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Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell star in this comedy.  Grant is Walter Burns, a successful newspaper editor, and Russell is Hildy Johnson, his ex-wife, and a former reporter at his newspaper.  When Hildy comes to see Walter to tell him that she is getting remarried (to Bruce Baldwin, played by Ralph Bellamy), and that she is getting out of the newspaper business, Walter is determined to try and win her back.  By persuading Hildy to cover one last big news story – about a man who is sentenced to be hanged the following day –  he is convinced that he can win back his wife and reporter…

It’s fair to say that this film was not what I expected, although for the most part, I did find it enjoyable.  I was expecting a screwball comedy along the lines of My Favourite Wife, or The Awful Truth (two Cary Grant movies which I enjoyed very much).  His Girl Friday is not in the screwball genre, although it does start out that way.  There are some pretty dark themes – an attempted suicide, corrupt politicians, a man who may or may not be in his right mind being sentenced to hang…when such themes were juxtaposed with some great comedic moments from Grant and Russell, it seemed almost as if the film wasn’t sure what it wanted to be.

On the plus side – Cary Grant starred with certain actresses a number of times; Irene Dunne, Myrna Loy, Katharine Hepburn for instance.  This was the only time he starred in such a film with Rosalind Russell (and she wasn’t even first choice for the part).  That’s a shame, because they have good chemistry, and Russell was very very VERY good, and I definitely want to watch more films of hers.  This was also one of the first films to feature characters deliberately talking over each other (echoing the fast paced world of journalism in which they work), which is probably worth mentioning because nowadays, it’s not a new thing at all, but it certainly was something different when His Girl Friday came out.

So overall, I’d say that this film is worth watching for some great moments of comedy, even if it is not the laughfest that you might expect (or that I expected anyway)!  Grant and especially Russell were great in their parts, and the whole thing is very fast paced and snappy.

Year of release: 1940

Director: Howard Hawks

Producer: Howard Hawks

Writers: Ben Hecht (play ‘The Front Page’), Charles MacArthur (play ‘The Front Page’), Charles Lederer

Main cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart, Clarence Kolb, Abner Biberman, John Qualen

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This screwball comedy stars Cary Grant (master of the screwball genre) and Irene Dunne, in the first of three films in which they starred together.  They play Jerry and Lucy Warriner, a couple who each suspect the other of being unfaithful, and so decide to get divorced.  However when they both become involved with other people, they each try to interfere with the other’s new relationship.

The film has some similarities to My Favourite Wife (1940) which also starred Grant and Dunne, but I preferred this one of the two movies.  Grant is his usual face pulling, funny self, in a role which he was perfect for.  Dunne however matched him scene for scene – she was wonderful and very endearing as Lucy.  There was also an extremely cute dog called Mr Smith, of whom both Lucy and Jerry want custody, and it was Mr Smith who played a large part in one of the funniest scenes in the film!  In fact, I did laugh out loud on several occasions – look out for the scene where Jerry is on a date with a singer and meets Lucy and her new boyfriend!

It’s a screwball romantic comedy, so the ending is pretty predictable, but the journey there is so much fun.  A must for any fan of either of the stars, or of the screwball genre.

Year of release: 1938

Director: Leo McCarey

Producers: LeoMcCarey, Everett Riskin

Writers: Arthur Richman (based on a play by), Vina Delmar, Sidney Buchman

Main cast: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy, Alexander D’Arcy, Cecil Cunningham, Molly Lamont, Esther Dale

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Joan Fontaine plays Lina McLaidlaw, a shy and reserved heiress, who falls madly in love with playboy Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) and marries him after a whirlwind romance.  But she soon discovers that her new husband might not be the man she thought he was, and after a number of incidents shock her, she even begins to fear for her own life.

I would give this film 7 out of 10, because despite all the hokum, and a Hollywoodized ending, I did actually enjoy it a lot.  I’m not sure that it stands up to a lot of scrutiny – woman marries man who clearly can’t be trusted and then is surprised when she can’t trust him.  Nonetheless, it is entertaining throughout, and it is also interesting to view Lina through the eyes of modern viewer.  Because the question that springs to mind is why on earth did she not kick him into touch, pack his bags and tell him to leave?!?! Of course, the film was made in 1941, and it perhaps was not so easy for a woman to divorce her husband without creating a major scandal along the way, particularly in the circles in which Lina and Johnnie moved.

