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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 adaptation of William Inge’s play, was brought to the big screen in 1955. It stars William Holden (swoon) as Hal Carter, an aimless drifter, who comes to a small Kansas town on the day of the Labor Day Picnic, to seek out his old schoolfriend Alan Benson. Alan is now rich, successful and going out with the prettiest girl in town, Madge Owens (Kim Novak). Madge’s pushy mother is anxious for Madge to marry Alan, so that she will have money and a luxurious lifestyle, but Madge is fed up of only being admired and wanted for her looks. And when she meets Hal, there is an undeniable attraction between them, which could threaten everyone’s plans.

I was in two minds about this film, because there are so many flaws in it, and yet it is still enjoyable in its own way. First, William Holden was a beautiful looking man, and a greatly under-rated actor, but the sad truth is that he was just too old to play Hal. The character is supposed to be a young man in his early/mid 20s – and Cliff Robertson, who played Alan, did look about the right age – but William Holden was 37 when this film was made. He himself was reluctant to take the part initially, as he felt he was too old for it, and he was right. Nonetheless, he does look great, and there are a couple of shirt-off scenes, which serve no real purpose other than to show off Holden’s physique (which is fine by me!) Kim Novak was fine as Madge, but looks slightly older than the 19 years she is supposed to be. Not really a problem to be honest, except that Susan Strasberg, who played Madge’s 16 year old sister Millie, looked young and tiny for her age (and certainly the scenes where Hal escorts Millie to the picnic looked ‘off’ somehow, as he looked like an adult man and she looked like a young girl). Also, the music in certain moments was far too dramatic, and made it all look rather silly. A specific example was when a character ripped Hal’s shirt. The music in that scene would have been more appropriate for a sudden murder scene!

BUT, for all that, I still quite enjoyed the film. The things that weren’t quite right with it, were all too obvious, but I still found myself wanting to keep watching and see how things turned out, and if it came on television I would probably watch it again, although I wouldn’t specifically seek it out. I think it was quite obvios that the fil is adapted from a play, as it did feel quite ‘stagey’ and possibly the story is better suited to a stage than a screen. This film did make it onto the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Romantic Films, and I suspect that one certain dance scene – and if you see the film, you will certainly know which scene I’m referring to – may have helped it to get onto the list! Certainly the sexual tension and atmosphere in that scene crackles, and is almost tangible.

Overall, not brilliant, but certainly not bad.

Year of release: 1955

Director: Joshua Logan

Producer: Fred Kohlmar

Writers: William Inge (play), Daniel Taradash

Main cast: William Holden, Kim Novak, Cliff Robertson, Susan Strasberg, Betty Field

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