His Girl Friday

Introduction

His Girl Friday is a 1940 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, starring Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant, and released by Columbia Pictures. The plot centers on a newspaper editor named Walter Burns who is about to lose his newly engaged ace reporter ex-wife Hildy Johnson to another man. Burns suggests they cover one more story together, getting themselves entangled in the case of murderer Earl Williams as Burns desperately tries to win back his wife. The screenplay was adapted from the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. This was the second time the play had been adapted for the screen, the first occasion being the 1931 film also called The Front Page.

The script was written by Charles Lederer, and Ben Hecht, though Hecht is not credited for his contributions. The major change in this version, introduced by Hawks, is that the role of Hildy Johnson is a woman. Filming began in September 1939 and finished in November 1939, seven days past schedule. Production was delayed because the frequent improvisation and numerous ensemble scenes required many retakes. Hawks encouraged his actors to be aggressive and spontaneous, creating several moments in which the characters break the fourth wall. The film has been noted for its surprises, comedy and rapid, overlapping dialogue. Hawks himself was determined to break the record for the fastest film dialogue, at the time held by The Front Page. He used a sound mixer on the set to increase the speed of dialogue; he held a showing of the two films next to each other to prove how fast his film was.

The film was #19 on American Film Institute's 100 Years ... 100 Laughs and was selected in 1993 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


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