His Girl Friday


The title His Girl Friday is an ironic title, because a girl "Friday" represents a servant of a master, but Hildy is not a servant in the film, but rather the equal to Walter. The world in this film is not determined by gender, but rather by intelligence and capability. At the beginning of the film Hildy says that she wants to be "treated like a woman", but her return to her profession reveals her true desire to live a different life.[32] In His Girl Friday, even though the characters remarry, Hawks displays an aversion to marriage, home, and family through his approach to the film. Specific, exclusionary camera work and character control of the frame and the dialogue portray a subtle criticism of domesticity. [33] The subject of domesticity is fairly absent throughout the film. Even among the relationships between Grant and Russell and Bellamy and Russell, the relationships are positioned within a larger frame of the male dominated newsroom.[33] The film, like many comedies, celebrates difficult, tumultuous love rather than secure, suburban love through its preference for movement and argument rather than silent poise.[34] Film critic Molly Haskell wrote that the scene near the end of the film when Hildy sheds tears was not included to expose her femininity, but to express the confusion she felt due to the collision of her professional and feminine natures. The feminine side of Hildy desires to be subservient and sexually relate to men, while the other side of Hildy desires assertion and to forfeit the stereotypical duties of a woman. Her tears represent her emotional helplessness and inability to express anger to a male authority figure.[35]

A commonality in many Howard Hawks films is the revelation of the amorality of the main character and an inability of the protagonist to change or develop as a character. In His Girl Friday, Walter Burns manipulates, acts selfishly, frames his ex-wife's fiancé, and orchestrates the kidnapping of an elderly woman. Even at the end of the film, Burns convinces Hildy Johnson to remarry him despite how much she loathes him and his questionable actions. Upon the resumption of their relationship, there is no romance visible between them. They do not kiss, embrace, or even gaze at each other. It is evident that Burns is still the same person he was in their previous relationship as he quickly waves off the plans for the honeymoon that they never had in pursuit of a new story. Additionally, he walks in front of her when exiting the room, forcing her to carry her own suitcase, despite Johnson having already criticized this in the beginning of the film. This hints that the marriage is fated to face the same problems that ended it previously.[36]

Hawks is known for his use of repeated or intentional gestures in his films. In His Girl Friday, the cigarette in the scene between Hildy and Earl Williams serves several symbolic roles in the film. First, the cigarette establishes a link between the characters when Williams accepts the cigarette even though he does not smoke. However, the fact that he doesn't smoke and they don't share the cigarette shows the difference between and separation of the worlds in which the two characters live.[37]

The film contains two main plots: the romantic and the professional. Walter and Hildy work together to attempt to release wrongly convicted Earl Williams, while the concurrent plot is Walter attempting to win back Hildy. The two plots do not resolve at the same time, but they are interdependent because although Williams is released before Walter and Hildy get back together, he is the reason for their reconciliation.[38] The speed of the film results in snappy and overlapping dialogue among interruptions and rapid speech. Gesture, character and camera movement, as well as editing, serve to complement the dialogue in increasing the pace of the film. There is a clear contrast between the fast-talking Hildy and Walter and slow-talking Bruce and Earl which serves to emphasize the gap between the intelligent and the unintelligent in the film. The average word per minute count of the film is 240 while average American speech is around 140 words per minute. There are nine scenes with at least four words per second and at least two with more than five words per second.[39] Hawks attached verbal tags before and after specific script lines so the actors would be able to interrupt and talk over each other without making the necessary dialogue incomprehensible.[40]

Film theorist and historian David Bordwell explained the ending of His Girl Friday as a "closure effect" rather than a closure. The ending of the film is rather circular and there is no development of characters, specifically Walter Burns, and the film ends similarly to the way in which it starts. Additionally, the film ends with a brief epilogue in which Walter announces their remarriage and reveals their intention to go cover a strike in Albany on the way to their honeymoon and they consider staying with Bruce in Albany. The fates of the main characters and even some of the minor characters such as Earl William are revealed, except there are minor flaws in the resolution. For example, they do not discuss what happens to Molly Malloy after the conflict is resolved. However, the main characters’ endings were wrapped up so well that it overshadows the need for the minor characters' endings to be wrapped up. This creates a "closure effect" or an appearance of closure.[41]

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