Anyway….Joan Fontaine won an Oscar for her role in this film, although I thought that Grant outshone her in almost every scene (Grant however was shunned by the Academy for much of his working life, and didn’t even receive a nomination for his work in this film).  Fontaine was good, but seemed overly-dramatic at times, although this is also something that seems to be the case in a lot of Hitchcock movies.

The main problem with this film is the ending, which Hitchcock changed, presumably to appease the censors.  There are major spoilers ahead, so stop reading now if you don’t want to know anything further…

Of course, Johnnie had to turn out to be a good guy at the end – or at least not the bad guy that Lina had suspected him to be.  Just when she thought that he was going to try and kill her (and that he had also killed a friend of his, whose death he stood to profit by), it transpires that no!  He wasn’t trying to kill her at all!  And he didn’t kill his friend either.  So Lina forgives and forgets, and all is well again.  Just like that.  The problem here is that throughout the film, Johnnie HAS been shown to be completely untrustworthy – stealing from his cousin, gambling away money which wasn’t his, etc., etc.  So okay, he’s not a murderer, but there’s still a whole load more stuff for him to answer to, but that is all forgotten by Lina.  (Frankly, if this were real life, it would be hard to sympathise with her when he inevitably messes up again.)

BUT….I still enjoyed the film!  I liked Cary Grant’s performance very much, and there were some good supporting actors, especially Nigel Bruce, who played Johnnie’s friend Beaky.  Even Hitchcock’s trademark suspenseful music seemed well placed in this movie.  So despite writing a post which appears to do little but criticise, I still think the film was worth watching, and if you don’t think too much about the storyline, I would recommend it, especially to fans of either Cary Grant or Alfred Hitchcock.

Year of release: 1941

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Producer: Harry E. Edington

Writers: Anthony Berkeley (novel ‘Before the Fact’ as Francis Iles), Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville

Main cast: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty, Heather Angel, Auriol Lee

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In this 1946 film from celebrated director Alfred Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a man imprisoned for being a Nazi collaborator.  The CIA, specifically a man named Devlin (Cary Grant) recruit her to go to Rio, where a group of her father’s Nazi friends have relocated.  Devlin wants her to infiltrate and report on the group, by getting close to one of them – a man named Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains) – but the mission becomes muddled when Alice and Devlin fall for each other.

I find Hitchcock films to be a bit hit-and-miss, but I realised today that my favourite Hitchcock movies all starred Cary Grant.  I’m still trying to work out if that is coincidence or not.  In any event, I did not enjoy Notorious as much as North by Northwest or To Catch a Thief, but nonetheless, this was still a good film (actually better than I expected).

Ingrid Bergman is just beautiful as Alicia, and it is not surprising at all that two men fall in love with her.  Alicia is a girl who drinks too much and has had more than her fair share of male companions (in the original script she was a prostitute), but she still manages to garners sympathy, and I was hoping that she would make it through the film safely!  Bergman and Grant have great chemistry together, as seen in their other collaboration, Indiscreet (an altogether more light-hearted film), and they are both on top form here.  They also share a very sensual kiss, which was cleverly filmed in order to get around the Hayes Code, which stipulated that on-screen kisses must not last longer than three seconds.  In keeping with the code, the actors break off from their kiss every three seconds, and then kiss again!  The end effect is very sexy, which ironically is probably what the Hayes Code was trying to avoid.

The story moves along nicely, and there are no real dry or boring patches, although it is very obviously a Hitchcock film, with all his trademarks in place (such as gimmicky camera angles, which I believe can date a film somewhat).  The suitably ambiguous ending is satisfying, and while I would not rush to watch this film again, it was certainly worth seeing.  I would recommend it to fans of Grant, Bergman or Hitchcock.  The reliable Claude Rains is also worth watching as the conflicted Sebastian.

Year of release: 1946

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Producer: Alfred Hitchcock

Writers: John Taintor Foote (story ‘The Song of the Dragon;), Ben Hecht, Alfred Hitchcock, Clifford Odets

Main cast: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Leopoldine Konstantin

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Cary Grant is Tom Winters, a man whose estranged wife has just died, and he finds himself having to look after their three children, who are not happy to be with him at all.  He hires Cinzia Zaccardi (Sophia Loren) as their maid – despite her having no life skills at all, due to being brought up by a rich and indulgent father – and starts to fall for her when they have to live temporarily on a houseboat.  But his former sister-in-law also has her sights set on Tom…who will he choose?

