His Girl Friday

His Girl Friday Imagery

Telephone Calls

Throughout, Hildy, Walter, and the other journalists juggle endless phone calls. Hildy, in particular, is often wrestling with two phones at once—Walter on one line and Bruce on the other. Her speech in each phone call is clipped and rapid, as she fires off news to Walter and delivers comforting words to her fiancé, who more often than not is in jail. Hildy with two phone receivers in her hands becomes a recurring image in the film. Additionally, Howard Hawks plays with pace when the other journalists stumble upon a story and go to their phones to report it. When Earl Williams escapes from jail, the journalists run to their phones and frantically call their editors. The camera cuts between their faces in close-up as they report the incident, their brows furrowed and their voices hushed. The way the shots are cut, quickly and sharply, suggest the competitive edge of journalism, the urgent need to get the story first, and the importance of communication.

Hildy Chasing Down the Warden

An iconic image in the film immediately follows the frantic phone call moment when Earl Williams escapes. Hildy is an aggressive and confident journalist, and in the event of Earl's escape, knows exactly who to go to for the full scoop. Still wearing high heels and dressed sophisticatedly, Hildy runs down the street towards the warden. She is the image of feminine elegance, until she makes the final fateful decision and tackles the warden to the ground to get the full story. The contrast between Hildy's beauty and her scrappy and impatient action shows both how fiercely committed to her job she is, and the uniqueness of a female reporter in those times.

Earl Williams in the Desk

According to the authorities, Earl Williams is a dangerous criminal, an armed man who is not to be trusted. What Hildy knows, however, is that even if Earl is dangerous (he did kill a man after all) he is also confused and insane. When he apprehends her in the pressroom, she manages to get his gun away from him, and with Walter's help, get him to hide in a roll top desk. The image is striking: a killer on the run who can easily be persuaded into curling up inside a desk. The image represents Earl's gentleness and almost childlike innocence in spite of his violent capacities.

Hildy Surrounded by Journalists

Journalism is a man's world in His Girl Friday, and the original version of the film cast Hildy Johnson as a man. It was Howard Hawks' idea, however, to make the character female, and Walter's ex-wife. Throughout the film, the image of Hildy Johnson, a beautiful and well-dressed woman, hanging around the pressroom and looking for her story is a striking one. The only woman around, she is at once a glamorous woman and "one of the guys." At several points, we see her surrounded by fedora-clad average Joe reporter types, and this image goes a long way in showing what an outlier Hildy is in her own profession. With nary another female reporter around, Hildy must play the game and fend for herself.