Friday, January 18, 2013

27. His Girl Friday

1940; dir. Howard Hawks; starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
My views: 11

My love for Cary Grant, which is probably more appropriately termed an obsession, makes it unsurprising that I love this movie.  But I've seen a whole lot of Cary Grant movies, and while several of them are going on this blog, it will not be nearly all of them.  It seems that Cary Grant's presence alone is not enough for me to watch a movie ten times.  In this movie's case, I know exactly why it's on here: it's all about the fantastic dialogue.

It's not just that the lines are clever, although they are.  One of my particular favorites is when Cary Grant's character, Walter Burns, is told he's through, and he responds with, "The last man who said that to me was Archie Leach, just a week before he cut his throat."  I love this because, of course, Cary Grant's real name was Archibald Leach.  Another of my favorite lines is when Walter describes Ralph Bellamy's character as looking like, "that fellow in the movies, what's his name...Ralph Bellamy."  I can't help but laugh when movies reference the fact that they're movies, especially when it's done that well.  But the real reason I love the dialogue in His Girl Friday is it's almost like a dance.  The characters are constantly talking over each other, which fits perfectly in the film's newsroom setting, and yet incredibly, they do it in such a way that no word that's vital to the plot is missed.  While the audience can't hear everything at once, they're allowed to perfectly understand everything they need to keep the thread of the story.  That's why I say it's like a dance: the dialogue is not only written; it's choreographed.  And Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell attack this verbal choreography just as well as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did with actual dance choreography.  And that is why I love this movie.

The way the characters talk over each other also makes this a movie well worth watching multiple times.  I catch new snippets of dialogue every time I see it.  And it's not just the dialogue that's subtle.  It took me a long time to realize how often the camera shows us the fateful desk that doesn't become important until towards the end.  So while part of the reason I watch this so often is I think it's a wonderful movie, I've also gotten a lot more out of it the last few times I've seen it than I did the first time.

I'm definitely considering watching this at some point today, since it's Cary Grant's birthday and a Friday.  Also, according to imdb this movie was released on this date in 1940.  So we'll see.

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