Perfection and possibly the fastest comedy on record. This hilarious re-working of THE FRONT PAGE by Hecht and MacArthur sees Grant as the savage editor and, in a switch, the reporter played by a scheming Russell. Instead of merely having the editor doing all in his power to keep his most
brilliant reporter on staff, this version adds the twin lures of sex and romance, since Russell is Grant's ex-wife. She intends to marry again and her intended is the blatheringly innocent Bellamy, here in the quintessential Bellamy second lead. When convicted killer Qualen escapes his cell the
night before he is to hang and hides in the news room of the jail--inside a rolltop desk--Grant uses the incident to entice Russell back to work. She is to write the scoop of the break, but Grant's deeper motive is to keep Russell near him so he can somehow woo her back.
The machine gun dailogue is by Charlie Lederer, Hecht's friend and sometime collaborator: Biberman, a thug working for Grant, defends his new girlfriend by saying: "She's not an albino; she was born right here in this country!" Russell calls in a report to the city desk: "Shot him right in the
classified ads... No, `ads'!" And there are many inside jokes. Grant criticizes Bellamy to Russell, saying he "looks like that actor... Ralph Bellamy!" Grant again grins as he says: "The last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat." (Archie Leach was Grant's
The film moves at whirlwind speed, as Hawks instructed his actors to overlap their lines, so much so that at times everyone seems to be talking at once. One archivist actually timed the hurricane delivery of the actors at 240 words per minute, so fast that the dialogue is just discernible, the
actors speaking about 130 words per minute above average delivery. Hawks also had his cast move at twice normal speed so the whole thing was frantic from scene to scene, thus conveying the urgency of the news world he was depicting.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY is distinctly Hawksian, bearing his trademark of madcap comedy, also brilliantly shown in BRINGING UP BABY and I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE, both starring Grant. But FRIDAY presents Grant in a no-holds-barred comedy-bully performance. This time he's the aggressor, the persecutor as he
cajoles, aggravates, intimidates, lies--sometimes he even resorts to noises in this hilariously self-centered performance. It's his greatest comedic role, proving once again the amazing versatility of this fine actor.
Russell is at her peak, too--demonstrating her own brittle breakneck speed with comedy lines and instilling an ungainly charm into Hildy's physicality. Katharine Hepburn, Jean Arthur, Margaret Sullavan, Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert and Carole Lombard were all offered the role, but turned it
down. Russell leapt at the chance to play the screwball role and it turned out to be her greatest comedy part, one which assured her immortality. The supporting cast is a Who's Who of willing comedy loons.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Perfection and possibly the fastest comedy on record. This hilarious re-working of THE FRONT PAGE by Hecht and MacArthur sees Grant as the savage editor and, in a switch, the reporter played by a scheming Russell. Instead of merely having the editor doing… (more)