While I was making my blind spot list for the year, I decided to put movies that everyone deemed to be a “must-see”. Some of these are famous works, works that are so intimidating because of the stigma already set to them by the film society. There are some that are declared masterpieces, or cult classics. In other words, these are really well known pieces that I chose. Looking back at my list, I had no idea how His Girl Friday had come to mind. Was it because of Roman Holiday? Somehow it found its way on the list, I watched it, and liked it - until I got to the final scene.
Walter Burns and Hildy Johnson are both reporters: one is a newspaper editor, and the other, a top reporter. At some point in their lives, they were married but now they were divorced (it was implied that Walter's dedication to the job might have something to do with it). Now Hildy’s got herself a new man, and she was to be married the next day, heading over to the office to tell her ex-husband of the news. He rather received the news poorly, devising many ways to steer her from leaving the business, tricks that she has the mind to avoid. The ultimate bribe ended up with Hildy covering a prison interview with Earl Williams, a man accused of shooting a policeman, and was to be hung to death the following morning.
I viewed the movie less of a love story, and more on the gender roles in society. I have only seen a few movies released during those times, and I’ve never met a character like Hildy. She’s quite the embodiment of today’s independent woman. She was self sufficient, and yet she doesn't think of it too womanly to start a family. As the movie progressed, it became evident that she wanted both worlds: as she struggled to get the scoop on the story, she was also mindful of the goal she set for herself, that she wanted to have children and raise a family. Unfortunately for her, the men in her life don't support her decision. There’s her ex-husband, who cared more about getting the scoop than actually being a family man that Hildy could be with. Then there’s Bruce Baldwin, Hildy’s fiance who insists her retirement from the journalism industry. This was what got me disappointed. Instead of allowing her character to have the best of both worlds, the final scenes have her choosing one over the other. I just had to question the logic that she put in her decision, where there was clearly nothing in the film that supports her decision. I would have preferred it she not choose anyone, but this is a romantic comedy movie, and there has to be a happy ending.
While the film has the strong confident woman, her reception in her society was torn into two. While her fellow reporters respect her enough in the industry, they don’t really show much courtesy to her as woman. They talk about Hildy as if she was a silly woman herself, and yet they hound her like mad dogs when they find out that she has a scoop on the story. It doesn't help that the two men fighting for her affection are monotonic, using tricks and emotional manipulation to win her through.
The journalistic aspect of the movie provides much of the story’s movement, as the reporters would really stop at nothing to catch the story. They display passion for their work, and resorted to bribery, coercion and other means just to stay ahead of the game. Yet thinking about it, most of these reporters have failed to uphold their journalistic entity, just reporting anything and everything that they heard, without even verifying sources. I’m not sure how the newspaper game was during the time, but it just seems that these people are printing gossip instead of facts. I can't say media coverage today is fully factual, but there's more integrity involved in journalism, and their reputations are on the line when pieces produced can be considered fabricated.
Cary Grant gives a good performance, but I didn't find his character likable. I don't understand how he and Rosalind Russell's characters could be together. Their relationship is based on the thrill of their career, but what if that was all taken away from them? Sure, Walter was charismatic and he seemed to have great rapport with Hildy, but is that enough to sustain a relationship? Rosalind Russell was very charismatic as Hildy, and it was hard not to be taken by her onscreen presence.
The newspaper plot of the film was used in the context of progression, but other than that, there's not much content to be taken from this. It's a story of how two people get together again, painted in the background of "hard-hitting journalism" and a love triangle along the way. It's an enjoyable movie, but not one I'd get something out of.
Cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
Director: Howard Hawks