Most romantic film #55: His Girl Friday (1940)

First of all, I have to say that Rosalind Russell is one of my all-time favorite actresses and, to be honest, role models. So Cary Grant and Rosie in a film? No brainer.

This is adapted from an all-male play by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, titled The Front Page (which was a Broadway comedy in 1928, a film in 1931 and 1974). MacArthur was married to Helen Hayes (considered at the time the greatest actress on Broadway) and father to James MacArthur, the original “Dano” of Hawaii 5-0.

For the 1940 hit, MacArthur and Hecht changed the character of reporter Hildy Johnson into a woman–enabling the casting of Russell.

Russell and Grant are a powerful comic team: their timing in the sharp, smart, witty dialog of the MacArthur/Hecht screenplay is phenomenal. Add in Ralph Bellamy as Hildy’s fiance and a jailbreak gone amuck… brilliant. A lethal, funny commentary on the Third Estate… and the crooked politicians that keep them in print.

Here, Grant plays a cad. Yep, a solid gold cad: fast-talking con-man kind of cad. Russell has divorced him (he was her editor AND her husband), but comes back to get her closure, to tell him about her upcoming marriage to Bellamy, an insurance salesman from Albany with a MOTHER (played by the redoubtable Alma Kruger).

The supporting cast is a brilliant assemply of character actors, from Bellamy and Kruger to Gene Lockhart and Helen Mack. This is a cynical, sophisticated, funny script and quick-paced performance. Simply delightful…

This week, my shout-out to Grant is for To Catch a Thief, #38 in my list — the Hitchcock thriller.


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