Project Valentine, Day 2: His Girl Friday

2/02/2011

His Girl Friday is one that's been on my list for a long time.  I didn't actually realize until after I'd watched it that this was also directed by Howard Hawks, who directed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  The guy knew his way around a romantic comedy.

This was one of those movies that seems instantly familiar when you do see it, because it's been referenced, spoofed, and copied a hundred times over.  In fact, one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time was a pretty faithful take of His Girl Friday.  I've scoured the internet trying to find a video of it, but you'll just have to settle for a transcript of "His Muse Friday." 

To be honest, I nearly scrapped this review and watched a second movie tonight, because this one just baaaarely makes it under the wire as a romance.  Cary Grant plays the editor-in-chief of a leading newspaper, and he's willing to do anything to get a story.  Rosalind Russell plays his ex-wife, who also used to be his paper's star reporter.  She pays him a visit one day to let him know that she's about to remarry, move away, and setlle down - she's just come by to wish him farewell.  The rest of the movie involves him trying to lure her back, first as a reporter to cover an impending execution, then as his romantic interest.  The dialogue between the two leads comes machine gun fast, with plenty of zingers, a style that's become this film's signature.  I say that it barely qualifies as a romance, though, because for most of the movie the love triangle between Grant, Russell, and her new fiance is kind of a secondary plot, and it isn't until the movie's final scene that any kind of romance reignites between the leads.  There's plenty of chemistry, but no indication that it's going to end the way that it does.  In fact, I turned to Courtney with about ten minutes left and said, "Unless this thing changes direction pretty dramatically in the next few minutes, I think I'm going to have to watch something else tonight."  Luckily for me, it did exactly that.

More than thoughts of romance, this movie made me wonder if there is any profession that is more different in real life from how it is shown onscreen than journalism.  Think of reporters in the movies: Lois Lane in Superman, Catcher Block in Down With Love, etc.  They're generally sexy, successful, and well-known.  Maybe when His Girl Friday was made, that was actually the nature of the newspaper business.  Now?  Well, I have a feeling that if my kids watch this movie in another 15 years, when they're old enough to understand it, I'll have to explain to them what a newspaper is, and why people used to pay for them.

Two movies into my marathon, and I'm also picking up on one of the big cliches of romantic comedies: if you want to find the person who you're going to fall in love with, just find the person who you hate the most and stick around long enough.  Voila!  Love connection!

I'm glad to finally have seen this, and if you're a fan of dialogue-driven movies you'll like it, too.  There's some great one-liners, but I don't feel like the movie itself has entirely stood the test of time.  The plot stretches pretty thin sometimes in service of the jokes, and there are times when it really does drag on.  Of course, I guess you could say the same thing about most modern romantic comedies, too.

RATING - Three typewriters out of five.
LESSON - Never underestimate the importance of chemistry, and don't be afraid to find a woman who challenges you.

PS - If you're bored and have about 90 minutes, here's the whole movie for you to watch.

4 comments:

Metallikyle99 said...

One of the things that still strikes me as...I don't know, unsettling for lack of a better word, is how many classic RomComs revolve around one person trying to steal the love interest of another with no regard for that person's feelings or the questionable nature of basically dropping an atomic turd on someone else's relationship.

It Happened One Night, The Philadelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby each fall into this category. And while I really enjoyed The Philadelphia Story, I didn't love the other two (in fact I really disliked Bringing Up Baby) and no small part of not liking them was the fact that I thought the third party was just being a ginormous, selfish, insensitive jerk.

Man, where did this moral compass come from???

Danny said...

I really agree with you, and have also just subscribed to your blog. ("Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter!" There is literally no situation The Simpsons does not cover.) That's always gnawed at me, too, and it's a trope that's stuck around into modern romcoms.

I remember when Reality Bites, a movie I already didn't like very much ("F.U. Hollywood! You can't define my generation and our ideals!" - Danny, 1994) came out, and somehow I was the only person I knew who thought that the girl was much better off with Ben Stiller's character than with Ethan Hawke's. What, you deserve her more because you've known her longer, because you think she's your sooooulmate? Then make a move before she's taken, slacker.

I also hate how the ejected party almost always just slinks off or leaves with some variation of "Just promise to treat her right, mmm-kay?"

Will Meekin said...

"This was one of those movies that seems instantly familiar when you do see it, because it's been referenced, spoofed, and copied a hundred times over."

Your experience here reminds me of seeing "Casablanca" for the first time in my early 20s. I felt like I did studying Shakespeare after committing Sting's "Nothing Like The Sun" to memory. Whatwhatwhat, you mean Coke didn't originate the "soon and for the rest of your life" line?

And I have also just subscribed to Kyle's blog. I saw that you signed up for mine Danny, thanks. I will start posting regularly again.

Danny said...

I await on pins and needles, Wm.

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