Although the plot reads almost as though this could be a drama, it is in fact a light-hearted romantic comedy.  Grant and Loren, despite the 30 year age gap between them, were at the tail end of an off-screen romance; I don’t imagine that it was much fun behind the scenes on this film, but that doesn’t come through on-screen at all.  The two stars actually have great chemistry, although Loren’s acting is not always entirely convincing (but the part requires her to look good, and she certainly achieves that!).  Grant displays some tenderness here, and is not the screwball comedian that he is in other films, but he is very funny, with just one look or gesture saying so much.

The three children are refreshingly un-nauseating.  That sounds cruel – I don’t find children nauseating, but some portrayals of children in Hollywood films can be exactly that.  Here though, there are two sons who neither know nor want to get to know their father, and one daughter who is more willing,  but still something of a stranger to him.  The youngest boy, Robert (played by Charles Herbert) is particularly good.  The difference in temperament and character between Tom and Cinzia is nicely played, with Cinzia being impulsive and dramatic, while Tom is more restrained and reserved.

It’s an entertaining film – not my favourite of either main star – but it made me smile, and I would recommend it, especially to fans of Cary Grant.

Year of release: 1958

Director: Melville Shavelson

Producer: Jack Rose

Writers: Betsy Blair, Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose

Main cast: Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Martha Hyer, Harry Guardino, Mimi Gibson, Paul Petersen, Charles Herbert

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This was Cary Grant’s penultimate film, before he retired from acting – and it shows that while he may have felt the time was coming when he should hang up his hat, he had certainly lost none of his charisma and screen presence. In this film, he plays against type as Walter Eckland, a slacker who is dragooned into living on an isolated island during WW2, from where he can report any signs of Japanese ships or planes. His life is shaken up with the arrival of schoolteacher Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron), who has been stranded on the island with a number of schoolgirls…

Cary Grant was a master at romantic comedies, and this is probably one of his best. I really liked Grant with a more scruffy unshaven look (he himself said that this role was the closest to what he was actually like in real life), and his performance here is spot on, and very funny. Leslie Caron is also great – she looks lovely and brings a lot of comedy to her role, although she always reminds me of Audrey Hepburn (and I actually think Audrey would have been wonderful in this role also).

The idea of two mis-matched people being thrown together is nothing new (see The African Queen and Heaven Knows Mr Allison, for two comparable films), and as this is a romantic comedy, you can probably guess where it’s going, although the ending is still a delightful surprise.

For my money, this is one of Cary Grant’s better films – I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would certainly recommend it!

Year of release: 1964

Director: Ralph Nelson

Producer: Robert Arthur

Writers: S. H. Barnett, Peter Stone, Frank Tarloff

Main cast: Cary Grant, Leslie Caron, Trevor Howard

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This 1941 films pairs Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, in one of three films they made together. However, whereas the other two (My Favorite Wife and The Awful Truth) are out-and-out comedies, this is more of a drama, with few laughs.

When the impulsive Roger and the more sensible Julie meet, they fall in love and get married – their happiness seems complete when Julie becomes pregnant, but tragedy strikes when Julie suffers a miscarriage. However, delight, happiness, and unexpected sorrow await the Adams, and we see them navigate their way through the joys and setbacks that life brings.

This is a strange film for me, because I really believe that Cary Grant did his best acting in this film and yet it is one of his least enjoyable films (from my point of view). The start of the film is interesting enough, where we see how Julie and Roger meet, and get together. However, after about the first 45 minutes, the film really started to drag, and although it is only a couple of hours long, it felt much longer! It was definitely what I would call a plodding film, but there is no denying that there were some genuinely touching moments. Without giving anything away, there is a scene where Roger is talking to a Judge, and this was very touching and filled with emotion. It certainly showed that there was more to Cary Grant than just the suave and charming gentleman which he played in so many of his films. Irene Dunne was also terrific, showing a real range of emotions. Also worth mentioning is Edgar Buchanan, as Applejack Carney, Roger’s friend who becomes a real support to the couple.

It’s such a shame – this film had the potential to be a gorgeous love story – and it certainly had its moments – but there were just too many scenes that added nothing to the storyline, and which slowed it down for me. I’m glad I saw it, but I won’t be rushing to watch it again. Despite showcasing the talents of both Grant and Dunne, this film just didn’t hit the mark for me.

Year of release: 1941

Director: George Stevens

Producers: George Stevens, Fred Guiol

Writers: Martha Cheavens, Morrie Ryskind

Main cast: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Edgar Buchanan, Beulah Bondi

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