Even though she is so perfectly suited for the intelligence and grit of Hildy Johnson, Rosalind Russell was not Howard Hawks' first choice to play the role, and she struggled with the suspicion that she was his last choice throughout filming. After the role was offered Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Ginger Rogers, Jean Arthur, and Irene Dunne, Russell agreed, reportedly telling Hawks, "You don't want me, do you? Well, you're stuck with me, so you might as well make the most of it."
Known for her intelligence, wit, and a lack of vanity unusual in a Hollywood actress, Rosalind Russell was a Hollywood original. After a number of stage roles, Russell signed a Hollywood contract and was soon working in film. Her early films include The Night is Young, Reckless, Four's a Crowd, Fast and Loose, and The Women. Her role as Hildy Johnson is one of her best known and established her as a bankable comedienne, expanding her previous reputation as strictly a dramatic actress. Other notable films include Design for Scandal, A Woman of Distinction, Auntie Mame, and Gypsy.
Cary Grant was a frequent collaborator of Howard Hawks, having appeared in his films Bringing Up Baby and Only Angels Have Wings. After His Girl Friday, he would appear in the Hawks films I Was a Male War Bride and Monkey Business.
Born in England, Cary Grant started out onstage and in vaudeville before switching over to film. Incidentally, in His Girl Friday, Grant makes reference to a man named "Archibald Leach," which was the actor's actual birth name. He had a long Hollywood career and is known for being one of the industry's quintessential leading men. His films include Blonde Venus, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, Arsenic and Old Lace, I Was a Male War Bride, Penny Serenade, None but the Lonely Heart, North by Northwest, Notorious, Suspicion, To Catch a Thief, Indiscreet, The Touch of Mink, and Charade.
Even though he was an iconic figure in films, Cary Grant never won an Oscar, until he was presented with an honorary one by Frank Sinatra in 1970.
Ralph Bellamy was a stage, film, and television actor. His films include The Secret Six, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Picture Snatcher, The Awful Truth (for which he received an Academy Award nomination), His Girl Friday, and Dance, Girl, Dance. Later in his career, he worked more in television. His final film role was in Pretty Woman.
Sheriff Peter Hartwell
Gene Lockhart was a Canadian-American character actor known for his work on Broadway, as a teacher at the Juilliard School, and in such films as Smilin' Through, Joan of Arc, Pepe le Moko (for which he received an Academy Award nomination), A Christmas Carol, and Miracle on 34th Street.
Abner Biberman was an actor and director who appeared in a number of films throughout his career, including Gunga Din, Another Thin Man, His Girl Friday, Broadway, The Leopard Man, and Viva Zapata.
John Qualen was another Canadian-American character actor known for playing Scandinavians. His breakout role was on Broadway in Elmer Rice's play Street Scene. Throughout his career, he appeared in over 100 films including the adaptation of Street Scene, The Grapes of Wrath, Casablanca, His Girl Friday, and The High and the Mighty.
Clarence Kolb was one half of the vaudeville duo Kolb and Dill, before he transitioned into making film and television. His films include Merrily We Live and His Girl Friday and Man of a Thousand Faces.
A prolific comedian, Billy Gilbert appeared in more than 200 films in his long career and was known for his comic sneeze routines, which he picked up as a child vaudeville performer. He was discovered by Stan Laurel initially, who introduced him to a studio executive. His expert comedic sneezing can be seen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves from 1937, in which he plays Sneezy, and Million Dollar Legs.
Helen Mack was a Broadway and vaudeville performer who worked through the transition from silent films to "talking pictures," all the way through the birth of television. Her role in His Girl Friday came later in her career. In 1945, she chose to stop acting to focus on writing.
His Girl Friday Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for His Girl Friday is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.