper and there is only one reporter who can get that story — Hildy Johnson.
Rosalind Russell is perfect in the role of the fast-talking and talented reporter, Hildy Johnson. Russell’s portrayal shows Hildy’s career-minded and her feminine side. Hildy is a career woman who loves her job and is great at it.
Her sense of comic timing is incredible, especially since Hecht’s screenplay is full of rapid fire dialogue, often with Russell and Grant talking so fast, you might miss some of the great lines.
The Charming Walter Burns
Well he comes by it naturally his grandfather was a snake. – Hildy Johnson
The interchanges between Russell and Grant are a thing of beauty. I can’t think of two actors who could do it better. Much like his performance in Arsenic and Old Lace and another Howard Hawkes movie, Bringing Up Baby, Grant is at his comic best. Grant contorts his handsome face into a hundred outrageous expressions as he pulls every dirty trick in the book to get his star reporter to write the big story.
Rosalind Russell often played ‘pushy‘ women, such as Mamma Rose in Gypsy or Auntie Mame. But what was considered pushy in 1940, is considered self-confident and goal oriented in 2012. Ah…modern times!