First produced in 1928, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s Broadway play Front Page revolutionised comedy, both on stage and on the big screen. The intricate plotting and rapid-fire dialogue has influenced countess writers and directors. It has been adapted for cinema audiences on several occasions, both eponymously by Lewis Milestone and Billy Wilder, and in Switching Channels and His Girl Friday directed by Ted Kotcheff and Howard Hawks respectively. His Girl Friday is easily the best.
Hildy (Rosalind Russell) has had it with the newspaper business and is determined to settle down with a nice, but boring, insurance salesman (Ralph Bellamy). Walter Burns (Cary Grant), editor of The Morning Post, is determined not to lose his star reporter and ex-wife. Resolved to scupper their plans, he convinces Hildy to cover one last story; the execution of a convicted murderer Earl Williams (John Qualen).
His Girl Friday is a brilliantly zany comedy. Cary Grant, who was undoubtedly the biggest comedy star of a generation, is on top form. Russell and Grant bounce off each other with unrelenting glee. The snappy dialogue and whirlwind action is breathtaking and it’s great fun throughout. Hawks uses clever camera angles and quick cuts to keep the action riveting. His Girl Friday is a classic comedy which retains the charm and joy of a more innocent era of Hollywood.
His Girl Friday is released on blu-ray by Sony Pictures Homes Entertainment as part of the Criterion Collection on January 16.