His Girl Friday

His Girl Friday Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How can His Girl Friday be described as a feminist film?

    The idea to make Hildy Johnson a woman was a revolutionary one, not just because it created a romantic tension between Walter and Hildy, thus cementing the film's status as a "screwball comedy," but also because it featured a tough, competent working woman as its heroine. The film explores the tension between the workforce and the home, and highlights the necessity for a woman to choose between them. By today's standards, this is a somewhat dated duality, as many modern women seek to find a balance between raising a family and having a career, and there is less of a feminist stigma attached to child-rearing and family life. In 1940, when the film was set, the idea of a female newspaperman who would rather chase a story than darn a man's socks was rather cutting edge and unprecedented. In years since, feminists have praised the film for its lively representation of a competent working woman who chooses her talents over the fate of—as she puts it—a "suburban bridge player." Rosalind Russell, the actress who portrays Hildy, is also touted as an actress with considerable talents and great beauty, who was never relegated to the role of "sex symbol," but able to navigate her own career and feminine charms on her own terms.

  2. 2

    What do Bruce Baldwin and Walter Burns represent and how are they framed as opposites?

    Bruce Baldwin is loyal, kind, loving, and fundamentally simple-minded. Walter is brusque, sometimes rude, manipulative, charismatic, and dangerously intelligent. The two men could not be more different, but that is precisely why Hildy is caught in between them. Fed up with Walter's unreliable antics—he skipped their honeymoon to follow a story—Hildy goes towards Bruce, an insurance salesman, in search of her own insurance. She wants to be sure that the man who loves her really treats her like a woman, not just as an "errand boy." With Bruce, she can have a life of ease and simplicity in Albany, the polar opposite of the loud and outrageous life that she shared with Walter. Symbolically, Walter represents the working world and the world of current events, while Bruce represents a domestic life and a life of stability.

  3. 3

    How does the film fit the "screwball comedy" genre?

    The film is fast-paced, witty, with a rapid slew of suspenseful events and comedic scenarios. The dialogue, from the start, consists of quick repartee and clever one-liners. Additionally, the tension between Hildy and Walter is not just professional but romantic, and highlights a "battle of the sexes" dynamic that was prominent in many screwball comedies. As the narrative progresses, the plot only gets more convoluted and outrageous, with the escaped criminal ending up hiding in a desk, Hildy's clean cut fiancé thrown in jail numerous times, and an old woman kidnapped by a gangster. In all these ways, His Girl Friday is the epitome of a "screwball comedy."

  4. 4

    Why does Hildy cry at the end?

    After she gets off the phone with Bruce, Hildy bursts into tears, an unusual occurrence which takes Walter aback. While initially it seems as though she is crying because her fiancé is in jail and she is so frustrated by having a chaotic day, she soon reveals that she is crying from relief. Before Bruce called, she had been worried that Walter didn't love her anymore and had no problems with sending her back to her fiancé. When she realizes that Walter has had Bruce sent to jail yet again, she realizes that he still wants to keep her in town so that she will remarry him. This realization leaves her feeling vulnerable, as she was afraid for a moment that he was indifferent to her. In a comic turn of events, the news that Walter had Bruce sent to jail is moving to Hildy, because it signals to her that he really cares.

  5. 5

    What is unique about the sound in the film?

    Howard Hawks was quoted in an interview as saying that he wanted to better replicate everyday speech in His Girl Friday and so wanted the dialogue to overlap—for characters to cut off other characters' sentences. When it came to filming, he had sound assistants move around with mobile microphones to catch different people's dialogue, and then in post-production mixed together their different recordings to give the dialogue a cacophonous, polyphonic quality. This was an innovative method for recording dialogue at the time, and aptly heightens the effect of setting the scene in a high anxiety pressroom.