July 9, 2008

Public Domain Drive-In: His Girl Friday

Howard Hawks, in my not-so-humble-opinion, is the greatest director you have never heard of.

Unlike modern times, where a director's defined by genre, Hawks pretty much mastered many - the romantic comedy, noir mysteries, Westerns, and...well, made them his own. I could name multiple masterpieces which Hawks has directed, but I'd like to call your attention to a film that, although really isn't a "masterpiece", is one of my favorite films.

I'm talking, of course, about His Girl Friday.

Much like The Third Man, this film captured my attention - and love - when I viewed it for a film study class in college. It has rapid fire dialogue, some great snarky in-jokes (including a character played by Ralph Bellamy as...well, looking like Ralph Bellamy), and an almost knowingly anachronistic feel to it. (There was a long discussion about whether His Girl Friday deserved its reputation on Tom the Dog's blog some time ago - admittedly, I don't think the film has aged well, and on some levels, there's a huge leap of faith to be taken...but, in my opinion, it is a pretty enjoyable film)

All this for a movie that was - ostensibly - a remake of The Front Page with the gender of one of the characters changed. The plot surrounds two reporters - one of whom is soon to be married - and an impending execution, with a slightly tyrannical editor hoping to have his soon-to-be wed employee come in and save the day.

I can admit that, well, in the film, Cary Grant's character does not come off too well...however, his is the kind of performance that Bill Murray might have pulled off in his 1980s heyday. Yes, Grant's Walter Hill is kind of a jerk...but he's a slightly lovable jerk.

But the unsung heroine of the film is Rosalind Russell - oh, gosh, I wish I could find a woman half as smart, sexy, and witty as her...oh, I'm sorry, forgot I was blogging for a moment. But her Hildy Johnson isn't just another poor victim, or even some clueless ingenue - she's someone who tends to be slightly one step ahead of Walter. The only real problem with the movie is that...well, in order for it to work, she has to be "worn down" by Walter's relentlessness.

But in a way, this film works maybe not as a classic comedy...but as a really sharp, fine example of a director who mastered many genres, working on many of the themes and practices that would serve him later.

And...it's in the National Film Registry.

Thanks to the power of public domain, it's also yours to download and watch at your pleasure.

Torrent - His Girl Friday

Internet Archive - His Girl Friday


Ed Howard said...

Funny, I should think most film fans certainly would have heard of this guy Howard Hawks. I have no problem calling this film a "classic comedy," either, even if it's not quite my favorite Hawks film.

Gordon D said...


Thanks for the comment - I would like to say, in my defense (especially since, to put it mildly, I received some criticism on another forum) - my purpose in writing this was to engage people whose enjoyment of movies might be more focused on modern fare.

But rewatching "His Girl Friday" again makes me want to watch a ton of Hawks movies - he is one of my favorite directors, if only because he was able to do so many *different* kinds of movies.