Monday 9 January 2017

His Girl Friday ... Snappy dialogue but obsequious female role

WOW. That's how I felt after watching director Howard Hawks's His Girl Friday, with the witty
repartee between Cary Grant's newspaper editor Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell's reporter ex-wife Hildy Johnson leaving me breathless and wanting more.
   There was hardly a moment's silence in this 92-minute comedic black-and-white 1940 film. The characters talk incessantly, never giving others the opportunity to interject. The back-and-forth dialogue is a joy to watch and listen, and I wish there were more films like that nowadays.

   I refer to the title of the film, which is a reference to Man Friday, the loyal servant in Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe.
    Wikipedia says Crusoe names the man, with whom he cannot initially communicate, Friday, because they meet on that day. The expression Man Friday describes a male personal assistant or servant, especially one who is competent or loyal.
    In the film, Hildy, who has been divorced from Walter for four months, goes to his bustling newsroom to tell him that she's going to marry bland insurance agent Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). At the same time, a man sentenced to be hanged the next day is about to become the story of the day.
   So viewers have to two story lines. The first is Walter's attempt to convince Hildy
Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell talk up a storm.
Notice Rosalind's busy dress.
to remarry him before she leaves town to get married the next day, and the second is Hildy and Walter's attempt to save an a man from being hanged and break the biggest story in two  years.
   The title is a racist reference to an obsequious servant, so Hildy, who is Walter's protegee and best reporter, is Walter's subjugated servant.
   At the end of the film, Hidly happily returns to Walter's arms, even carrying a heavy bag with glee.
   The snappy dialogue-laden film conveys the message that a strong and smart woman's role is to work for a man who doesn't appreciate her.



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